Phenomenological Investigation of Why Disabled Adults Are Under-represented in the Workforces
of Canada, the US, England, France and Belgium:

This interdisciplinary qualitative exploratory investigation will consider employee and employer responses to the phenomenon of employment and disability from the perspective of an interdisciplinary scholar and an accompanying graduate student team interested in interdisciplinary research in disability studies, labour force studies, economics, human rights, politics, sociology, applied ethics, law and, phenomenology. This project encompasses the concerns of scholars in areas such as labour and industrial relations, political science, vulnerability studies, human rights and law by focusing on ongoing inequities and imbalances of power in the workforces of liberal democracies which have further economic and sociological impacts on adult disabled populations and on societies as a whole. It adopts a phenomenological approach to prioritize a framework which acknowledges the contribution of critical legal race and, critical disability scholars in highlighting the importance of personal experience and narratives in understanding discriminatory conditions in liberal democracies. It draws on their use of experiential knowledge to highlight divergences between formal socio-legal values and everyday experience and, meshes it with an applied ethics’ tactic which seek to establish ‘best practices’ and guiding frameworks despite seemingly intractable problems or hostile conditions. In term of its overall impact, its data collection and analysis will influence how academics, policy-makers and, insurance and business leaders redefine the problem of employing adults with disabilities. As such it will have bearing on further scholarly research in disability studies, sociology, political science and law but perhaps, more importantly, on the practice of industrial and labour relations; social and disability activism; social, economic and employment policies and, even on health and rehabilitation efforts in both military and civilian populations.

Despite the presence of burgeoning disability studies programs, departments and journals, alongside international, national, state and provincial legislation mandating the accommodation of disabled employees, levels of full-time gainful employment for disabled adults have not really improved during the past thirty years in Canada (or elsewhere). While there is some evidence that adults with disabilities achieve higher levels of training than they used to, greater academic achievement has not necessarily led to better job circumstances (Boschen & Tonack). I am interested in working with employees and employers who have successfully navigated this conundrum: how and why have they achieved success when so many have not? Do they think their experience can be translated to other work environments? Are there lessons which can be generalized to other social realms? Can members of political, regulatory and juridical institutions learn anything useful from the successful inclusion of adults with disabilities in the workplace? And consequently, do we need to revise our socio-legal models of disability and employment?
To this end, the goal of this phenomenological framed research is to examine how employees (disabled and otherwise) and employers conceptualize disability and conditions of employment. To achieve this end, the following specific objectives are:
1. To understand how able-bodied employees respond to the inclusion of disabled persons in the workplace, what do they deem to be necessary accommodations, how do they navigate the problem of seniority and individual adaptations (e.g., reserved parking stalls, ergonomic equipment, etc ) . . . .
2. To understand how disabled employees conceptualize their own inclusion in the workplace – what has allowed them to be successful, how do they anticipate any potential obstacles, how do they negotiate accommodations . . . .
3. To understand how employers conceptualize their own offices and workshops, how do employers conceptualize the allocation of limited resources within the workplace – which employees take priority and which types of disabilities are more easily accommodated . . .
4. To understanding whether employers perceive the retention of disabled employees as a question of social justice or not and; whether they look to government or not-profit sectors to assist in this venture . . . .
5. To understand whether employers and employees advertise their job climate’s openness to the inclusion of disabled personnel and; whether they’ve developed clear unambiguous policies to guide their overall organization . . .
6. To understand whether owner-employers are more likely than regular employers to recruit and retain disabled employees or whether the tendency runs in the inverse . . . .


Medical Ethics and Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms –

Please see my publications in the British Medical Journal, Qualitative Health Research, American Journal of Bioethics: Neurosciences.

This was the original description of our study:
This qualitative exploratory investigation considers practitioner and patient response to the phenomenon of Medically Undiagnosed Physical Symptoms (MUPS) from the perspective of a trans-disciplinary team that includes social scientists and general practice and specialist clinicians.

Primary Research Question/Objective: To examine how clinicians and patients conceptualize medical uncertainty within a disease-based framework.

Other objectives: 1. To understand how physicians respond in terms of non-maleficence and beneficence in the context of lack of clear diagnostic and treatment options (What does it require of them when there is no clear plan?); 2. To understand how physicians conceptualize patient autonomy and dignity in the context of lack of a clear diagnostic treatment option; 3. To understand how physicians conceptualize truth-telling (and informed consent) in the context of lack of clear diagnostic treatment option (what is revealed and what is held back, even if believed to be in the best interest of the patient); 4. To understand how physicians conceptualize the allocation of limited health care resources when confronted by uncertain diagnoses and treatment options – (Do doctors perceive these dilemmas as ones of justice, and if they do, how do they frame their triaging decisions?); 5. To understand physicians’ communicative intent and the content of discourse in the context of uncertainty’; 6. To document the experience of patients who receive an uncertain diagnosis, and 7. To document the resources available to patients who are “not yet diagnosed”.


  1. Tina says:

    Hello. I am therapist in Missouri. I have a 18 year old client that is facing umps. She has spent over 9 weeks in the hospital and rehab facility only to be undiagnosed and belittled by her team of doctors. Likely they suspect conversion disorder I am not convinced. She appears to demonstrate sx of dysautonomia, but I am not a dr. She is hitting many roadblocks and I want to advocate for her as well as I fear that I have become to involved and may not be objective at this point. What is the criteria for eligibility for her to participate?

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