The lived experience of work for people who have an intellectual and developmental disability

  • Diana Ramsey

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This doctoral research thesis explores the work-related experiences of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Akin to the experience of people with other types of disabilities, the barriers are many and varied, including social, organisational and personal factors. The political and policy environment of the United Kingdom promotes employment for all. However, existing literature suggests policy failure as employment rates are low for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Furthermore, their perspectives and ‘voices’ appear only fleetingly or are absent in the literature reviewed.

    This research illuminates the lived experience of six people with intellectual or developmental disabilities engaging in employment. It provides insights into the employment support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities relevant to their support networks, employers and professionals (including occupational therapists). Using a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, an exploratory inclusive research method was applied, involving a creative collaborative partnership between the research collaborators, researcher and a photographer. Six work stories composed of narratives and visual images were created and five collective narrative frames emerged through this collaboration. These included: ‘the quest to do’, ‘navigating bureaucratic seas’, ‘finding a good fit’, ‘the forging of identity’ and ‘finding both friend and foe’.

    The findings indicate that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have important stories to tell about their journeys towards and within paid employment. Their stories reveal the extensive barriers they faced, whilst recognising that people could experience a good, as well as a poor fit with their work. This research recommends that skilled personalised support and a positive social working environment is crucial to providing a good fit for such individuals in employment. The creative collaborative partnership was found to be a valuable innovative method in supporting collaborator involvement and inclusive research principles.
    Date of AwardMar 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorJoshua Cameron (Supervisor) & Bill McGowan (Supervisor)

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