Factors Related to the Employment of Visually Impaired Persons: A Systematic Literature Review

Article excerpt

Abstract: The aim of this systematic review of the literature is to increase understanding of the factors that influence the labor force participation of persons who are visually impaired. Labor force participation was associated with many factors, such as communication training and education. Future research should focus on high-quality studies of labor force participation and underemployment in more countries.

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"The economy is booming. The unemployment rate is at its lowest ebb in 30 years. Still, 70% of America's blind can't get jobs" (Dobbs, 1999, p. 96). In these times, when the economy is certainly not "booming," the situation will probably deteriorate even further. These words by Dobbs characterize the main problem discussed in this review article, that is, throughout the world the employment rate of persons who are visually impaired is low, which means that these persons have difficulties finding and keeping jobs. The employment rate is calculated by the number of persons working in paid employment divided by the total sample. In the United States, for example, the employment rate of persons with visual impairments was 42% in 1995 (Ryles, 1996), and in New Zealand, 39.3% of persons who were visually impaired were currently in paid employment in 2003 (La Grow, 2003). Two more recent studies showed an employment rate of 33% for adults who were visually impaired in South Korea (Lee & Park, 2008) and 41% in the United Kingdom (Pavey, Douglas, & Corcoran, 2008).

Furthermore, the unemployment rate of persons with visual impairments is higher than is the unemployment rate of the general working-age population. For example, the official unemployment rate of visually impaired working-age persons in New Zealand was estimated at 14% (that is, the number of persons actively seeking work divided by the total sample) to 24% (that is, the number of persons actively seeking work plus those not actively seeking work but interested if available, divided by the total sample), about three to five times as high as the official unemployment rate for the country as a whole, that is, 5.3% (La Grow, 2003).

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Research has also found that persons who are visually impaired are not only employed at a lower rate, but more often feel underemployed, which means that they are less likely to be employed at levels that are commensurate with their education and skills (La Grow, 2003). In the study by Hagemoser (1996), 35% of the persons with visual impairments who were employed full time felt underemployed.

The study

To improve the underrepresentation of persons who are visually impaired in the labor market, it is important to study which factors influence their participation in the labor market. Therefore, we performed a systematic literature review using the following research question: "Which factors influence the labor force participation of persons who are visually impaired?"

THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS

We used the World Health Organization (WHO, 2001) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model as a framework to classify the factors that we found in the studies in our systematic review of the literature (see Figure 1). The overall aim of the ICF classification is to provide a unified and standard language framework or conceptual overview for the description of health and health-related states. The two parts of the model are Functioning and Disability, consisting of "Body Functions and Structures" and "Activities and Participation," and Contextual Factors, consisting of "Environmental Factors" and "Personal Factors."

In this review we used the definition of labor force participation formulated by Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS, 2008). Labor force participation includes the percentage of the potential general working-age population (aged 15-64) that is in or is aspiring to attain paid employment of at least 12 hours a week. …