Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implementation of a Computer Based Implicit Association Test as a Measure of Attitudes toward Individuals with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implementation of a Computer Based Implicit Association Test as a Measure of Attitudes toward Individuals with Disabilities

Article excerpt

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to assist individuals with disabilities in securing jobs and to improve the treatment of job incumbents by employers and employees. The United States Census Bureau reported in 1994-1995 that individuals with disabilities were less likely to be employed and that earnings were likely to be lower than earnings by individuals without disabilities. At that time, 23% of individuals with a work disability (as defined by the ADA) and 73% of individuals with a severe work disability were not in the labor force (U.S. Census Bureau, 1995). Although the ADA was enacted over fifteen years ago, the employment of individuals with disabilities has not increased in more recent years. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 74% of working age (16 to 76 years old) individuals with work disabilities (as defined by the ADA) were not in the labor force. Furthermore, for that same age range, 91% of individuals with a severe work disability were not in the labor force. For those with a work disability that were able to find gainful employment, evidence indicates that they may not have been treated equitably once in the workplace. For example, in 1999, the mean earnings of individuals with a work disability were only $19,745 compared to mean earnings of $32,000 for individuals without a work disability (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000a, 2000b).

As indicated by the above numbers, individuals with disabilities face at least two key obstacles in the workforce: (a) access to jobs and (b) treatment as a job incumbent. In reference to access to jobs, individuals with disabilities may have physical obstacles that prevent entry into the workforce (Feldman, 2004; Nietupski & Hamre-Nietupski, 2000). Additionally, recruitment practices and selection procedures may unfairly eliminate individuals with disabilities from jobs for which they are otherwise qualified (Drehmer & Bordieri, 1985; Hernandez, 2000; Satcher & Dooley-Dickey, 1992; Stone, Stone, & Dibpoye, 1992).

As job incumbents, individuals with disabilities may also be at a disadvantage when compared to individuals without disabilities. Various researchers have found that individuals with disabilities receive lower pay and benefits (U.S Census Bureau, 2000a), receive fewer opportunities for training (Reyna & Sims, 1995), and may receive biased performance appraisals (Colella, DeNisi, & Varma, 1997). Also, individuals with disabilities when compared to individuals without disabilities have lower promotion rates (Bordieri, Drehmer, & Taylor, 1997) and shorter job tenure (Colella, 1994). Socially, individuals with disabilities have been found to have fewer relevant role models (Jones, 1997), and may even be subject to out-group membership status (Jones). Furthermore, stigmatization associated with their disability may lead individuals with disabilities to feel self-conscious about how they are perceived and about their behaviors in social situations, which may in turn lead them to avoid the development of social relationships (Livneh, Lott, & Antonak, 2004; Stone et al., 1992). By isolating themselves in such a fashion, individuals with disabilities may experience depression and anxiety. Finally, individuals with disabilities may have higher rates of attrition in organizations than individuals with no disability (Lerner, Adler, Chang, Lapitski, Hood, Perissinotto, Reed, McLaughlin, Berndt, & Rogers, 2004). Taken together, these various difficulties create consequences for individuals with disabilities, for organizations, and for society at large.

Given the unique set of challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in the workplace, it is important to accurately measure and identify potentially biased attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. That is, one way to begin eradicating these obstacles is to focus on measuring the attitudes that interviewers, supervisors, co-workers and subordinates may have toward individuals with disabilities. …

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