Exploration of employment experiences of students with disabilities who have studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Research studies have indicated that people with disabilities in South Africa and across the world have difficulties in securing employment. The medical approach towards disability contributes to the negative attitudes, ignorance and stereotypes employers have about people with disabilities. The aim of the study was to explore the employment experiences of students with disabilities who have studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The lack of previous research on this issue at UKZN motivated the researcher to undertake this research. Furthermore, since the researcher is a disability officer at UKZN, a number of students with disabilities had raised their employment frustrations with her which gave further motivation to investigate the underlying reasons. A qualitative research method was used to undertake this study. The sample used was an availability sample, comprising 21 interview subjects with disabilities who had graduated from UKZN in the period 2001-2006. An ecosystem perspective was used as a framework to guide the study. The major conclusion of this study is that the majority of participants interviewed had difficulties in securing employment. Employers were reluctant to employ them, apparently fearing that they would not be able to cope on the job and because there might be additional costs incurred if they were employed. Visually disabled study participants also experienced difficulty accessing job advertisements. Inaccessibility of transport to access interviews and workplaces were a further obstacle for participants. The study also discovered that the limited number of subjects offered at high school impacted on the choice of tertiary courses participants wanted to take at the university as a result this caused dissatisfaction with degrees they obtained. The findings in this study are consistent with a number of similar studies which revealed that people with disabilities are confronted with challenges in obtaining work. Regardless of established policies and programmes, unemployment among people with disabilities still persists.