A quantitative analysis of the work experiences of adults with visual impairments in Nigeria.
Although national data concerning the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment in Africa are difficult to secure, there has been a fairly recent study completed in Nigeria, the Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey, which provides insight into the magnitude of these issues (Kyari et al., 2009). The researchers in that study examined the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment among adults in Nigeria. They studied a nationally representative sample of 15,027 adults, all of whom were at least 40 years old. They defined blindness as a visual acuity of 20/400 or worse in the better eye, and severe visual impairment as a range of 20/200-20/400. Using these guidelines, they found a prevalence rate of 4.2% and estimated that 4.25 million adults aged 40 years of age or older had moderate to severe visual impairment or blindness in Nigeria (Abdull et al., 2009; Kyari et al., 2009).
In preparation for the present study, we were able, with permission, to analyze raw data related to Nigerians with visual impairments from the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) (World Bank, 2012). This general household survey was fielded by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2010 to 2011 to collect data on households and their characteristics. What we discovered was that 2% of the LSMS respondents indicated that they had trouble with vision. This number included those who reported they could not see and those who indicated they had "some difficulty seeing even when wearing corrective lenses." Of those reporting trouble with vision, only 6% indicated they were working, and 3% said that they were looking for work at the time of the survey. Further data analysis showed that, of the respondents who reported trouble with vision and were working, approximately a third worked less than 35 hours a week, just over a third (35%) worked 35-45 hours a week, and a little less than a third worked more than 45 hours a week. Of those working, 16% indicated they have at least two jobs. A sample of households was selected for the LSMS to represent the entire population of the country. To accurately use this household survey data source, the data had to be weighted to reflect the distribution of the full population. The provided population weights were used in each analysis we reported. The use of the weights in each of our analyses of the LSMA data source allowed the number of participants who reported trouble with their vision to be proportionate to the actual occurrence of visual impairment in the entire country. This finding means that very few participants who reported vision trouble (2% of the sample) were considered representative of the entire population of individuals with visual impairment in the country.
For the study that is the focus of this article, we created and administered a questionnaire, completed by 172 individuals who were blind or partially sighted and lived and worked in Nigeria. We assessed a wide variety of work-related experiences that collectively reflected the attitudes, behavior, and performance of employees at their workplace. Specific supporting examples of work-experience measures we have included in the present study are: hours worked per week, annual income, job security, job satisfaction, and future job opportunities.
Only employed blind or partially sighted adults living in Nigeria were considered for participation in this study. The candidates were identified through their membership in the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), an umbrella organization that advocates on behalf of citizens who are blind. Surveys were distributed to employed individuals with visual disabilities in all six geopolitical regions of the country. The sample was split into groups by visual status (totally blind or partially sighted) for analysis on a number of occasions. Participants were asked to report their own degree of visual impairment through a selected-response survey item. Those participants who were identified as totally blind indicated, "I am totally blind." Those participants who were identified as partially sighted selected, "I have partial sight or low vision."
Ethics clearance was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of Missouri State University, Springfield, U.S. This paved the way for the questionnaire to be produced in various formats (that is, braille, large print, and regular print) based on participants' known preferences and areas of need obtained from NAB.
In July 2009, one of the researchers traveled to NAB headquarters in Nigeria to familiarize the stakeholders with the research design and instrumentation, as well as to train four sighted research assistants to administer the survey in the NAB regions. The research assistants signed a confidentiality agreement form and were instructed to ensure that the requested questionnaire format was provided to participants. For instance, a participant who read braille was given the opportunity to read the questionnaire in braille and then report his or her responses to the research assistant, who wrote the responses on a print copy of the questionnaire.
A total of 400 copies of the questionnaire were distributed to the trained research assistants who hand-delivered them to prospective participants throughout Nigeria. All of the surveys that were at minimum partially completed were returned by the spring of 2010, and 172 of the submitted surveys were complete and usable. This equated to a 43% return rate. All completed surveys were returned to the United States for analysis.
Drawing from personal and professional experiences, the researchers developed a questionnaire entitled A Survey of Work, Recreation and Leisure Activities of Adults Who Are Blind or Partially Sighted in Nigeria. The questionnaire was pilot-tested at the NAB head office, which resulted in modifications to some items, including key terms used in the research such as "blind," "low vision," "partial sight," "work," "recreation," and "leisure," since these terms have different connotations in different cultures.
In its final iteration, the questionnaire was accompanied by a cover letter that explained the purpose of the research and assured the confidentiality of all respondents. The questionnaire, as it relates to the current study, was divided into two major sections. Section 1 solicited information on the participants' gender, age bracket, type of visual impairment (including any additional disabilities), time of onset of the visual condition, and how visual impairment impacted respondents' job retention or retraining.
Participants were asked about the highest level of education they had attained, the composition of their families, their state of residence, and current occupation, including the number of hours worked on a weekly basis, how long they had been on the job, and their annual income.
Section 2 of the questionnaire explored the work situation of respondents in greater detail. We examined the perceived importance, opportunities, initiatives, and level of confidence participants reported in performing their current work. We also asked about the participants' perceptions of future improvement or decline of job availability (including factors that could account for any improvement or decline).
The researchers also sought information on the impact of current legislation and government policy on employment of people with disabilities, as well as what the participants' immediate and extended family members' attitudes were toward their work status and the respondents' perceived reasons for those attitudes. Respondents were asked to assess their level of satisfaction with their current employment and to describe the specific challenges they encounter in the workplace.
The questionnaire included a blend of selected and open-ended response type items, including 12 work-experience measures. For instance, participants were asked to select their annual salary bracket, and this information was provided in Nigerian naira, which we converted to U.S. dollar equivalents, ranging from less than $3,100 to $24,800 or more. An open-ended survey question asked participants to provide numerical responses for the number of hours they worked per week.
Most of the selected responses conformed to Likert-type rating scales with choices from one to five. For example, the participants were asked to rate their confidence level in performing their current work from very low to very high. The scale used to indicate how often they made an effort to access available learning opportunities on the job ranged from "hardly at all" to "a great deal." The response options for the question concerning participants' perception of future job opportunities ranged from "greatly decline" to "greatly improve." The measure of job satisfaction ranged from "very dissatisfied" to "very satisfied." Options for the question "How important is it to your quality of life to be engaged in your current work?" ranged from "hardly important at all" to "very important." When asked "How many staff development opportunities are there for you to acquire new knowledge and skills on your job?" participants selected from a scale ranging from "hardly any" to "a great many." They were also asked, "To what degree has current employment policy or legislation for people with disabilities in Nigeria enabled you to secure/keep your current employment?" and the response options ranged from "hardly at all" to "a great deal."
"Yes" or "no" responses were elicited on questions concerning whether they felt their immediate and extended family members were happy with them holding a job. Likewise, a "yes" or "no" response was requested for the question "Do you perceive positive attitudes toward you and your work skills by your co-workers?"
In addition to the above-mentioned work-experience measures, the participants were asked about where they worked and whether they were employed in the private or public sectors or were self-employed. Very few of the participants were employed in the private sector or self-employed (8% of all participants were employed by private sector employers and 6% were self-employed). To facilitate data analysis and interpretation, the variable was recoded to combine employment in the private sector with anyone who indicated they were self-employed. Thus, the recoded measure was a binary outcome with the two categories being employment by the government (public sector) and employment by the private sector (including self-employment).
These 12 work-experience measures became our dependent variables: salary, hours worked, confidence, learning opportunities, job opportunities, job satisfaction, importance of work, staff development opportunities, employment policy, family members' attitudes, co-workers' attitudes, and employment sector. Although we evaluated each work experience measure within every research question, we only report on those that were found to be significant in the results section that follows.
Work-experience measures, such as those included in the present study, are associated with characteristics of employees, characteristics of their lives outside of work, aspects of their personal well-being, and characteristics of their jobs and workplaces (Family and Work Institute, 1997). The research questions were designed to specifically assess the work experiences of individuals with visual impairments with a wide variety of personal characteristics (gender or degree of visual impairment, for example) who are living and working in Nigeria. For the first question only, we looked at gender across the entire sample (blind and low vision), as well as by degree of visual impairment (that is, total blindness among male and female participants or low vision among male and female participants).
1. Were there differences between respondents regarding their work experiences based on their gender or based on their gender while also considering their degree of visual impairment?
For research questions 2 and 3, we looked at the full group of respondents and at subgroups of participants based on their degree of visual impairment.
2. Were there differences between respondents regarding their work experiences based on their educational attainment levels?
3. Were there differences between respondents regarding their work experiences based on their marital status?
For question 4, we considered the entire pool of participants, and in questions 5 and 6 we looked specifically at subgroups of participants based on their degree of visual impairment.
4. Were there differences between respondents who were visually impaired during childhood versus those who acquired vision loss in their adult years regarding their work experiences?
5. Were there differences between respondents who are blind and those who have low vision regarding their work experiences?
6. Were there differences between respondents who are blind and those who have low vision regarding where they worked (that is, in the public or private sector)?
In addition to the steps undertaken to investigate each of the six research questions, a descriptive analysis was implemented that generated data pertaining to the employment status of individuals with visual impairments in Nigeria. Last, we collected open-ended response interview data that was integrated into the results of the present study to further depict work life among individuals with visual impairments in this particular culture.
Data analysis files and procedures included no identifying participant information. The data were analyzed with SPSS, Version 19, statistical software. Descriptive data were generated to provide information that fully described the participant sample. The Mann-Whitney U test (Wilcoxon, 1945) was the data-analysis procedure for all six research questions. This statistical test was implemented as the nonparametric alternative to the independent t-test. The Mann-Whitney U test compared the difference between the mean ranks of a work experience variable with two independent "groups" (males and females or married and unmarried individuals, for example). A standard alpha level of .05 ([alpha] = .05) was used to evaluate the existence or absence of a statistically significant difference. Whenever a statistically significant difference was found between the two groups involved in a particular research question, we reported the result. For each significant result, the group with the higher mean rank for each work experience was presented and compared with the group with the lower mean rank. This statistical procedure was completed for all research questions included in the present study.
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PARTICIPANTS
As mentioned above, we implemented a descriptive analysis in addition to the steps undertaken to investigate the six research questions. There were 172 participants from the six geopolitical zones in this study, of whom 113 (66%) were males and 129 (75%) were blind. Participants were asked to report any additional disabilities. Only one participant reported having a physical disability in addition to having a visual impairment. Two-thirds of the participants in this study were 39 years of age or younger and 70% reported that their vision problem began during their childhood years. Overall, 34% of respondents reported they were single, 60% were married, 5% were divorced, and the remaining respondents were widowed. Just over a third (34%) of the respondents indicated that they had no children, 17% had 1 child, 16% had 2 children, 22% had 3 children, 5% had 4 children, and 6% had 5 or more children. Since Nigeria is a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Union, 2012) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Human Rights Commission, 2012), the researchers adopted the definition of a child as a person under 18 years of age. A detailed accounting of participants' ages, marital status, and number of children by degree of visual impairment is included in Table 1.
Thirty-eight percent of participants indicated that their highest level of education completed was less than a bachelor's degree. However, 40% of the participants who were totally blind reported that their highest level of education completed was at least a bachelor's degree, as did 31% of participants with low vision.
Table 2 provides a detailed account of the employment status (annual income and hours worked per week, for example) of the sample. The overall employment status of the participants is also shown in Table 2 according to their degree of visual impairment, gender, and postsecondary education level.
RESULTS OF THE NONPARAMETRIC DATA-ANALYSIS PROCEDURES
The results of each nonparametric analysis follow next and are organized by research question.
Research question 1
This research question assessed the significance of any differences between males and females with varying degrees of visual impairment regarding their work experiences. When assessing the work experiences among participants who had low vision, there were two significant gender differences. Males with low vision had a significantly higher annual income than females with low vision (z = -2.19, p < .05). Males had an average rank annual income of 24.45 and females had an average rank annual income of 18.25.
There was also a significant difference in employment setting based on an individual's gender (z = -2.22, p < .05). Females with low vision were employed in the private sector, including self-employment (average rank = 24.95), significantly more often than males with low vision (average rank = 18.36). This significance was a characteristic unique to the sample of females with low vision. Nearly 50% of females with low vision were employed in the private sector compared to only 13% of male participants with low vision.
There were no significant differences across the 12 work experiences for research question 1 when considering the entire sample of participants. Likewise, there were no significant results when assessing the participants who were totally blind for gender differences across each of the work experiences.
Research question 2
This research question investigated whether there were differences between respondents' achievement of work experiences based on educational attainment. The results showed several significant differences in work experiences between respondents based on their educational attainment. Among all participants, there was a significant difference in annual income (z = -1.04, p < .05) and confidence level performing current work (z = -2.14, p < .05). The average ranks for participants with at least one postsecondary degree (annual income average rank = 106.87 and confidence level average rank = 94.38) were compared with the average ranks for participants without a postsecondary degree (annual income average rank = 72.00 and confidence level average rank = 79.42) in this analysis. Those participants with at least one postsecondary degree had a significantly higher annual income and a significantly higher confidence level performing their current work than those participants who had no postsecondary degree.
When considering research question 2 exclusively among the participants who were totally blind, we found similar results. Those participants who were totally blind with at least one postsecondary degree had a higher annual income (z = -4.55, p < .05), higher confidence level performing current work (z = -2.10, p < .05), and better outlook on future job opportunities (z = -2.17, p < .05) than participants who were totally blind and without a postsecondary degree. The average ranks for participants who were totally blind who had at least one postsecondary degree (annual income average rank = 77.50, confidence level average rank = 71.05, and future job opportunities average rank = 71.77) were compared with the mean ranks for participants who were totally blind and did not have postsecondary degrees (annual income average rank = 54.29, confidence level average rank = 58.53, and future job opportunities average rank = 58.06) in this analysis.
Research question 2 was also analyzed as it pertained exclusively to the participants with low vision. Annual income (z = -3.79, p < .05) was again shown to be significant, and hours worked per week (z = -2.74, p < .05) was also significant. Those participants with low vision who had at least one postsecondary degree had a higher annual income (average rank of annual income = 29.50) and worked more hours per week (average rank of hours worked per week = 28.42) than participants with low vision who did not have a postsecondary degree (annual income average rank = 17.91 and hours worked per week average rank = 17.93).
Research question 3
The third research question included an assessment of the differences in work experiences achieved by the participants based on an individual's marital status. Hours worked per week (z = -2.38, p < .05) and efforts to access learning opportunities available on the job (z = -2.39, p < .05) were the work experiences that differed significantly based on marital status. The participants who were married worked more hours per week (average rank = 91.47) and reported they put forth less effort to access learning opportunities (average rank = 79.87) than participants who were unmarried (hours worked per week average rank = 74.48 and efforts to access learning average rank = 96.65).
When analyzing the portion of the sample that included participants who were blind, it was again shown that there were significant differences in hours worked per week (z = -2.19, p < .05) and efforts to access learning opportunities (z = -2.42, p < .05). The participants who were blind and who were married worked more hours per week (average rank = 69.08) and reported they put forth less effort to access learning opportunities (average rank = 59.48) than participants who were blind and who were unmarried (hours worked per week average rank = 55.05 and efforts to access learning average rank = 74.32).
When assessing research question 3 with the portion of the sample that included participants who had low vision, the only significant result was the difference in annual income based on marital status (z = -2.19, p < .05). Those participants with low vision who were married reported a higher annual income (average rank of annual income = 24.45) than participants with low vision who were unmarried (average rank of annual income = 18.25).
Research question 4
Differences between the respondents' work experiences were analyzed in research question 4 based on the participants' age at onset of visual impairment. The effort to access learning opportunities available on the job (z = -2.05, p < .05) and a sense that legislation enabled the participant to secure or maintain current employment (z = -2.86, p < .05) presented significant differences based on the age at onset of the participant's visual impairment. Participants with visual impairments that began during their childhood years reported they put forth a higher level of effort to access learning opportunities (average rank = 91.08) than participants with visual impairments that began during their adult years (average rank = 75.64). On the other hand, participants with visual impairments that began during their adult years felt employment policy or legislation had enabled them to keep their current employment to a greater degree (average rank = 101.82) than participants with visual impairments onset during their childhood years (average rank = 79.82).
Research question 5
The differences between respondents' work experiences were analyzed in research question 5 based on the participants' degree of visual impairment. There was only one significant difference in work experiences between individuals with low vision and those who were blind (z = -2.34, p < .05). This difference was found with the measure described in the methodology as "importance of work," which was equated to quality of life by the participants. (Participants were asked how important work was to their quality of life.) Participants who were totally blind assigned a higher level of importance to their quality of life due to their engagement in their current work (average rank = 89.660) than participants with low vision (average rank = 74.75).
Research question 6
In research question 6, differences between respondents with low vision or blindness were observed with regard to work placement and employment setting. There was a significant difference between respondents' employment setting based on degree of visual impairment (z = -2.94, p < .05). The participants with low vision reported they were employed in the private sector (average rank = 97.13) more often than the participants who were blind (average rank = 82.12).
There were a number of clearly important results presented by the first several research questions (that is, research questions 1 through 3). The differences between particular groups of individuals with visual impairments (that is, groups differentiated by gender, education level, and marital status) were found to be significant based on annual income, hours worked per week, confidence level performing current work, and future job opportunities.
On the other hand, there were not many findings of significant work experiences presented by the last set of research questions (that is, research questions 4 through 6). For instance, annual income, hours worked per week, job satisfaction, and future job opportunities were not significant work experiences for any of these particular research questions. This suggests that there was an overall consistency among all participants in the sample (regardless of degree of visual impairment or age at onset of visual impairment). The only significant difference in the series of work experiences based on degree of visual impairment as assessed in the final series of research questions was focused on work importance. The measure of work importance (that is, the degree of importance being engaged in work had to an individual's quality of life) was a more obscure work experience and the only one that proved to be significant.
To fully understand our findings, it is important to note that the vast majority of males (89%) and females (80%) were employed in the public sector regardless of degree of visual impairment. In fact, 87% of all participants were employed in the public sector. Employment in the private sector was uncommon (13% of all participants). The higher percentage of females with low vision working in the private sector (nearly 50%) deviated sharply from the trend of the rest of the sample.
The only significant differences found when analyzing the entire series of work experiences by age at onset of visual impairment were efforts to access learning opportunities available on the job and the assumption that the presence of legislation had facilitated the worker's employment. Again, these were more obscure measures of work experiences. All the other differences in work experiences were found to be not significant.
This study used a convenience sample of working adults with visual impairments. The subjects were identified based on their membership in the Nigeria Association of the Blind. The results of studies using convenience samples cannot be projected to the wider population.
All data were self-reported. Although self-reported data is easily obtained and is considered a reliable source of information in most circumstances that deal with critical issues (Rutherford, Cacciola, Alterman, McKay, & Cook, 2000), reliance on self-reports can present limitations.
Additionally, the male-to-female ratio among participants who were totally blind was 70:30, and among participants who had low vision it was 52:48. The present study may have been limited by the gender dispersion of the sample among participants who identified as totally blind. Participants in this study were 172 adults who were blind or visually impaired and living and working in Nigeria. Sixty-six percent of the respondents were male and 75% of the participants reported that they were totally blind, which is not representative of the larger society. Based on the earlier study mentioned by Kyari and her colleagues (2009), overall ratios amongst Nigerians with visual impairments are closer to a male-to-female split of 40:60 and a low vision-to-blind split of 80:20.
Finally, although the former Military Administration signed off on the Nigerians with the Disability Decree of 1993 (Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, 2012), which inter alia specifies measures to promote the employment of people with disabilities, the current National Assembly has been unable to pass legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The implication here is that Nigeria still lacks an established database that tracks the employment status of its citizens. Thus, the researchers in this study are unable to provide specific background information regarding the employment situation for people with visual impairments in Nigeria.
Implications for future research
Throughout the world, people with visual impairments have struggled historically to gain employment (LaGrow & Daye, 2005; Lee & Park, 2008; Pavey, Douglas, & Corcoran, 2008; Simson, Gold, & Zuvela, 2005; Wolffe & Spungin, 2002). Although there have been consistent efforts to publicize the abilities of people with visual impairments in the workforce by some authors (Attmore, 1990; Chazal, 1999; Kendrick, 1993, 1998, 2000; Wolffe & Spungin, 2002), and more recently on websites developed by organizations of and for people with visual impairments, employment rates have not increased appreciably. This article has closely evaluated issues related to employment in one of the world's most populous developing countries, Nigeria.
What we have discovered is that for these 172 employed Nigerians, work is an important part of their lives. Since evidenced in many previous studies (Houtenville, 2003; LaGrow, 2003; McCarty, Burgess, & Keefe, 1999; Wolffe, Roessler, & Schriner, 1992), we reaffirm the importance of education in the lives of workers with visual impairments. In this sample, higher education equated to increased salaries and greater confidence in performing work for all participants. Participants who were blind with at least one postsecondary degree had a higher annual income, a higher confidence level in performing, and a better outlook on future job opportunities than those without a postsecondary degree. Likewise, participants with low vision and at least one postsecondary degree had a higher annual income and worked more hours per week than those who did not have a postsecondary degree. The takeaway message to service providers, families, and individuals who are visually impaired is clear: a postsecondary education is important in terms of future earnings and confidence.
There are a multitude of challenges the survey participants face in order to perform their jobs in a society that makes few accommodations available to them. In spite of the difficulties, the survey participants work in a variety of jobs and contribute to their families and communities. Questions that remain to be answered include whether the women with low vision who were employed in the private sector were making more or less than their counterparts in the public sector. The finding that a greater percentage of women were employed in the private sector may be indicative of the unevenness of our sample distribution in terms of the male-to-female ratio; however, this is another finding that begs further research. Although we reaffirmed that the most significant difference between men and women in this study with regard to work experiences was that men earned more than women, one has to wonder whether those women working in the private sector pulled down the overall wages reported by women with low vision, since that was where the greatest variance lay. This wage variance is another topic that is worthy of continued attention from researchers.
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Table 1 Age range, marital status, and number of children of respondents. Respondents (N = 172) Demographic Low characteristics All Blind vision Age range 29 years of age or under 41% 37% 55% 30-39 years of age 25% 25% 21% 40-49 years of age 23% 26% 17% 50-59 years of age 10% 11% 5% 60-69 years of age 1% 1% 2% Marital status Single 34% 33% 38% Married 60% 63% 52% Divorced 5% 3% 10% Widowed 1% 1% 0% Number of children No children 34% 30% 44% 1 child 17% 20% 8% 2 children 16% 14% 23% 3 children 22% 25% 15% 4 children 5% 5% 5% 5 or more children 6% 6% 5% Table 2 Employment status of respondents by degree of visual impairment, gender, and postsecondary educational level. Employment setting Govern- Sample ment Private Self- characteristic sector sector employed Overall sample (N = 172) 86% 8% 6% Degree of visual impairment Blindness 90% 5% 5% Low vision 70% 20% 10% Gender Male 90% 8% 2% Female 80% 8% 12% Postsecondary degree(s) At least one 90% 10% 0% degree No degrees 80% 10% 10% Annual income * Sample Less than $3,101- $12,401- More than characteristic $3,100 $12,400 $24,800 $24,800 Overall sample (N = 172) 74% 21% 4% 1% Degree of visual impairment Blindness 73% 22% 4% 1% Low vision 77% 17% 4% 2% Gender Male 73% 21% 4% 2% Female 75% 21% 4% 0% Postsecondary degree(s) At least one 49% 44% 4% 3% degree No degrees 90% 8% 2% 0% Hours worked per week Less than 40 hours 40 hours or more Sample worked per worked characteristic week per week Overall sample (N = 172) 45% 55% Degree of visual impairment Blindness 40% 60% Low vision 50% 50% Gender Male 40% 60% Female 50% 50% Postsecondary degree(s) At least one 40% 60% degree No degrees 50% 50% Note: * Participants reported their annual income in Nigerian Nairas and then the annual income amount was converted to U.S. dollars.
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|Author:||Wolffe, Karen E.; Ajuwon, Paul M.; Kelly, Stacy M.|
|Publication:||Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2013|
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