Seminar Presentation 5-1

5-1 (Presentation within Topical Seminar 5):
Acceptance of people with disabilities at work

Presented by: Katharina Vornholt


Vornholt K1, Uitdewilligen S1, Nijhuis FJN1

  1. Maastricht University Dept. Work and Social Psychology Maastricht, The Netherlands



More than 14% of the European population of working age experiences a moderate to severe disability and only 44% of this group is employed. Besides economical disadvantages, unemployment also has negative social and psychological consequences. As a result, people with disabilities are among the poorest and most socially isolated in our society. Although work supports integration and reduces poverty, many people with disabilities who are employed, indicate that they feel stigmatized and insufficiently included at work. An important reason why employees with disabilities often fail to stay in regular organizations for sustained periods is a lack of social acceptance. We therefore consider the concept of acceptance of people with disabilities to play a pivotal role in a nomological network of antecedents and consequences of successful integration of people with disabilities in regular work environments. This paper describes the development of a measure designed to assess the level of acceptance of people with disabilities within a group of colleagues.


Items were generated based on a theoretical framework of acceptance. Two versions of the measure were developed, containing a version for employees with disabilities (1) and a second version for their colleagues (2). After initial item reduction 14 items remained for questionnaire (1) and 20 items for (2). Up until today, the questionnaire was administered to 31 teams (48 people with disabilities and 60 colleagues) of various German and Dutch companies.


Data collection and analysis are still ongoing. The preliminary results suggest that acceptance is a two-dimensional construct comprising 1) work related acceptance and 2) general social acceptance. These dimensions accounted for 56% of the variance. Validity was supported by significant correlations with measures of prosocial team values, cohesion, psychological safety, attitudes, and affective organizational commitment.


The concept acceptance of people with disabilities at work has never been clearly defined and methodically investigated. The present study is a first step towards the development of a robust measure of acceptance and the identification of factors contributing to the acceptance of employees with disabilities.