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Physical and Mental Disabilities in the Workplace Research Paper

Pages:9 (2585 words)




Document Type:Research Paper



By analyzing the critical issues of diversity in today’s world through the lenses of history, the humanities, the natural and applied sciences, and the social sciences, one can see how the feedback loop within society is created. This paper explores the issue of physical and mental disabilities in the workplace. Until recently in this nation’s history, individuals with disabilities were viewed as liabilities—but now the very language that people use when discussing individuals who have physical or mental disabilities is changing. Even the term “disabled” seems to stem from the problematic concept of ableism: as the Center for Disability Rights points out, some managers still operate under “the assumption that disabled people need to be 'fixed' in one form or the other.” That assumption is being challenged across the country as the rights of disabled people are asserted and defended—and this paper shows how. Historically, the disabled population has been one of the most marginalized populations in the country. However, as the focus of the humanities has shifted towards promulgating a view oriented towards greater equitability and social justice, the plight of the disabled has come more and more into the light. Thanks to the natural and applied sciences, tools have become available that allow people with a variety of disabilities to be more fully integrated into workplaces. The social sciences have shown, too, that by allowing for a more fully diverse workplace and promoting inclusivity with respect to the disabled, a better workplace culture and national culture overall can be constructed. This paper thus first provides a lens analysis of this issue; second, it analyzes how social practices have been shaped by issues and events in diversity in modern culture; third, it assesses the benefits and challenges of addressing issues in diversity; fourth, it explains how analyzing diversity can help in my interactions with those with different viewpoints, cultures and perspectives.

Lens Analysis


Historically, physical and mental disabilities were viewed by and large in society as barriers to entry in the workplace. There was no thought for wheelchair access; no consideration for the deaf or hard of hearing; no accommodative orientation for people with anxiety, schizophrenia, or autism. Even the 32nd U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair—but this fact was not one that the press was allowed to emphasize as pictures of the president always showed him sitting but not in a wheelchair (it was typically covered from view lest his disability cause some to perceive him as weak or unable to serve effectively).

In the 1960s, however, the Civil Rights Movement led to a change in the social consciousness and the manner in which equitability was to be achieved in society. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (2018) points out, for example, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, national origin, race, color, or sex.” In accordance with the Civil Rights Act, there has been a movement to recognize the rights of the disabled. The EEOC has been instrumental in identifying those rights and the obligations of employers to make the necessary accommodations so as to prevent discrimination against the disabled.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law (Rothstein, 2014). The ADA expressly prohibits any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. In 2008, the Act was amended to provide an even more specific definition of disability with respect to employment, government and public accommodations.

Today, it is a normal and accepted—and expected—practice to see or find wheelchair access for people who cannot walk; large print materials for people are vision impaired. However, it is becoming more and more common to also see people with chronic illnesses like diabetes being permitted periodic breaks throughout the workday to check their sugar levels or administer insulin injections. Those who in the past might have been discriminated against because of their disability are now protected under the law.


The humanities are helpful for revealing the course of human events, the character of society, and the issues that need to be addressed. Art is the ultimate mirror for reflecting who people are, what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. It was Shakespeare who said that artists “hold the mirror up to nature” to show man what he is. In the 20th century, the humanities have been very helpful in drawing attention to the plight of the marginalized, particularly to the challenges faced by the disabled.…

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…too and should not be viewed as sub-human or even as disabled but rather as “different” and possessing their own set of skills. Understanding the natural and applied sciences can help employers to realize that there are many tools available to people with disabilities that can help them to contribute meaningfully in a workplace environment. And the social sciences can provide employers with the right theoretical framework for viewing this issue in a positive manner.

The Impact of Social Practices

Social practices have been shaped by issues and events in diversity in modern culture in a positive way. For example, in 2015, $143 billion was spent in helping 9 millions workers with disability and 2 millions PwD family members through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program (Montez, Hayward & Wolf, 2017). Bias still exists, but social scientists are actively engaged in helping employers to overcome implicit bias and engage in methods like blind hiring to ensure that disability is a non-factor in the hiring decision process and that disabled people are not discriminated against.

Benefits and Challenges

The benefits of addressing issues in diversity are that it raises awareness and helps the disabled to receive the support they deserve. It helps to ensure equitability in the workplace and provide aid to those who need it. Social programs and organizations have been instituted to assist the disabled community, which is a major positive (Stevens et al., 2016). The main challenge of addressing issues in diversity is that bias can still prevent some from hearing and accepting that change is needed. Stigma and taboo still have to be addressed by raising awareness that people with disabilities are not disabled but just different (Padden & Humphries, 2005). There is also the problem of people wanting to maintain the status quo and not wanting to embrace change even if it is for the better.

How Analyzing Diversity Can Improve Interactions

Analyzing diversity can help in my interactions with those who have different viewpoints, culture and perspectives by giving me greater understanding of the topic and more facts and data to draw upon when advocating for diversity in the workplace and for the rights of the disabled. It also helps to increase my own self-awareness and identify…

Sample Source(s) Used


Baruch, Y. (2000). Teleworking: benefits and pitfalls as perceived by professionals and managers. New technology, work and employment, 15(1), 34-49.

Bortz, D. (2018). Can Blind Hiring Improve Workplace Diversity? Retrieved from

Center for Disability Rights. (2019). Ableism. Retrieved from

Corrigan, P. W. (2016). Lessons learned from unintended consequences about erasing the stigma of mental illness. World Psychiatry, 15(1), 67-73.

Fabian, R. (2019). New Marvel Film 'The Eternals' Will Feature First Deaf Superhero. Retrieved from

Faurer, J., Rogers-Brodersen, A., & Bailie, P. (2014). Managing the re-employment of military veterans through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Journal of Business & Economics Research (Online), 12(1), 55.

Guruge, S., Wang, A. Z. Y., Jayasuriya-Illesinghe, V., & Sidani, S. (2017). Knowing so much, yet knowing so little: a scoping review of interventions that address the stigma of mental illness in the Canadian context. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22(5), 507-523.

Marquis, J.P., Lim, N., Kavanagh, J., Harrell, M.C. & Scott, L.M. (2007). Managing Diversity in Corporate America: An Exploratory Analysis. Pittsburgh, PA: Rand Corporation.

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