Landscapes of Exclusion: A Qualitative Study of Small and Medium Size Employers (SME’s) and Disabled People:Labour market relations, employment and occupation

Molyneux, Cara Jane (2019) Landscapes of Exclusion: A Qualitative Study of Small and Medium Size Employers (SME’s) and Disabled People:Labour market relations, employment and occupation. In: Nordic Network for Disability Research - Copenhagen, Denmark. UNSPECIFIED.

Full text not available from this repository.


This paper builds on the idea that we are living in a disablist society which values ”normal” bodies and minds and where paid-work is the primary marker of social inclusion and citizenship in neoliberal political economies. Gaining access to paid employment is challenging for most disabled people and many workplaces are ”landscapes of exclusion” caused by a multiplicity of social barriers that limit labour-market participation in paid-employment. Government initiatives such as Disability Confident and Access to Work have so far failed to adequately address demand-side factors and the structural organization of work which keep disabled people as unequal citizens and stigmatized. Existing research has tended to focus on disabled people with low-level qualifications and skills, with the assumption that those with higher-level education are not excluded or disadvantaged by the social and spatial organisation of work under capitalism. Specifically, no previous UK studies have sought to understand the perceptions and experience of small and medium size employers (SME’s) alongside the personal narratives of disabled people. The explanation of why highly-educated disabled people are disadvantaged in employment terms is complex, however evidence suggests it can be explained in part by employer discrimination located within the economic imperatives of capitalism. Demand-side issues such as, mainstream labour processes, physical barriers in work environments, organisational cultures that discriminate, stigmatise and stereotype disabled people have consistently been highlighted as problematic by disabled people, but ignored by policy. Despite anti-discrimination legislation, most workplaces are not fully accessible, employers are not being held to account for their lack of ”positive action” or discriminatory policies and practice, and state funded support is inadequate, hard to obtain and premised on a deficit model of disability. The paper engages primarily with Disability Studies whilst drawing upon theories developed in the ”geographies of disability” literature. The focus is on the experiences of degree educated disabled people working for small and medium size employers (SMEs). At the centre of this qualitative study were 17 disabled people and 10 SME’s who each took part in semi-structured interviews. The data shows how SME employers’ conceptualisation of disability is often framed on deficit, medical model understandings. This influences their perception of what responsibility they have in arranging ”reasonable adjustments” and could explain the wide-ranging unconsciousness of discriminatory workplace design and practices. The data also reveals the inadequacies of Access to Work as the primary support model and other government initiatives such as Disability Confident. Set against wider concerns of losing entitlement to extra funding through the Motability vehicle scheme following reassessment for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), the data builds on existing studies which highlight the detrimental effect such assessments are having on disabled people.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
28 Oct 2022 15:10
Last Modified:
21 Nov 2022 17:47