From the Standpoint of People with Disabilities: An Institutional Analysis of Work in the Non-Profit Sector
Buettgen, Alexis Edith Isabel
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Employment can be a pathway to increased income, empowerment, quality of life and well-being. But for people with disabilities, job opportunities are limited, and employment supports often are inadequate. Despite legislative changes in recent years and a push toward employment as a solution to poverty among people with disabilities, there is a gap in knowledge, research, services and supports to meet the socioeconomic interests and needs of this diverse group of people. This study stems from a concern about how the current economic and political environment influences forms of employment available to people with disabilities; and to explain how and why the non-profit sector can be a potential site for inclusive employment. This institutional analysis critically investigated how three Ontario non-profit service providing organizations provided inclusive employment opportunities by examining institutional documents and policies, the perspectives of organization staff responsible for such practices and the everyday experiences of people with disabilities working in these organizations. This study draws from institutional ethnography as an emancipatory, critical theoretical method of investigation to analyze employment and disability within capitalist society. This relationship is examined from the standpoint of people with disabilities working in the non-profit service providing sector and extends upward to map the social relations between the individual and the organizations and institutions that influence their everyday experiences at work. Participating organizations were found to be places where employees could develop their capacities, re-present the image of disability and social service worker, and contribute to their communities. Many employees expressed a strong commitment to social justice and were working directly on issues related to poverty, personal care, social inclusion, well-being and diversity. However, it was also evident when organizations reproduced individualizing and medical conceptualizations of disability that constrained the subjective experience of inclusion at work. Findings from this dissertation explicated how various reading practices of the Ontario Human Rights Code contributed to the abstraction or valued recognition of the subjectivities of employees embodied experiences; and highlighted how employment in the non-profit sector, from the standpoint of people with disabilities, very much implies the enrichment but also the sacrificing of ones individual being.