Workplace inclusion for persons with intellectual disability: exploring the role of organizational learning and job design in processes of transformative equality

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Project categories

PhD Project

Project period

August 2016 - August 2021

Project summary

Globally, persons with disabilities experience significant marginalization in the labor market. One reason is the inaccessibility of workplaces, which is in conflict with §27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Confirming the right to work in inclusive and accessible work environments, current disability law shifts the perspective from the ‘employability’ of individuals to the accessibility of workplaces and building down (or modifying) attitudinal, physical and social barriers. The goal of such processes is inclusive, or, rather, transformative equality.

In the category 'persons with disabilities', persons with intellectual disabilities are among those who experience the greatest labor market disadvantage. I am working from the idea that exploring the challenges of including persons with such disabilities also may shed light on wider issues in the work inclusion of persons with disablities.

Building on a Pragmatist foundation and scientific approach to organizational learning, I aim to answer three research questions:

1) What do ordinary businesses need to learn to employ persons with intellectual disability on terms approaching transformative equality?

2) How may such and similar forms of inclusive employment enhance ordinary businesses’ organizational learning capacity?

3) How can 1) and 2) inform research, policy and practice when it comes to achieving greater equality in the labor market for persons with disabilities?


My approach is qualitative and combines deductive, inductive and abductive strategies.

In part, I build on a multi-site case study, exploring seven jobs for persons with intellectual disability in Norwegian and Danish ordinary private and public sector businesses. I created data through 16 days of field work and interviews with the workers themselves, in addition to research interviews with a total of 43 managers, colleagues, external job coaches and parents.

Another part of my main research is related to how disability and equality is conceptualized in business research on work and disability. Taking the "ABS list" as my proxy for such research, I am compiling a data set of review level articles from the decade 2010-2019 to analyze this more closely. Again, I am using thematic analysis.

In both parts, my aim is to develop theoretical representations with the potential to inform research, policy and practice.