The work place experiences of individuals with cerebral palsy who have communication difficulties and their colleagues.
de Vries, Vivian Claire.
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Employment is a form of independence and self-acceptance which, for many individuals with disabilities, is crucial to improving quality of life. Communication underpins quality of life and, for individuals with cerebral palsy, communication may act as a barrier to successful employment. This study aimed to explore the employment experiences of individuals with cerebral palsy who have communication difficulties and their colleagues. A phenomenological qualitative approach was used within the context of the International Classification Framework and a critical paradigm. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with six individuals with cerebral palsy who had full-time employment and a colleague of each. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Results revealed that individuals with cerebral palsy had reduced speech intelligibility that varied with the nature and severity of the cerebral palsy and led to communication breakdowns with colleagues. Communicating in a group and over the phone produced feelings of nervousness and one-on-one conversations were preferred. Gaps were noted in implementing legislation regarding inclusion and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in education and employment. Individuals with cerebral palsy faced numerous barriers to employment which included accessibility, communication, transportation, limitations in education, and a lack of opportunities. Employment opportunities included financial independence, social aspects, contributing to society, educating others about disability, improved self-perception and the impact of employing a person with cerebral palsy. A Speech-Language Therapist can assist with some of these barriers and is recommended across stages of life for different purposes. There are implications for improving service delivery and employment opportunities for individuals with cerebral palsy.