Workplaces benefit from hiring people with intellectual disabilities and complex needs

30 Jun 2020

A recent UCC Community-Academic Research Links (CARL) project explored the benefits and barriers/challenges that employers experience in hiring and maintaining employment of people with an intellectual disability. A Master of Social Work student, Emma Callaghan, undertook the research under the supervision of Fiona O’Gorman, School of Applied Social Studies.

“The research found that people with an intellectual disability make a substantially positive contribution to the workplace as they have a great work ethic and help boost morale”, says Emma who liaised with Geraldine Grennan, Occupational therapist from Cope Foundation in this qualitative study.

Cope Foundation is a large service provider in Cork city and county supporting over 2,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. Ability@Work is their dedicated supported employment service which aims to bring young people with intellectual disabilities and /or autism closer to the labour market. This programme assists jobseekers at key transition points between education, training and employment and is available to young people 18-29 years.

 “The main barrier perceived by employers was a lack of understanding and knowledge of disability which influenced their ambiguous assumptions to employing people with an intellectual disability. The main supports were the essential role of job coaches provided by Cope Foundation, engaging in the Job Shadowing Initiative, and making workplace accommodation” says Emma.

“Emma’s research is of great benefit to us here in the ability@work team in Cope foundation. It has provided us key information on what employers see as the benefits and barriers/challenges to employing a person with an intellectual disability” says Geraldine. “The research findings have also supported our thoughts around the importance of social inclusion and awareness raising and we have used these findings to frame and inform our awareness training package for employers which looks at supporting our client population in the workplace”.

The research concludes with the recommendations to increase awareness of disability though employer education, staff training and building public awareness of what an inclusive workplace looks like. The research aims to support employers in reducing barriers and prejudice, while promoting diversity and social inclusion within their organisation.

For more on this story contact:

UCC Community Academic Research Links (CARL) is a leading civic initiative of University College Cork:


Civic & Community Engagement

Comhpháirteachas Cathartha agus Pobail

University College Cork, Cork, Ireland,