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Title:Disability, leisure, and work-life balance
Author(s):Cook, LaWanda H.
Director of Research:Shinew, Kimberly J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shinew, Kimberly J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Alston, Reginald J.; Stodolska, Monika; Wiley, Angela R.
Department / Program:Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Discipline:Recreation, Sport, and Tourism
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Work-life balance
Abstract:ABSTRACT Society is and has always been composed of people of different levels and types of ability. Today, due to legislation and changing attitudes toward disability, the presence of individuals with disabilities is more evident than in decades past. Although their numbers are still considerably lower relative to those of persons without disability, people with disabilities are a part of the American workforce. Like their nondisabled colleagues, they have families, friends, and leisure interests. To date, there has been a paucity of research about the work-life balance of employed people with disabilities. Understanding the work-life needs of these individuals is vital given that the American workforce is aging and the first cohort of jobseekers who have only known life under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are entering the labor market. This project was an investigation of the lived experiences of eight men and women with observable mobility impairments who were employed in integrated settings. Through individual interviews and brief worksite visits, I sought to understand the significance of leisure and work in the lives of the participants. Further, I sought to understand how the presence of disability influenced their work and leisure lives, and what beliefs, strategies, and relationships contributed to their quality of life and sense of work-life balance. The primary theoretical framework for this study was work/family border theory. This theory emphasizes the challenges of moving between the work and non-work domains of one’s life and the role of relationships and identities in influencing the ease with which this might be done. Additionally, I utilized the theoretical perspectives of social constructionism and symbolic interactionism to consider the complexities of the disability experience. By engaging in interpretative phenomenological analysis, I was able to consider both the individual and collective experiences of participants in interpreting the data. Five major themes emerged from the data; these centered on the importance of identity, work, leisure, relationships, and self-care. Although disability affected all areas of their lives, participants viewed disability as a single attribute or feature; the presence of disability did not define who they were. They spoke of being similar to their nondisabled colleagues and friends, yet spoke of ways in which they were different from others, especially in their youth and as they began to deal with the consequences of aging with disability. They valued work as a way to contribute to society and to connect with other people. Additionally, they identified leisure with family and friends as being important for their physical health and social wellness. Issues of disability identity were noted regarding work and leisure choices, with leisure often providing a space for them to express aspects of themselves that they did not feel were apparent in their vocations. Aging with disability also influenced identity and was associated with a renewed, or in some cases new, desire to connect with other people with disabilities. Maintaining a sense of work-life balance involved consideration of not only work and family issues, but also friends, leisure, and self-care. Further, relationships on and off the job provided support in meeting disability-related needs. The rich lives described by the participants demonstrated the need to get beyond stereotypical views of what it means to be a person with a disability. The findings indicate the need to view people with disabilities holistically, and as individuals. It is my hope that the suggestions offered as a result of this research will enhance the capacity of employers, nondisabled colleagues, disability service providers, and leisure programmers to address the unique concerns of people with disabilities across the lifespan and to create more inclusive work and leisure spaces.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:
Copyright 2011 LaWanda H. Cook
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-25
Date Deposited:2011-05

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