Research Study 4
lead by Virginia Commonwealth University

An Analysis of Business Practices that Lead to Performance and Retention of People with Disabilities in the Workplace: A Demand Side Study


This exploration and discovery study will identify and define employer practices most strongly associated with individual work performance and retention of individuals with significant disabilities. We propose to approach this research through the use of the contextualist approach. Using this approach, the business setting is the ecological platform from which we will study what happens in real time. Our research will be conducted within business settings in collaboration with employers who work directly with on-site employment specialists from supported and/or customized employment programs. VCU is uniquely positioned to conduct this research, because we have worked with employers since 1979, a total of 36 years, to successfully assist individuals with disabilities in finding employment. We conservatively estimate that over 2,000 individuals with disabilities, approximately 60 per year, have achieved competitive employment outcomes during this time.


We know that there are many issues that can occur when employers hire and retain workers with disabilities. We also know that different employers approach these issues in unique ways using many different employer practices. The only way to truly affirm a pattern and possibly taxonomy of these decision making experiences is through the exploration and discovery stage of research. Clearly in order to gain reliable and valid information, the best way to approach the research is to embed employment specialists who the supervisor know and trust and will confide in regarding their employer practices. This is a unique way to gain highly useful real time information on employer decision making. We anticipate that employer practices will emerge with overlapping or similar issues. The finding will then allow us to shape an intervention development study as future research.