Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
KLEYNHANS, Ronel and KOTZE, Martina. Changing attitudes towards people with physical disabilities: An innovative workplace intervention. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp.835-854. ISSN 2224-7912.
There seems to be a worldwide tendency for people of working age with disabilities to remain unemployed. The employment of people with disabilities remains a development issue as they are deprived of social, political and basic human needs when unemployed. Reasons for this exclusion include a lack of information and awareness about the abilities of people with disabilities, as well as the perceived financial, operational, and productivity related costs of hiring people with disabilities. Other reasons include bias and stereotyping towards people with disabilities. These factors, together with a general fear of the unknown and ignorance of how to respond to different individuals, increase the negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. This has a concomitant negative effect on all parties involved: People without disabilities keep their distance from people with disabilities, which often results in a lack of employment, placement, training and promotional opportunities for people with disabilities. The organisation, in turn, often fails to maximise the potential of people with disabilities, who are usually appointed in stereotypical positions, such as switchboard operators, where their qualifications tend to be overlooked.. Consequently, employers need a heightened awareness of, and an attitudinal change towards, the benefits ofincluding disabled people in the workplace. The forming and changing of an attitude is a complex process because it consists of cognitive, emotional and behavioural components. All three components of an attitude need to be addressed. In addition, both external and internal strategies must be applied to foster change in attitudes. However, interventions based on innovative attitude-changing learning strategies are hard to find in the literature. Therefore, a learning intervention based on attitude change theories and principles, as well as on experiential learning principles (including interactive drama), was developed and implemented in order to change employees ' attitudes towards people with physical disabilities in the workplace. The intervention was implemented by means of a programme comprising various units. People with different disabilities (i.e. hearing, sight and physical) took part in each of the interactive dramas, and also formed part of the facilitation sessions in each unit. At the end of each session, the participants completed an evaluation form. The research population consisted of adult learners without physical disabilities enrolled in a leadership programme at a business school in South Africa. The participants were selected by means of non-probability sampling, and were assigned to the experimental and control groups respectively based on courses they enrolled for in the leadership programme. The participants (people without physical disabilities) in both the experimental and the control group completed a biographical questionnaire and an attitude questionnaire, after which the experimental group was exposed to the intervention. At the end of the intervention, both groups completed the attitude questionnaire again in order to determine whether the attitude of the experimental group showed a statistically significant positive attitude change towards people with physical disabilities. The results of the quasi-experimental design indicated a positive attitude change after the implementation of the programme. Moreover, the results suggested that the attitudes of employees without disability, towards employees with physical disabilities, are influenced by contact with people with disabilities and knowledge about disability. The implementation of attitude-changing programmes could facilitate changes in attitude which would, hopefully, lead to the increased integration of people with disabilities into the work environment and general community and, ultimately, to the restoration of dignity.
Keywords : People with Physical Disabilities; Attitudes; Learning intervention; Interactive drama; Experiential learning; Attitude change strategies; Quasi-experimental design.