Breaking the glass ceiling for people with intellectual disabilities. Drawing lessons from a qualitative case study on inclusiveness in an organizational board. (Internship report)

Summary

Summary

Introduction

Although various movements and approaches have been suggested throughout history to understand and support Persons with a Disability (PwDs) as well as legal frameworks such as the Participation Act of 2005, to protect PwDs, full inclusion in all facets of society remains a big challenge. Despite the efforts to mainstream disability-, particularly people with intellectual disabilities (ID), continue to face stigma, negative attitudes towards disability and other barriers at the workplace. Especially people with a mild intellectual disability (MID) have to deal with the invisibility of their disability resulting in patronizing or overestimation of their capabilities and stereotyping. PwDs are less likely to have administrative and professional positions than employees without disabilities. Moreover, employers are more willing to hire persons with physical disabilities for professional and managerial positions than applicants with an ID. Therefore, this research aims to answer the research question: “What lessons can be learned from a board with a board member with a mild intellectual disability regarding feelings of inclusion?”

Contextual framework

The framework used for this research is based on the 4 phases of inclusive climate as proposed by Pless & Maak (2004), on the interrelated categories of inclusion by Farrell (2004), disability mainstreaming by UNWRA (2013) and the framework of inclusion as proposed by Shore et al., (2011). The concepts that were thought to be most significant for this research are included in the conceptual framework and were used to identify the lessons learned from a board with a board member with a MID, in order to create suitable workplaces for people with a MID in board functions on a larger scale.

Methods

No earlier research has been conducted about how to make boards more inclusive and what contributes to a successful placement of someone with an ID in an administrative function. To gain insight into the functioning of the board and their behaviors and systems a case study with a qualitative approach was carried out. An in-depth case study was executed, where 9 board members of a board with a board member with a MID were interviewed. Analyzing and coding the data was done with the coding program MAXQDA.

Results

Several lessons can be derived from the interviews. First, a coach is of great importance when trying to reach equal participation within board functions. Furthermore, it is relevant to stick to the agenda and to offer specific support when necessary. Hereby, attention for needs is required. The role of the 6 chairman is a key role and requires certain leadership skills. The fourth lesson is the relevance of a trial period including an extensive evaluation. The board member with a MID needs affinity with the subject and in order to represent the target group, practical experience and expert knowledge is needed. The board member with a MID is always present but cannot contribute to all agenda items during the meetings. Especially topics that could not be prepared are hard. Not a lot of changes were made before the board member with a MID started her term in the board. The board member with a MID also requested the board to not change specific for her. Within the board a feeling of belonging exists.

Discussion

In this case study, the role of the coach was mentioned multiple times. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if participation is about acting independently or being able to participate as result of needed support. On one hand, participation mainly seems to mean that PwDs should be able to integrate into regular settings. But, on the other hand, is coaching seen as one of the most important activities in order to become more inclusive. Remarkable is the fact that all board member state that no organizational changes were made before the arrival of the board member with a MID. The board member with a MID did not want the board to change anything especially for her. In the literature, this is explained by the principle of selfstigma. To ensure that full participation is possible, the idea of integrating into existing structures must be abandoned; it makes more sense to look at what is needed to realize optimal participation, for inclusion. An ongoing discussion about equity vs equality exists. Equity and removing obstacles both correspond to disability mainstreaming. Mainstreaming could profit from the concept of universal design.

Conclusion

Despite that the board member with a MID cannot fully participate on all subjects during the board meetings, the results show that the board of SPZ is an inclusive board. All board members experience this board as inclusive, and that is the goal. The aim of inclusion is to contribute to quality of life. Working results in the feeling of belonging. In order to establish inclusion, attention for needs with consideration of the equity principle is necessary. However, this might not be needed if disability was mainstreamed and more workplaces were created according to a universal design. 

Objective

Aim

This research aims to answer the research question: “What lessons can be learned from a board with a board member with a mild intellectual disability regarding feelings of inclusion?” 

Method

Method

Methods

No earlier research has been conducted about how to make boards more inclusive and what contributes to a successful placement of someone with an ID in an administrative function. To gain insight into the functioning of the board and their behaviors and systems a case study with a qualitative approach was carried out. An in-depth case study was executed, where 9 board members of a board with a board member with a MID were interviewed. Analyzing and coding the data was done with the coding program MAXQDA. 

Results

Results

Results

Several lessons can be derived from the interviews. First, a coach is of great importance when trying to reach equal participation within board functions. Furthermore, it is relevant to stick to the agenda and to offer specific support when necessary. Hereby, attention for needs is required. The role of the 6 chairman is a key role and requires certain leadership skills. The fourth lesson is the relevance of a trial period including an extensive evaluation. The board member with a MID needs affinity with the subject and in order to represent the target group, practical experience and expert knowledge is needed. The board member with a MID is always present but cannot contribute to all agenda items during the meetings. Especially topics that could not be prepared are hard. Not a lot of changes were made before the board member with a MID started her term in the board. The board member with a MID also requested the board to not change specific for her. Within the board a feeling of belonging exists. 

Discussion

In this case study, the role of the coach was mentioned multiple times. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if participation is about acting independently or being able to participate as result of needed support. On one hand, participation mainly seems to mean that PwDs should be able to integrate into regular settings. But, on the other hand, is coaching seen as one of the most important activities in order to become more inclusive. Remarkable is the fact that all board member state that no organizational changes were made before the arrival of the board member with a MID. The board member with a MID did not want the board to change anything especially for her. In the literature, this is explained by the principle of selfstigma. To ensure that full participation is possible, the idea of integrating into existing structures must be abandoned; it makes more sense to look at what is needed to realize optimal participation, for inclusion. An ongoing discussion about equity vs equality exists. Equity and removing obstacles both correspond to disability mainstreaming. Mainstreaming could profit from the concept of universal design.

Conclusion

Despite that the board member with a MID cannot fully participate on all subjects during the board meetings, the results show that the board of SPZ is an inclusive board. All board members experience this board as inclusive, and that is the goal. The aim of inclusion is to contribute to quality of life. Working results in the feeling of belonging. In order to establish inclusion, attention for needs with consideration of the equity principle is necessary. However, this might not be needed if disability was mainstreamed and more workplaces were created according to a universal design. 

Project information

Project information

This report is part of the master Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health and Life Sciences.

Research line

(Arbeids)participatie

Status

Afgerond

Year completed

2019
People

Researchers / project members

Lieke Franssen

People or organisations involved in the project

Commissioning organization: Amsterdam UMC, chair of Disability Studies

On-site supervisor: Dr. M. Bakker
VU supervisor: E.E. de Wit

This internship report was established in cooperation with the Athena Science Shop.

Athena Institute, Faculty of Science, VU University Amsterdam

SPZ

Contact

Contact

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