Discrimination within the United States Today

Discrimination within the United States Today
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The assigned paper must be 3-4 pages in length, typed, double-spaced, using one-inch margins and standard font size of 12.
?Discrimination within the United States today towards Individuals With Disabilities in the Workplace.
?See Article Below*
?The paper should include a summary of the article, as well as provide an opinion of the article. Be sure to include how the topic chosen is related to discrimination. The paper should also discuss how Generalist Social Work could apply to meeting the needs of their chosen population (regarding intervention levels, theory, and a person-in-environment perspective).
?Be sure to include a detailed reference (citation) at the end of your paper regarding the article that you have chosen to use for this option.
Title: The Assessment of Attitudes Toward Individuals With Disabilities in the Workplace.
Authors: Popovich, Paula M.
Scherbaum, Charles A.
Scherbaum, Karen L.
Polinko, Natale
Source: Journal of Psychology. Mar2003, Vol. 137 Issue 2, p163. 15p
ABSTRACT. The authors conducted 2 studies to develop and test measures that assess beliefs about what constitutes a disability, affective reactions to working with individuals with disabilities, and beliefs about the reasonableness of workplace accommodations, in general and within the context of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The results of these 2 studies showed substantial differences in what was considered to be a disability. In general, more physical and sensory-motor conditions were considered disabilities than were psychological conditions. Furthermore, the conditions believed to be disabilities did not necessarily match what is covered by the ADA. Gender and experience with individuals who are disabled were also found to predict affective reactions and the reasonableness of accommodations. Implications for organizations are discussed. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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ABSTRACT. The authors conducted 2 studies to develop and test measures that assess beliefs about what constitutes a disability, affective reactions to working with individuals with disabilities, and beliefs about the reasonableness of workplace accommodations, in general and within the context of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The results of these 2 studies showed substantial differences in what was considered to be a disability. In general, more physical and sensory-motor conditions were considered disabilities than were psychological conditions. Furthermore, the conditions believed to be disabilities did not necessarily match what is covered by the ADA. Gender and experience with individuals who are disabled were also found to predict affective reactions and the reasonableness of accommodations. Implications for organizations are discussed.
Key words: Americans With Disabilities Act, attitudes, disability
IN 1990, Congress enacted the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace. A disability is any physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1991). The guidelines associated with the ADA stipulate that employers must make task or social alterations to the job or the work environment (i.e., reasonable accommodations) that permit persons with disabilities to perform the major functions of the job and thereby facilitate the assimilation of people with disabilities into the workplace (Cleveland. Barnes-Farrell, & Ratz, 1997).
The success of these attempts to assimilate people with disabilities into the workplace often depends on the cooperation of individuals currently in the organization (Hall & Hall, 1994; Stone & Colella, 1996). As a result, understanding the attitudes held by employers and employees about individuals with disabilities in the workplace and the accommodations they require have received increasing attention from both practitioners and scientists (Stone, 1997).
Research on attitudes toward individuals who are disabled is not novel (e.g., Yuker, Block, & Campbell, 1960). The results of such research indicate that, in general, people hold negative attitudes toward individuals who are disabled (Livneh, 1982). The posited sources of these negative attitudes range from attributions (Weiner, 1993) to socialization experiences (Livneh, 1982) to stigmatization (Stone, Stone, & Dipboye, 1992). Furthermore, the findings from this body of research indicate that there are individual differences in the negativity of the attitude based on the attributes of the observer. For example, research has indicated that women and those with experience with individuals who are disabled tend to have more positive attitudes than do men and those with no experience (Jones et al., 1984; Jones & Stone, 1995; Livneh, 1982).
Although there is a substantial body of literature on attitudes toward individuals who are disabled, very little of this literature has examined these issues in the context of organizations. Moreover, the research that has been conducted on disability issues in organizations has focused primarily on personnel decisions and how they are related to the characteristics of individuals or programs (e.g., Florey & Harrison, 2000). These studies have increased our understanding of the treatment of individuals with disabilities in organizations, but none of this research directly addresses the various elements of the attitudes held toward members of this group or the beliefs about individuals with disabilities that underlie the personnel decisions and the treatment of individuals with disabilities in organizations. This lack has limited our ability to understand and design interventions that address the discriminatory behaviors that affect persons with disabilities in the workplace. Thus, it is not surprising that we have not been able to help employ the estimated 8.2 million individuals with disabilities who want to work yet are unable to find employment (Epstein, 1995).
Another factor that limits our understanding and interventions is that the ADA provides only general guidelines and not specific instructions. Specifically, the ADA does not provide a list of what is and what is not a disability or what is a reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA, these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. As a result, there is confusion and disagreement over what constitutes a “disability” and “reasonable” accommodations for an employer to make available. Moreover, recent Supreme Court decisions have only muddied the waters further by including factors such as the ability to the correct a condition (e.g., glasses for impaired vision; Sutton v. United Air Lines, 1999) in making these decisions.
This confusion or lack of accurate knowledge may be reflected in the attitudes and beliefs that employers and employees have about working with persons with disabilities and the accommodations they believe are reasonable. For example, Katz (1960) has argued that one function of attitudes is knowledge or understanding of the world. In this case, the information may not necessarily be accurate and the cost of inaccurate information is high for both employers and employees with disabilities. Thus, increasing our understanding of the various aspects of attitudes toward individuals with disabilities in the workplace is a necessary first step in developing effective interventions to improve treatment of such individuals. Specifically, we need to develop an understanding of what is considered a disability and a reasonable accommodation as to whether these beliefs match the legal prescriptions. To date, little empirical work has been directed toward this important initial step.
There are numerous approaches or frameworks for understanding the construct of “attitude” (e.g., Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; McGuire, 1985). Included in most frameworks and approaches are a cognitive component, consisting of the ideas and beliefs one has about the attitude object, as well as an affective component, consisting of the feelings and reactions one has toward the object. In this article, we examine attitudes through these two components. Multiple component attitude frameworks have been used to understand attitudes and beliefs about other employment concepts, such as affirmative action (Bell, Harrison, & McLaughlin, 2000; Kravitz & Platania, 1993). However, the multiple component approach has yet to be applied to our understanding of affective reactions and beliefs about individuals with disabilities in the workplace as well as the accommodations they may also require.
Our purpose in these studies was to examine beliefs about what constitutes a disability, affective reactions toward working with individuals with disabilities in the workplace, and beliefs about the reasonableness of common workplace accommodations. We conducted two studies to develop and test scales that would assess (a) beliefs or cognitions about what constitutes a disability, (b) affective reactions concerning working with persons who have disabilities, and (c) beliefs or cognitions about the reasonableness of workplace accommodations for persons who have disabilities. We also examined possible gender and experience differences that have been reported in previous attitude research.
In the first study, we developed items for these scales and used them to assess attitudes toward persons with disabilities. For this first study, we did not provide the participants with any definition of what constitutes a disability because our goal was to develop scales that would be able to reflect a broad range of attitudes as well as more specific reactions. In the second study, the scales were given to the participants along with the ADA’s definition of disability. We did this to determine participant attitudes toward working with individuals in the workplace, specifically within the context of the ADA guidelines.
Study 1
Participants
The participants in this first study were 118 undergraduate students (29 men and 89 women) enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a large mid-western university. The mean age of the participants was 18.58 years. Half of the sample had worked with an individual who was disabled. The average length of the work experience for those who had worked with a disabled individual was 5 months.
Measures
On the basis of a review of the literature on the ADA (e.g., Mayerson, 1991), attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (e.g., Jones & Stone, 1995), and several pilot studies, we developed a survey consisting of 3 scales to assess the beliefs about what constitutes a disability, affective reactions to working with individuals with disabilities, and beliefs about the reasonableness of common workplace accommodations.
Beliefs about disabilities. We designed this scale to assess individuals’ beliefs and cognitions about what physical, sensory-motor, and psychological conditions can be defined as disabilities. The scale contained 42 psychological, sensory–motor, and physical conditions and assessed which conditions the participants believed were disabilities (see Appendix). We designed the scale in the form of a checklist, and the participants were instructed to check only the conditions they believed were disabilities.
Affective reactions. We designed this 22-item scale to assess individuals’ affective reactions to working with individuals with disabilities. Participants rated the items on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from completely agree ( 1) to completely disagree ( 7). Several of the items were reverse coded. The internal consistency of the responses on this scale was moderate (? = .69). Sample items were “I am uncomfortable with the idea of sharing my work space with a disabled person” and “I would find it difficult to supervise a disabled person.”
Reasonableness of accommodations. We designed this 25-item scale to assess individuals’ beliefs about the reasonableness of common workplace accommodations for persons with disabilities. Participants rated the items on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from very reasonable ( 1) to very unreasonable ( 7). Several of the items were reverse coded. The internal consistency of the responses on this scale was high (? = .93). Sample items were “Allowing disabled workers to take more breaks” and “Providing space to store medical equipment or medication,” Demographics. In addition to the attitudinal measures, we included several demographic (gender and age) and experience items. Participants rated a single item, “What is the level of your experience with disabled people,” on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from none ( 1) to extensive ( 7). Two additional items asked whether the participant had worked with an individual who was disabled and, if so, for what length of time.
Procedure
We administered the surveys to groups of approximately 30 participants at a time and assured them that their responses were confidential. In Study 1, the participants were not given a definition of what constitutes a disability but instead were expected to use their own preconceived ideas. The order of the scales was completely counterbalanced. We performed a multivariate analysis of variance to test for an order effect on the responses to the affective reactions and accommodation scales. The results were not significant, Pillai’s trace = .07, F( 10, 218) = 0.801, p < .70, ?? = .035, indicating that the order of presentation was not exerting a substantial impact on the responses.
Results and Discussion
We computed composite scores for affective reactions and reasonable accommodations by summing across the items in the scales. The means of the affective reaction composite (M = 3.16, SD = 0.58) and reasonable accommodations composite (M = 2.96, SD = 0.89) were neutral to slightly positive. Additionally, we found a positive correlation (r = .35) between the two composites, although the relationship was relatively small. Because these scales are measuring different aspects of the same attitude object (i.e., individuals with disabilities in the workplace), some association is to be expected.
Table 1 contains the results of the significant chi-square tests of participants’ beliefs about what conditions could or could not be considered disabilities. Of the 42 conditions listed, 12 were significantly considered to be disabilities, and 10 were significantly considered not to be disabilities. For 20 remaining conditions, participants’ beliefs were mixed, and the chi-square tests were not significant. In general, there was a discrepancy between what the participants believed were disabilities and what are actually covered by the ADA. This discrepancy was most pronounced for the psychological conditions. For instance, participants believed that schizophrenia and alcoholism are not disabilities when, in fact, they are clearly considered to be disabilities by the ADA.
In addition, participants were divided in their beliefs for some conditions that are traditionally and legally considered disabilities. Most notable were the conditions of paraplegia and mental retardation. Participants had mixed beliefs about several conditions such as heart disease or posttraumatic stress disorder that can be considered disabilities in some cases. As mentioned earlier, participants considered more of the physical or sensory-motor conditions to be disabilities than the psychological conditions. Although physical conditions are traditionally thought of as disabilities, individuals suffering from mental impairments or emotional illnesses are offered equal protection under the ADA.
To examine the relationship between the demographic and experience measures with the composite scores of the scales, we performed a series of regression analyses. Because of missing data, we used pairwise deletion for all regression analyses. In the first set of analyses, we entered gender as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with gender as a predictor, was significant for the affective reaction composite, F( 1, 115) – 5.47, p < .05, R? = .045. The significant, positive regression weight for gender indicated that the affective reactions of women to working with individuals with disabilities were more positive than the reactions of the men (see Table 2). The overall model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion was also significant, F( 1, 116) = 6.92, p < .05, R? = .056. The significant, positive regression weight for gender indicated that women believed the accommodation to be more reasonable than did the men (see Table 2).
In the second set of analyses, we entered the extent of experience with persons who are disabled as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with experience as a predictor, was significant for the affective reactions composite, F( 1, 113) = 2.48, p < .05, R? = .038. The significant, positive regression weight for experience indicated that the affective reactions of individuals who had more experience with persons with disabilities were more positive than those with less experience (see Table 2). The overall model, with experience as a predictor, however, was not significant with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion, F( 1, 114) = 0.018, p < .90, R?= .00.
In the third set of analyses, whether the participant had worked with an individual with a disability was entered as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with work experience as a predictor, was not significant for the affective reactions composite, F( 1, 115) = 2.360, p < .13, R? = .020. The overall model, with work experience as a predictor, was also not significant for the reasonable accommodations composite, F( 1, 116) = 0.759, p < .39, R? = .007.
In summary of Study 1, we found that there were large discrepancies between what the participants believed were disabilities and what are legally considered disabilities. We identified gender and experience differences in affective reactions toward working with individuals who are disabled. We also identified gender differences in the rated reasonableness of typical workplace accommodations. We found no difference in affective reactions and the reasonableness of accommodation on the basis of previous work experience.
One reason for the discrepancy between the participants’ beliefs about disabilities and the ADA could be that the participants had little knowledge about the ADA. Therefore, in the second study, we provided participants with a description of the ADA, as well as information indicating that the ADA protects individuals with certain disabilities, diseases, and lifestyle conditions from employment discrimination on the basis of these conditions.
Study 2
The procedure in Study 2 was identical to that used in Study I except that the instructions included a definition of the ADA and a description of the general provisions of the ADA. In Study 2, the internal consistency of the responses on the affective reactions composite was moderate (? = .74) and the internal consistency of the responses for the reasonable accommodations composite was high (? = .92).
Participants
Participants in this second study were 147 undergraduates (47 men and 100 women) enrolled in an introductory psychology courses at a large midwestern university. The mean age of the participants was 19.07 years, 47% of whom had worked with persons with disabilities. The average length of the work experience for those who had worked with an individual who was disabled was approximately 7 months.
Results and Discussion
We computed composite scores for affective reactions and reasonable accommodations by summing across the items in the scale. The mean of the affective reactions composite (M = 3.04, SD = 0.63) and reasonable accommodation composite (M = 2.84, SD = 0.88) was again neutral to slightly positive. The correlation (r = .35) between the two composites was positive and relatively small. The analyses in Study 2 were the same as those used in Study 1.
Table 3 contains the results of the chi-square tests on beliefs about what conditions were considered to be or not to be disabilities. Of the 42 conditions listed, 9 were significantly considered disabilities and 13 were significantly considered not disabilities. For 20 remaining conditions, the beliefs were mixed and the chi-square tests were not significant. As in the first study, there was a discrepancy between what the participants believed were disabilities and what are actually covered by the ADA. For example, the participants believed that a bad back and alcoholism are not disabilities. These conditions are considered disabilities under the ADA.
In this study, participants were divided in their beliefs on conditions that are legally considered disabilities, such as cancer and broken bones. They also had mixed beliefs about heart disease and posttraumatic stress disorder. Both of these, in some situations, are considered disabilities. As was the case in the first study, the participants, in general, considered more of the physical or sensory-motor conditions to be disabilities than the psychological conditions.
In comparing Table 1 with Table 3, it is apparent that in this population there was substantial disagreement about what conditions are considered as disabilities. For example, many participants in Study 1 believed that the conditions of a bad back and diabetes were disabilities, whereas many participants in Study 2 did not. However, many participants in Study 2 considered the conditions of paraplegia and mental retardation to be disabilities, but not cancer or HIV/AIDS. Both samples did tend to agree, however, on conditions that fit the traditional stereotype of disability, such as deafness, blindness, and impaired hearing.
To examine the relationship between the demographic measures and the scores on the scales, we performed regression analyses. Because of missing data, we used pairwise deletion. First, we entered gender as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with the affective reactions composite as the criterion, was not significant, F( 1, 145) = 1.88, p < .20. R? = .013. However, the overall model, with the accommodations composite as the criterion, was significant, F( 1, 124) = 17.85, p < .01, R? = .126. The significant, positive regression weight for gender indicated that women believed the accommodations to be more reasonable than did the men (see Table 4).
Second, we entered the extent of experience with persons who are disabled as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with the affective reactions composite as the criterion, was significant, F( 1, 145) = 5.81, p < .05, R? = .032. The significant, positive regression weight for experience indicated that the reactions of individuals who had more experience with persons who were disabled were more positive than those with less experience (see Table 4). However, the overall model, with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion, was not significant, F( 1, 124) = 1.17, p < .30, R? = .009.
Third, whether the participant had worked with an individual with a disability was entered as a predictor in a model with the affective reactions composite as the criterion and in a second model with the reasonable accommodations composite as the criterion. The overall model, with the affective reactions composite as the criterion, was not significant, F( 1, 145) = 3.374, p < .07, R? = .023. The overall model, with the accommodations composite as the criterion, was also not significant, F( 1, 124) = 1.741 p < .19, R? = .006.
In summary of Study 2, we again found that there were discrepancies between what the participants believed were disabilities and what are legally considered disabilities. The inclusion of the statement about the ADA did not appear to minimize this discrepancy. When we compared the responses of the participants in Study 1 and Study 2, we found substantial differences in beliefs about what is considered a disability. In Study 2, we found that experience in working with disabled people was an important difference in the affective reactions of the participants. Contrary to Study 1, gender did not affect reactions of the participants.
However, consistent with Study l, we did find gender differences in beliefs about the reasonableness of typical accommodations. As in the first study, we found no difference in affective reactions and reasonableness of accommodation on the basis of previous work experience. It is interesting to note that in Study 2, which included information about the ADA, the responses, in general, were more positive to both the affective reactions and reasonable accommodation conditions. However, because the inclusion of information about the ADA was not manipulated, conclusions about its role in this change cannot be drawn.
General Discussion
We used a multicomponent conceptualization of attitudes by which we were able to identify beliefs about what constitutes a disability and affective reactions toward working with employees with disabilities as well as beliefs about the reasonableness of workplace accommodations. These findings have implications for both organizations and researchers.
In both studies we found that the participants had little knowledge of what conditions are actually covered by the ADA even when presented with information about the ADA. One implication for organizations is that this lack of knowledge may lead to stereotypes that could manifest as discrimination in the workplace (Brief, 1998). Because of the high costs of litigation associated with discrimination claims, correcting these misconceptions before they become acts of discrimination is a useful goal for organizations. Interventions to correct these misconceptions could be as simple as increasing awareness by providing employees with informational pamphlets and meetings. Organizations could also develop more involved interventions such as experiential training programs.
It is important to note that assessing and possibly changing these beliefs is an advisable first step to take before implementing any intervention in an organization that is aimed at improving the treatment of employees with disabilities. Numerous authors (e.g., Cleveland et al., 1997; Stone & Colella, 1996) have argued that beliefs about whether a condition is actually a disability and the reasonableness of an accommodation play a key role in gaining the cooperation of employers and employees with initiatives to improve the treatment of individuals with disabilities in the workplace.
The results of these two studies also revealed relationships between gender, work experience, affective reactions toward working with persons with disabilities, and the beliefs about the reasonableness of workplace accommodations. Specifically, in Study 1 we found that the affective reactions of women were more positive, although this result was not replicated in Study 2. The lack of difference in the second study is possibly a result of responding to the items within the context of the ADA. Specifically, this context may have led the male respondents to provide more favorable ratings. Although this cannot be directly tested with this data, meta-analytic studies have demonstrated that men are more prone to socially desirable responding in organizational contexts (Ones & Viswesvaran, 1998). The potential implication for researchers and practitioners is that attitude measures that are couched in a legalistic context may lead to changes in response patterns.
We also found that women believed in more reasonable accommodations in both studies. This finding may be explained by women’s greater empathy toward others (Jones & Stone, 1995). One implication of these findings for organizations is that the composition of a department or work group can influence the type and intensity of interventions on behalf of attitude or belief modification that are needed by an organization to produce the desired level of change. For example, in female-dominated departments or work groups, the type of interventions may greatly differ from the type of intervention needed in male-dominated departments or work groups to achieve the same degree of attitude or belief modification.
Experience with persons who have disabilities was also associated with more positive affective reactions but not with higher ratings of the reasonableness of workplace accommodations. Perhaps greater contact with this population had either prevented or destroyed the more negative stereotypes associated with disabilities. Knowledge (Katz, 1960; Pettigrew, 1998) and increased contact (Yuker, 1988) are cited as techniques used to change attitudes and possibly reduce discrimination. These strategies could certainly be useful to organizations that would like to increase the diversity of their employees while minimizing the negative reactions of the current employees.
We did not find a relationship between previous work experience and either affective reactions or reasonableness of accommodations. This was true in both studies. This result was unexpected because work experience is a subset of general experience with individuals who are disabled, which was related to these other variables. One possible reason for the lack of a relationship is that when one considers specific experiences, it is the quality of the experience that is related to an attitude or belief, and not just the specific experience (Scherbaum, Scherbaum, Tischner, & Popovich, 2001; Stone & Colella, 1996). Negative experiences may lead to negative attitudes and beliefs, but positive experiences may lead to positive attitudes and beliefs. Additional research is needed, however, to further explore this possibility.
Limitations and Future Research
This study has potential limitations. The use of college students has been criticized (e.g., Gordon, Slade, & Schmitt, 1986) as limiting the external validity of a study. However, it has also been argued that when the goal of research is to provide insight into underlying psychological processes, the use of students is acceptable (Greenberg, 1987). As often is the case, the intention of initial studies in an area is to show that an effect or relationship is possible, not that the results are necessarily generalizable to other populations (Mook, 1983). Furthermore, most of the students in these studies had actually worked with someone who was disabled and after graduation will take their places in a diverse workplace, bringing with them their attitudes and beliefs about working with individuals who are disabled.
There are several possible directions for future research. First, future studies could use the instruments developed here with working adult populations. Specifically, people that have and have not worked with a co-worker who was disabled could be used. These types of studies would examine the generalizability of the findings of our present studies and further demonstrate the usefulness of measures, such as those given here that assess the underlying beliefs and affective reactions to individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Second, future research could apply multicomponent attitude frameworks to other employment concepts and protected groups. For example, with the aging of the American workforce, understanding attitudes and beliefs about older workers will become increasingly important, and understanding the underlying beliefs and affective reactions can aid researchers and practitioners who deal with this issue.
Conclusion
Acceptance of diversity in the workplace is not only important from a legal perspective but because of the labor shortages that currently exist in a number of industries, integrating persons with disabilities into the workforce has become a business necessity. Gaining a better understanding of the attitudes toward this group will ease this transition for individuals and organizations alike. The tools we have developed here can aid in this understanding.
Portions of this research were presented in 2000 at the annual meetings of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, and the American Psychological Society, Miami, FL. The chi-square statistics for all 42 conditions that could or could not be considered as disabilities by our participants are available on request from the first author.

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