Grace Khawam, PhD Candidate, PharmD, MPH

Centre for Development and Emergency Practice

Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford, UK

Email: [email protected]



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.



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