Theorizing managerial perceptions, enabling IT, and the social inclusion of workers with disabilities

Elsevier, Information and Organization, Volume 27, Issue 4, December 2017, Pages 211-225
Donald Heath and Rakesh Babu

An enduring challenge in information systems (IS) research is understanding how information technology (IT) can be best leveraged to advance the strategies of organizations. Diversity and inclusion are increasingly important organizational strategies woven into every aspect of the talent management lifecycle. A 2017 survey by Deloitte shows that the proportion of executives who view social inclusion (SI) as a top priority has grown 32% in the past 3 years (Bourke, Garr, van Berkel, & Wong, 2017). More diverse and inclusive organizations are believed to enjoy greater customer orientation, increased employee satisfaction, improved decision-making and greater ability to attract top talent (Hunt et al., 2015, Rock and Grant, 2016). Despite growing recognition of the benefits of diversity and social inclusion, organizations have failed to proportionately include people with disabilities (Chan et al., 2010, Institute on Disability, 2016, McDonnall et al., 2015, UNCRPD, 2008). A comprehensive study by the U.S. Department of Labor involving 3,797 U.S. managers found fewer than 20% employed workers with disabilities (Domzal, Houtenville, & Sharma, 2008). Managers have thus far been challenged to develop effective strategies for the inclusion of people with disabilities (Domzal et al., 2008, Erickson et al., 2014a, Nota et al., 2014, World Blind Union, 2010). What role can IS researchers play in helping organizations enact better strategies for the social inclusion of workers with disabilities? In this study, workplace inclusion refers to employment, participation in workplace activities, and the potential for career advancement. The context of the investigation was blindness as a type of disability.

Nominated for the Elsevier Atlas Award in March 2018, the judges had the following feedback: "Only 25% of vision-impaired adults in the US are employed, yet almost three quarters of those unemployed would like to have a job, according to research cited in this paper. Hiring managers are the gatekeepers to their organizations, and the stereotypes that they commonly hold about disabled people importantly affect their decisions about hiring such people. The authors of this paper show how disability stereotypes held by hiring managers can be quickly and easily reduced by demonstrating to them the ability of workers who are assisted by information technology. The applied survey methodology is robust and guided by theory. Moreover, the study responds beautifully to the principle quoted by its authors that ‘…research on social inclusion must ultimately be action-oriented”. I wish the videos used in the study to demonstrate independence of blind workers went viral..!"