Grace Khawam, PhD Candidate, PharmD, MPH

Centre for Development and Emergency Practice

Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford, UK




Exclusion of people with disabilities from the workplace leads to an estimated US$1.37-1.94 trillion annual loss in GDP globally (Metts, 2000), and is the most significant for individuals with intellectual disability (ID), as they are 3 to 4 times less employed than peers with no disability, and less likely to be employed competitively than peers with other disabilities (Verdonschot, de Witte, Reichrath, Buntinx, & Curfs, 2009). Barriers to employment faced by youth with ID are complex and multi-levelled, including policy, workplace and educational limitations, and require multi-level interventions (Lysaght, Ouellette-Kuntz, & Lin, 2012). These vary widely based on the philosophical views of disability, such as the biomedical, economic and social models (Lysaght et al., 2012). What these models have in common is their focus on pathology, oppression, constraints and remediation of deficits, while lacking focus on the active agential role of people with disabilities (Levitt, 2017; Owens, 2015). Over the past decades, increased focus has been given on the strengths, capabilities,  self-determination (Shogren, Wehmeyer, Buchanan, & Lopez, 2006), active role (Levitt, 2017) and the decision-making capacities of people with ID, especially with regards to employment (Bush & Tassé, 2017; Timmons, Hall, Bose, Wolfe, & Winsor, 2011).  While research has shown that most adults with ID seek economic independence and self-sufficiency through employment (Migliore, Mank, Grossi, & Rogan, 2007; Nord, Luecking, Mank, Kiernan, & Wray, 2013), they are generally unprepared for work when they complete school (Beyer, 2008), with limited awareness of college and job options, shortages in skills and lack of work experience (Carter, Trainor, Cakiroglu, Swedeen, & Owens, 2009; Gibbons, Justina, Cihak, Wright, & Mynatt, 2018). Several programmes have shown promising results in increasing job readiness among youth with ID (Kaehne, 2016; “A literature review on work transition of youth with disabilities into competitive employment,” 2017), however, such models have not yet been researched in less developed countries such as Lebanon, where the socio-political contexts of employment and disability can vary significantly (Memari & Hafizi, 2015).


Aim of the study

This study is part of a doctoral research project which proposes to explore and increase job readiness among youth with intellectual disabilities in Lebanon with the following aims: 1) describe job readiness and its related factors among Lebanese and Palestinian refugee youth aged 18 to 29 with intellectual disabilities in Lebanon; and 2) design and assess the impact of participatory interventions on increasing job readiness in Lebanon, through a participatory action research framework.

This study will conduct research with Lebanese and Palestinian youth with ID in Lebanon where approximately 80% of persons with disabilities are not or have never been employed (Council, 2016). The Lebanese Law 220/2000 for the rights of people with disabilities abolishes discriminatory recruitment in the workplace, instructs a 3% quota, and imposes financial penalties for non-adherence (“Law 220/2000 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon “, 2000), but its enforcement remains severely lacking (Combaz, 2018). Additionally, Palestinian refugee youth with ID are subject to even higher levels of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination (Combaz, 2018). Despite their presence in Lebanon for more than 71 years, Palestinian refugees with disabilities are not protected under the 220/2000 law and still face legal and employment discrimination (Survey on the Economic Status of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon 2015, 2015), with an estimated 90% unemployment rate (Lebanon, 2015).


Contribution to knowledge

The proposed study aims to further contribute to the recent conceptualization of ID which focuses on the strengths and capacities of individuals with ID (Shogren et al., 2006), by challenging traditional misconceptions and stereotypes on individuals with ID as lacking competence, articulation and agency to express their needs. It uses both an inclusive research (Walmsley, 2003) and a participatory action research design, which are promising approaches for researching social issues among individuals with ID and focusing on their agential role (Ollerton, 2012; “Participatory action research and people with disabilities: Principles and challenges,” 1998). Also, while most research on job readiness, decision-making and employment for youth with ID has been carried out  in developed countries (Memari & Hafizi, 2015), this study aims to fill the gap in literature in less developed countries or in contexts of displacement (Crock, Ernst, & AO, 2012) such as Lebanon and the Palestinian protracted refugee crisis. And although some studies in Lebanon have focused on barriers to employment for people with disability encompassing all types (Thomas, 2003; Wehbi & El-Lahib, 2007), attitudes towards disability (Nagata, 2007; Obeid et al., 2015) and disability advocacy (Wehbi, 2012; Wehbi & Lakkis, 2010), little research has focused on the specific experiences of youth with ID and employment. Finally, the study aims to produce change and improve practice related to employability opportunities for this marginalized group through action research aiming to increase job readiness and the development of adapted and contextualized inclusive research methods for people with ID (Ollerton, 2012) in an Arabic-speaking host and refugee context.



Beyer, S. K., A. . (2008). The Transition of Young People With Learning Disabilities: What Works? Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 14(1), 85-94.

Bush, K. L., & Tassé, M. J. (2017). Employment and choice-making for adults with intellectual disability, autism, and down syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 65, 23-34. doi:

Carter, E. W., Trainor, A. A., Cakiroglu, O., Swedeen, B., & Owens, L. A. (2009). Availability of and Access to Career Development Activities for Transition-Age Youth With Disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33(1), 13-24. doi:10.1177/0885728809344332

Combaz, E. (2018, July 15). Situation of persons with disabilities in Lebanon. K4D Helpdesk Report.

Council, U. N. E. a. S. (2016). Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Lebanon (GE.16-18396(E)). Retrieved from

Crock, M., Ernst, C., & AO, R. M. (2012). Where Disability and Displacement Intersect: Asylum Seekers and Refugees with Disabilities. International Journal of Refugee Law, 24(4), 735-764. doi:10.1093/ijrl/ees049

Gibbons, M. M., Justina, H., Cihak, D. F., Wright, R., & Mynatt, B. (2018). A Social-Cognitive Exploration of the Career and College Understanding of Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities. Professional School Counseling, 19(1). doi:10.5330/1096-2409-19.1.80

Kaehne, A. (2016). Project SEARCH UK – Evaluating Its Employment Outcomes. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 29(6), 519-530. doi:10.1111/jar.12207

Law 220/2000 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon (2000). In.

Lebanon, J. C.-P. A. i. (2015). Periodic review about the compliance of Lebanon with the obligations related to the rights of PWD. Retrieved from

Levitt, J. M. (2017). Developing a model of disability that focuses on the actions of disabled people. Disability & Society, 32(5), 735-747. doi:10.1080/09687599.2017.1324764

A literature review on work transition of youth with disabilities into competitive employment. (2017). African Journal of Disability, 6(0), a298.

Lysaght, R., Ouellette-Kuntz, H., & Lin, C. J. (2012). Untapped potential: perspectives on the employment of people with intellectual disability. Work (Reading, Mass.), 41(4), 409-422. doi:10.3233/WOR-2012-1318

Memari, A. H., & Hafizi, S. (2015). People With Intellectual Disability and Social-Political Life Participation: A Commitment to Inclusive Policies in Less Developed Countries. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 12(1), 37-41. doi:10.1111/jppi.12104

Metts, R. L. (2000). Disability issues, trends and recommendations for the World Bank. Retrieved from

Migliore, A., Mank, D., Grossi, T., & Rogan, P. (2007). Integrated employment or sheltered workshops: Preferences of adults with intellectual disabilities, their families, and staff. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 26(1), 5-19.

Nagata, K. K. (2007). The measurement of the Hong Kong-based ‘Baseline Survey of Students’ Attitudes toward People with a Disability’: cross-cultural validation in Lebanon. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 30(3), 239-241. doi:10.1097/MRR.0b013e3282ab9601

Nord, D., Luecking, R., Mank, D., Kiernan, W., & Wray, C. (2013). The state of the science of employment and economic self-sufficiency for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Intellect Dev Disabil, 51(5), 376-384. doi:10.1352/1934-9556-51.5.376

Obeid, R., Daou, N., DeNigris, D., Shane-Simpson, C., Brooks, P. J., & Gillespie-Lynch, K. (2015). A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Knowledge and Stigma Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder Among College Students in Lebanon and the United States. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(11), 3520-3536. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2499-1

Ollerton, J. (2012). IPAR, an inclusive disability research methodology with accessible analytical tools. International Practice Development Journal.

Owens, J. (2015). Exploring the critiques of the social model of disability: the transformative possibility of Arendt’s notion of power. Sociology of Health & Illness, 37(3), 385-403. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12199

Participatory action research and people with disabilities: Principles and challenges. (1998). Canadian Journal of Rehabilitation, 12(2), 105-112.

Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Buchanan, C. L., & Lopez, S. J. (2006). The Application of Positive Psychology and Self-Determination to Research in Intellectual Disability: A Content Analysis of 30 Years of Literature. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD), 31(4), 338-345.

Survey on the Economic Status of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon 2015. (2015). Retrieved from Beirut:

Thomas, E. L., S. . (2003). Disability and Livelihoods in Lebanon.

Timmons, J. C., Hall, A. C., Bose, J., Wolfe, A., & Winsor, J. (2011). Choosing Employment: Factors That Impact Employment Decisions for Individuals With Intellectual Disability. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 49(4), 285-299. doi:10.1352/1934-9556-49.4.285

Verdonschot, M. M. L., de Witte, L. P., Reichrath, E., Buntinx, W. H. E., & Curfs, L. M. G. (2009). Community participation of people with an intellectual disability: A review of empirical findings. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 53(4), 303-318. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2008.01144.x

Walmsley, J. J., K. (2003). Inclusive Research with People with Learning Disabilities: Past, Present and Futures. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wehbi, S. (2012). Advancing a disability rights agenda in a context of war: Challenges and opportunities. International Social Work, 55(4), 522-537. doi:10.1177/0020872811418996

Wehbi, S., & El-Lahib, Y. (2007). The Employment Situation of People with Disabilities in Lebanon: Challenges and Opportunities. Disability & Society, 22(4), 371-382.

Wehbi, S., & Lakkis, S. (2010). Women With Disabilities in Lebanon: From Marginalization to Resistance. Affilia, 25(1), 56-67.