Employment of PWD (People with Disabilities) has been taken into serious cognizance by the Government, and various legislations have been passed to ensure that employers mainstream disability in the workplace. It is also known that in South Africa, employed PWD are still underrepresented in the employment sector. The Departments have not yet met the 2% target by the Government (OSDP:2000&Dube 2005). It is a fact that most PWD are able to work if given opportunities and reasonable accommodations by the employers. There is however, lack of sufficient scientifically determined information on the needs and barriers as experienced by employees with physical disability, resulting in the inability of employer to accommodate those needs in order to ensure maximum productivity amongst people with disabilities in the workplace. Hence, the study attempts to answer the research question of what are the barriers and needs as experienced by employees with physical disabilities in the workplace? The objectives of the study is to explore the working experiences of PWD in the workplace, further to identify the barriers and the needs as experienced by them and to make recommendations to the employer on how to eliminate these barriers, thus addressing the needs of PWD in the workplace. A qualitative research approach was followed in this study to give in-depth description of the experiences, perceptions, and needs of employees with physical disabilities in the workplace. The researcher utilized applied research method which aims at solving problems in order to assist decision-making at line levels, managerial levels and policy levels. A collective case study research design was followed to gather data directly from respondents in their natural environment for the purpose of studying interactions, attitudes and characteristics. The aim is to understand and interpret the meaning that they give in relation to their workplace. A non-probability sampling method was used to select 12 respondents who have a physical disability and are employed within the Government sector for the period of 1 year or more. The data was collected through the semi-structured interviews with an interview schedule. The interview was used to gain a detailed picture of the respondents’ experiences, beliefs, regarding the barriers and needs they are experiencing in the workplace. The research results revealed job dissatisfaction and emotional experiences of hopelessness, anger and frustration by the PWD within the workplace. The results of such experiences are attributed to physical and social barriers identified, as well as lack of management support and lack of implementation of existing legislations and policies on managing disability in the workplace. Physical barriers are associated with the physical infrastructure and the working environment, whilst social barriers are associated with the attitude of the employers, supervisors and co-workers towards the PWD (Chima 2002&Barlow 2003). The needs that were identified were the need for recognition, need for reasonable accommodation, the need for advocacy and empowerment. In essence PWD need to be treated like any other employee within the workplace. They need to be included especially on issues concerning them and their work. Employers need to start making efforts to address the barriers affecting PWD and try to also meet their needs in the workplace. This can be done in consultation with the PWD to create and ensure a conducive working environment.
Dissertation (MSD (Employee Assistance Programme))--University of Pretoria, 2008.