Disability work matters : employment opportunities for disabled people in the New Zealand disability sector : a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Although disabled citizens represent almost a quarter of the total population in Aotearoa New Zealand, they experience significant and persistent barriers to employment. This research examined the barriers and enablers to employment for disabled New Zealanders, both generally and those specifically relevant to the disability sector. The research had four aims: to examine the navigation of family, identity, and education by disabled people; to identify barriers to paid employment in both mainstream and disability sector settings; to investigate potential employment enablers; and develop recommendations. This research employed a qualitative thematic analysis approach, underpinned by the social model of disability and the theoretical concepts of Pierre Bourdieu, guiding interpretation of results. The study began with a focus group of six disabled people, to discuss possible themes for the research. Results from the focus group were then developed further to inform interviews with 13 disabled and 12 nondisabled people, on topics relating to: the navigation of family, identity, and education by disabled people; barriers to paid employment in mainstream and disability sector employment; and potential employment enablers. Key research findings include: the development of individual agency is critical to build the resilience necessary to navigate many environmental, structural, and attitudinal barriers encountered in education and employment; similar employment barriers are experienced by disabled people in all employment settings; the creation of opportunities for employers to meet with disabled people could be valuable and may lead to job offers; time-limited voluntary work, which includes pathways to paid employment, may assist to both allay employer apprehension, and enable disabled people to demonstrate capability. Research strongly suggests that the disability sector would benefit from including the lived experience of disability as a key competency for employment within a sector which exists in the name of disabled people. Ensuring disabled people achieve greater authority in their sector is an equity issue in urgent need of attention, and this study takes a step forward to address this need.
People with disabilities, Employment, Family relationships, Services for, Psychology, New Zealand, disability, employment, barriers, enablers, disability sector