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Inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace

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INCLUSION OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
By
Louise Tremblay
A Major Project submitted in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS
In
LEADERSHIP
______________________________________________
Rebecca Clapperton, BA, Project Sponsor, BC Hydro
_____________________________________________
Richard Brown, PhD, Faculty Supervisor
________________________________________
Niels Agger-Gupta, PhD, Committee Chair
ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY
November 2010
© Louise Tremblay, 2010
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Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities ii
ABSTRACT
BC Hydro has a goal to be a top employer with a diverse and inclusive workforce representative
of demographics in the BC labour market. This study examined the barriers to employment and
the employee experience for persons with disabilities working at BC Hydro and other
organizations. One of the major findings was that in spite of equity legislation, human rights
conventions, and widespread organizational claims of inclusiveness, a common barrier for
persons with disabilities is societal attitudes. The participants with disabilities were unanimous
that awareness about disabilities needed to be raised to improve their work experience and
remove barriers to employment. The study also concluded that the caring, compassion, and
collaboration of others, particularly managers, positively affect employee experience. The study
recommends that BC Hydro embark on a change management process to confirm leadership
commitment, uncover resistance, disseminate accountability, create learning opportunities,
develop personal leadership characteristics, and question prejudice.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities iii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This has been an incredible two years. It has been a lot of work, but it was rewarding in
many ways, and I have much for which to be thankful. To my son, Justin, and his partner, Sarah,
I am so glad that we travelled together to Europe before my studies started, and thank you for
your understanding about our many cancelled visits. To my family back in Quebec and friends
all over the country, I appreciate your patience with the very few phone calls and my lack of
visiting in the last two years. I appreciate your patience. I give special thanks to Liz and Ken for
your relentless attempts to drag me out, in spite of facing rejection again and again. To the
faculty members at Royal Roads University who facilitated my studies, you are all great models
of leadership to aspire to, and your dedication is an inspiration. To the staff and contractors at
Royal Roads University, thank you for all your assistance, good humour, and your hospitality
either on-line or on-campus. To my 2009-1 cohort, I am truly blessed to have met all of you, and
I hope that graduating is just the beginning of a long relationship. Rebecca, my sponsor at BC
Hydro, your trust and collaboration have not gone unnoticed. Thank you for the opportunity to
study the research topic, which allowed me to reach out my comfort zone and learn. To Lesley,
thank you for signing off the report on behalf of Rebecca. To Raena, thank you for all your
assistance. To the study participants, thank you for your candour. I could not have done this
without you. Rich Brown, you have been the greatest supervisor. I appreciate your guidance and
kind encouragements. You are a great teacher. Finally, but not last, Karen Graham, thank you for
your expert editing services. With you, APA has been a breeze. My involvement with Royal
Roads University has been an incredible and timely experience that I will never forget. My many
thanks to all of you for your support through it all! With you, I did it!
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................................. iii
CHAPTER ONE: FOCUS AND FRAMING ..................................................................................8
Introduction ................................................................................................................................8
The Research Question ..............................................................................................................9
The Opportunity and its Significance ........................................................................................9
Systems Analysis of the Opportunity ......................................................................................12
World Convention, Corporate Responsibility, and Other Global Systems .......................12
Canadian Society ...............................................................................................................14
Provincial Systems .............................................................................................................15
Unions and Employees ......................................................................................................16
Core System: Creating Awareness.....................................................................................17
Organizational Context ............................................................................................................18
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................................22
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................22
Diversity and Inclusion ............................................................................................................22
Definitions of Diversity and Inclusion ...............................................................................22
Diversity in a Global System .............................................................................................25
Definitions and Inclusion Issues Relating to Persons with Disabilities ...................................26
Definitions of Disabilities ..................................................................................................26
Prejudices and Questions of Full Citizenship ....................................................................28
Persons with Disabilities and Employment .......................................................................30
The Business Case for Diversity ..............................................................................................31
Divergent Perspectives.......................................................................................................31
Economic Value of Integrating Persons with Disabilities .................................................33
Leading Heterogeneous Organizations ....................................................................................34
Organizational Culture and Leadership Commitment .......................................................35
Change Management .........................................................................................................36
Understanding Prejudice ....................................................................................................38
Leadership as a Behaviour .................................................................................................39
Developing Awareness ......................................................................................................41
CHAPTER THREE: CONDUCT OF ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT ....................................43
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................43
Research Approach ..................................................................................................................43
Project Participants ..................................................................................................................44
Research Methods and Tools ...................................................................................................45
Research Tools ...................................................................................................................46
Structured Interviews ...................................................................................................46
Pilot Test ......................................................................................................................47
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities v
Study Conduct ....................................................................................................................47
Selection and Invitation of the Participants .................................................................47
Creating Trusting Rapport and Prolonged Engagement ..............................................48
Conducting the Interviews and Data Gathering ...........................................................50
Transcription ................................................................................................................51
Data Analysis .....................................................................................................................51
Case-Ordered Display ..................................................................................................51
Credibility of the Research ..........................................................................................52
Ethical Issues ...........................................................................................................................53
Respect for Human Dignity ...............................................................................................54
Respect for Free and Informed Consent ............................................................................54
Respect for Vulnerable Persons .........................................................................................54
Respect for Privacy and Confidentiality ............................................................................55
Respect for Justice and Inclusiveness ................................................................................55
Balancing Harms and Benefits...........................................................................................55
Minimizing Harm...............................................................................................................56
Maximizing Benefits ..........................................................................................................56
CHAPTER FOUR: ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS ........57
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................57
Study Findings .........................................................................................................................58
Finding One: Barriers to Recruitment................................................................................58
Negative Societal Attitudes Prevail .............................................................................58
People Are Reluctant to Disclose Their Disabilities....................................................60
Persons with Sensory Impairments Face Additional Barriers Early in the
Recruitment Process...............................................................................................61
Finding Two: Employment Requirements at BC Hydro ...................................................62
BC Hydro Has High Employment Requirements ........................................................62
Persons with Disabilities Are Intent on Meeting Requirements ..................................64
Finding Three: Employee Experience Relating to Perceived Physical Realities ..............65
Accommodations are Difficult to Plan ........................................................................65
Physical Accessibility Issues Exist at BC Hydro .........................................................66
Methods of Communication can be Inaccessible for Persons with Sensory
Impairments ...........................................................................................................67
Finding Four: Employee Experience Relating to Perceived Social Realities ....................68
BC Hydro Employees Reported Positive Experiences ................................................69
BC Hydro Employees Also Reported Negative Experiences ......................................71
The External People Related Positive Workplace Experience ....................................73
Finding Five: BC Hydro Leaders‘ Perspective ..................................................................73
Leaders Interviewed Demonstrated Inclusiveness .......................................................74
Leaders Were Willing to Accommodate; Business Requirements Also Had to
be Met ....................................................................................................................74
Leaders Are Conscious of Less Inclusive Practices ....................................................75
Study Conclusions ...................................................................................................................76
Conclusion One: Awareness of Disabilities Influences the Outcome ...............................76
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities vi
Conclusion Two: High Employment Requirements and Few Entry-Level
Positions do not Preclude the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities ....................77
Conclusion Three: Disability is Contextual .......................................................................79
Conclusion Four: Inclusiveness Requires Leadership Values ...........................................80
Scope and Limitations of the Research ....................................................................................81
CHAPTER FIVE: RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS .......................................................................83
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................83
Study Recommendations .........................................................................................................83
Promote an Inclusion Culture ............................................................................................83
Confirm and Communicate Commitment from Top Leaders ......................................84
Address Resistance ......................................................................................................85
Disseminate Accountability .........................................................................................86
Cultivate Leadership Capacity ...........................................................................................87
Promote Holistic Leadership Behaviours in all Individuals ........................................88
Create Awareness about Disabilities ...........................................................................89
Encourage Storytelling.................................................................................................90
Attract Talent with Disabilities ..........................................................................................91
Create Inviting Job Advertisements .............................................................................91
Accommodate in Collaboration with the Employee with Disabilities.........................92
Review HR Policies .....................................................................................................93
Influence and Learn from Other Systems ..........................................................................95
Make use of the Media .................................................................................................95
Demonstrate Commitment through Suppliers .............................................................95
Study Best Practices in Other Organizations ...............................................................96
Organizational Implications .....................................................................................................96
Implications for Future Research .............................................................................................99
CHAPTER SIX: LESSONS LEARNED .....................................................................................101
Chapter Four Was Challenging to Write ...............................................................................101
It Takes Time .........................................................................................................................103
How About not Answering a Question before Posing it? ......................................................103
Having Confidence in our Learning Style .............................................................................104
Humility .................................................................................................................................105
Conclusion .............................................................................................................................105
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................107
APPENDIX A: E-MAIL REQUEST TO EXTERNAL PARTICIPANTS .................................114
APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INVITATION FOR INTERVIEWS ............................................115
APPENDIX C: DRAFT RESEARCH CONSENT FORM FOR INTERVIEWS .......................117
APPENDIX D: DRAFT QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS .....................................................119
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities vii
APPENDIX E: ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY ETHICS APPROVAL ..................................122
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 8
CHAPTER ONE: FOCUS AND FRAMING
Introduction
World conventions encourage people and organizations to embrace diversity and reach a
level of social conscience with consideration to human dignity. Yet, dichotomies persist between
these ideals and actual human experiences, particularly for persons with disabilities
(International Labour Organization [ILO], 2010; United Nations, Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights [UN], 2010). Although, many people and organizations have
espoused high values, actions and behaviours do not always exemplify models of social justice
and morality. I hope that this research project makes a difference in promoting fairness, genuine
compassion, and social responsibility in the organizational context and that it influences leaders
to realize that these values are not only good for humanistic reasons, they also contribute to a
more productive workforce (Yukl, 2006).
The sponsor organization for this research is my previous employer, BC Hydro. BC
Hydro has designed a framework that guides daily activities with a considerable degree of social
conscience. The framework includes an employee engagement model highly regarded by human
resource practitioners across the country (R. Clapperton, personal communication, September 30,
2009). Still, the bi-annual employee survey reveals that, in many cases, people‘s experiences
diverge from the philosophy of the framework.
At the time I decided to conduct this research, I was employed in a position residing in
the Customer Care and Conservation workgroup, which is responsible for the customer
experience and fostering an energy conservation culture in British Columbia (BC). Most of the
positions held during my career focussed on customer engagement. Conversely, this major
project offered the opportunity to expand my knowledge and to research a topic related to
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 9
employee engagement, which is of great significance to me for the reasons articulated earlier.
Therefore, I reached out to a potential sponsor within Corporate Human Resources (HR),
Rebecca Clapperton, Manager, Diversity, to explore ways to integrate our respective needs and
interests.
One of the many projects HR wanted to undertake in 2010 concerned the inclusion of
persons with disabilities in the workplace. The employment rate of these persons had been
declining well below that of the BC labour market. HR needed to determine what caused this
decline and what recommendations could be implemented to bridge the gap. (R. Clapperton,
personal communication, January 6, 2010). This project was of great interest to me, as it
provided the opportunity to make a difference individually, with an often overlooked
constituency, and at the organizational level.
The Research Question
This research focussed on the main research question: What recruitment strategies could
Corporate HR implement to ensure that BC Hydro‘s inclusion objectives for persons with
disabilities are achieved? The sub-questions developed to answer the main research question
included: What barriers to employment at BC Hydro are perceived to exist by persons with
disabilities? What physical and social realities exist within BC Hydro that could contribute to
perceived barriers of recruitment for persons with disabilities? How could perceived barriers to
employment be eliminated or minimized within the operational realities of BC Hydro?
The Opportunity and its Significance
BC Hydro‘s long-term goal for diversity has been ―to have a diverse workforce fully
representative of the BC labour market that demonstrates top inclusive employer behaviour—
meeting customer and stakeholder service targets, enjoying high employee engagement levels,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 10
and meeting employee retention goals‖ (BC Hydro, 2009b, para. 1). BC Hydro aspires to achieve
and maintain a leadership status as it relates to employee engagement. In recognition, the
company has received mention as a top employer having the highest employee engagement
index for its industry (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 24).
Unfortunately, in some cases, inclusion issues persist for persons with disabilities, either
as employees or as candidates seeking employment. The rate of people with disabilities currently
employed at BC Hydro is 2% (R. Clapperton, personal communication, January 6, 2010), which
is well below that of the labour market at 7.8% (BC Stats, 2009, p. 8). Therefore, BC Hydro‘s
inclusion rate has fallen significantly short of the company‘s objectives.
The project sponsor has advised that BC Hydro has an employee engagement philosophy,
which emphasizes health and wellness, physically, mentally, and emotionally; life and work
balance; and work flexibility. This philosophy establishes the direction for line managers to
engage all employees. Further, the organization recognizes that the pool of talent with disabilities
requires special accommodations from workplace adjustments, to adoption of technology, and
work flexibility. To guide and support managers in ensuring a positive employee experience,
including providing reasonable accommodations, Corporate HR has developed comprehensive
guidelines. Reportedly, the guidelines and BC Hydro‘s philosophy are adopted inconsistently by
managers. Diverging perspectives have created leadership approaches that are not aligned with
the concepts of inclusion and flexibility (R. Clapperton, personal communication, January 6,
2010).
My sponsor was hopeful that the recommendations in this report would induce leaders to
contribute toward BC Hydro‘s diversity objectives, by embracing the employee engagement
philosophy, becoming more inclined to use the guiding principles, and adapting their leadership
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 11
behaviours to take into account inclusion and flexibility. Moreover, this research has helped to
identify the support and resources required for inclusion, optimal performance, sustained
engagement, and personal and professional success of employees with disabilities.
Personally, researching the inclusion of persons with disabilities expanded my learning
about the dynamics of human relationships in a complex organizational context. This has been a
rich and strategic opportunity, which hopefully will educe organizational transformation at BC
Hydro. The findings should help stakeholders continue the development of strategies and the
implementation of practical recommendations to bring BC Hydro closer to its goal of a
diversified and engaged workforce, inclusive of people with disabilities.
Through its respectful workplace policy, BC Hydro has pledged to provide a work
environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect (BC Hydro, 1994). The policy
highlighted that ―BC Hydro and its employees are committed to providing a safe and healthy
work place that values diversity and is free of discrimination and harassment‖ (p. 2). Further, the
previous company‘s Chair and CEO mentioned publicly, in the annual report, that BC Hydro was
deliberate in attracting diversity in the workplace (BC Hydro, 2009a). BC Hydro believes that
diverse and inclusive teams offer different perspectives contributing to more creative thinking,
which lead to innovative strategies and new opportunities. The ultimate goal is to have a
workforce representing the demographics of the BC labour market (BC Hydro, 2009b).
The company‘s top leaders have been public about the importance of diversity, and the
organization has recently received two awards associated with a diverse and inclusive workforce:
Canada‘s Top 100 Employers and Canada‘s 45 Best Diversity Employers (BC Hydro, 2010e,
para. 1). Further, BC Hydro‘s top leaders have made the assurance, internally, that each
employee can expect a dignified and respectful workplace. If BC Hydro is to be true to the
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 12
philosophy of diversity, it needs to closely examine the issues faced by persons with disabilities
and develop the strategies necessary to close the gap of inclusion.
Additionally, each individual in the organization shares the responsibility of creating a
diverse and inclusive culture (Senge, 2006). This research project and people‘s awareness that it
has taken place should prove propitious in promoting the concept of diversity at the very core of
the organization and influence change. By not doing such a project, the company might have
risked losing momentum and inadvertently communicated that the embraced notions of diversity
and inclusion are not to be taken seriously.
Systems Analysis of the Opportunity
BC Hydro is a Crown corporation reporting financial, environmental, and social
performance using a global sustainability model. BC Hydro‘s visibility, in the province and as
global stakeholder, affords many opportunities to study, influence, and transform the
employment experiences for persons with disabilities, both in its workplace and beyond. Some of
these systems and how they can work together to make a difference are considered in this
section.
World Convention, Corporate Responsibility, and Other Global Systems
At the global level, the inclusion of persons with disabilities is a concern of various world
conventions. ―All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights‖ (UN, 2010, para.
1). This is the first phrase of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights written 60 years ago.
Further, the UN advocates that persons with disabilities have the right to employment in an
inclusive and accessible environment. In turn, these constituents want full citizenship and access
to employment, but they continue to face barriers based on societal prejudices and
misconceptions (Prince, 2009). As questions of corporate responsibility gain momentum,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 13
stakeholders increasingly expect organizations to engage in the development of programs that
positively impact society and to disclose their performances publicly (Global Reporting Initiative
[GRI], 2009a).
In that context, BC Hydro participates voluntarily in the GRI: a sustainability framework
committed to the continuous improvement of economic, environmental, and social performance.
BC Hydro has made the commitment to cultivate a diverse workplace representative of the
communities it serves and has set objectives. The company has taken the transparent approach to
report its results globally in accordance with GRI G3 guidelines (BC Hydro, 2009a). Reporting
progress using this sustainability framework is conducive to BC Hydro continually improving its
inclusion programs and integrating them into its business practices (GRI, 2009a).
BC Hydro is a GRI organizational stakeholder, along with stakeholders from more than
60 countries represented by various communities from ―business, accountancy, investment,
environmental, human rights, research and labour organizations‖ (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 127). At
present, BC Hydro does not interact with other organizations through GRI as it relates to the
inclusion of persons with disabilities (R. Clapperton, personal communication, September 2,
2010). However, GRI offers its stakeholders the opportunity to network with a multitude of
interested entities, with varied expertise from all over the globe and the ability to participate in
working groups and governance bodies (GRI, 2009b). In addition, BC Hydro already provides
services internationally through Powerex Corp and Powertech Labs Inc. Clearly, BC Hydro can
play a role at the global level and is well positioned to learn from other concerned organizations
and to induce the change necessary to encourage the development of more inclusive workforces
around the world. Senge (2006) supported that ―building relationships across boundaries between
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 14
very different types of organizations is becoming a key strategy for influencing larger systems‖
(pp. 310 311).
Canadian Society
In March 2010, Canada evidenced its commitment to stop the discrimination of persons
with disabilities by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which
assures them the rights to full citizenship and total participation in society (BC Coalition of
Persons with Disabilities, 2010). Estey (as cited in BC Coalition of Persons with Disabilities,
2010) announced, ―Today ushers in a new era where people with disabilities are viewed as full
citizens with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens of Canada‖ (para. 4).
Further, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires the government
to take action and measure the strides the nation makes in accord with the treaty, thereby creating
more momentum in advancing the cause for workplace inclusiveness.
As of recent years, research has indicated that Canadian society is ambivalent about the
inclusion of persons with disabilities (Prince, 2009). BC Hydro and its employees are part of that
society along with large customers, suppliers, other utilities, non-government organizations,
media, and other stakeholders. These are interactive systems, influencing and engaging each
other in various circles of thinking and activity to achieve their respective objectives. Further, the
systems have multiplicity of roles. They are employers, advocates, and educators, each having a
set of beliefs, attitudes, and values about inclusion. Together with government policy, this
interactive web affords many agencies of change to influence a shift in Canadians from
ambivalence to congruity.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 15
Provincial Systems
One of the Five Great Goals outlined in the Office of the Premier‘s service plan is to
―build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, those with special
needs, children at risk, and seniors‖ (BC Office of the Premier, 2010, p. 9). BC Hydro is a Crown
corporation reporting to its Shareholder, the Province of BC. BC Hydro ultimately receives its
strategic direction from the Office of the Premier (BC Hydro, 2009a; BC Office of the Premier,
2010). The letter of expectation between the Shareholder and the Corporation defines the
responsibility BC Hydro has in conducting its business and implementing ―corporate strategies,
programs, plans and financial outcomes that are consistent with the Shareholder‘s general
direction‖ (BC Hydro, 2010b, p. 117). In developing programs to facilitate the inclusion of
persons with disabilities in the workplace, BC Hydro is fulfilling parts of its mandate to the
Province.
Beyond the advocacy of human rights, corporate responsibility, and government
mandate, and still within sustainability principles, workplace diversity offers a useful strategy in
resolving labour problems. As baby boomers contemplate retirement, entry-level workers
decrease in number, and world nations compete for talent, economists predict a shortage of
skilled labour in Canada and internationally within the next decade (Bloom & MacBride-King,
2010). As part of these larger systems, the BC labour market faces the same challenges
(WorkAble Solutions, 2010). Persons with disabilities constitute an important pool of talent that
could be accessed to help fill the demographic gap. Yet, this constituency continues to be
underrepresented in the workplace because of stigma (BC Stats, 2009; WorkAble Solutions,
2010). The BC Government has recognized the societal and economic benefits of inclusion and
has created a program in WorkAble Solutions to assist the employment of persons with
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 16
disabilities (WorkAble Solutions, 2010). WorkAble Solutions is an initiative under the
Government of BC, Ministry of Housing and Social Development (2010). One of the Ministry‘s
objectives is to ―increase persons with disabilities participation in the labour market‖ (p. 11).
Through its affiliations, BC Hydro is in a good position to contribute to the diversity
objectives of the provincial government. The Crown corporation has two wholly-owned
subsidiaries: Powerex Corp and Powertech Labs Inc. Combined with the recent integration of the
BC Transmission Corporation and outsourcing relationship with Accenture Business Services of
BC (Accenture), BC Hydro has a ―strong presence‖ (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 53), touching the lives
of most residents in the province. Hence, BC Hydro, through its relationship with its more than
6,000 employees (BC Hydro, 2010a, 2010b) and its other connections, can create enough
impetus for change to occur.
Unions and Employees
The labour movement in BC claims to be responsible for assuming a leadership role with
respect to workforce equality. It has long advocated the inclusion of persons with disabilities and
other minorities in the workplace. Over the years, its proponents have lobbied government to
enact new legislation and to improve existing laws. They have also encouraged employers to
become more inclusive through the bargaining process (BC Federation of Labour, 1990).
Unions representing BC Hydro employees are supportive of the diversity programs
initiated by the organization (R. Clapperton, personal communication, September 1, 2010). More
than 63% of employees at BC Hydro have employment contracts under one of two collective
agreements (BC Hydro, 2010c, LA1 Number of Employees, By Contract Type section). Unions
and their members are yet other systems to advocate, educate, and lead to action pertaining to
diversity at BC Hydro and across interconnected systems.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 17
Employees belong to many systems interfacing with BC Hydro, giving them the
opportunity to participate extraneously in the activities of the company and, also, to influence
external systems. Persons working for a Crown corporation are also tax payers, shareholders, and
customers. They belong to unions and are affiliated with professional accrediting agencies. They
have families and friends. They are connected to disabilities in some way. Many serve in their
communities. Moreover, in a democratic society, people have the opportunity to participate in
municipal, provincial, or federal politics and become part of government. Therefore, employees
are not just employees. They are leaders, and they are everywhere. They potentially can exert
considerable power in shaping the direction BC Hydro is taking in relation to diversity, and they
can have enough influence on other systems to make a difference (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).
Core System: Creating Awareness
For diversity programs to succeed, awareness of personal biases and shifts in attitudes
and behaviours need to emerge throughout the systems (Bloom & MacBride-King, 2010).
Education and experience working with disabled persons are part of the strategy to overcome
negative attitudes (Lengnick-Hall, Gaunt, & Kulkarni, 2008). Therefore, by creating awareness
and promoting an inclusive culture, BC Hydro enters into a process of educating its people. This
gives employees the awareness required to become probable change agents, not only
contributing to the performance of the company‘s diversity objectives, but also impelling societal
beliefs. This is possible when contemplating the issue from a systems perspective, which
supports that small changes matter because they build momentum (Senge, 2006).
The successful integration of persons with disabilities at BC Hydro depends on engaging
internal and external systems to learn and work together. Confronting this problem based on a
systems approach means to abandon conventional linear thinking, such as the cause and effect of
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 18
the HR program, and to start thinking in terms of ―circles of influence‖ (Senge, 2006, p. 75),
involving all agencies possible for change to occur. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in
the workplace is not a concern unique to BC Hydro. In fact, many organizations have diversity
objectives, which they underachieve (Parris, Cowan, & Huggett, 2006). Consequently, inclusive
practices at BC Hydro have the potential to contribute to the learning of interested organizations,
locally and globally.
Organizational Context
BC Hydro is a large and complex organization, mandated to provide a reliable supply of
electricity to a large portion of BC‘s population. It receives supervision from the Government of
BC and is guided by government policy and various legislations. The operations of the company
are conducted through a strategically designed internal structure, ensuring the fulfilment of the
company‘s mandate.
BC Hydro is the third largest electric utility in Canada, serving 1.8 million customers
spanning over 95% of the total area in BC (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 10). The company employs over
6,000 people (BC Hydro, 2010a, 2010b). It is set up as a Crown corporation reporting to the BC
Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources (2010). Its mandate is ―to generate,
manufacture, distribute, supply, purchase and sell electricity and meet the need in British
Columbia in a cost-effective and reliable manner‖ (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 7). Since 2003, BC
Hydro has entered into an agreement with Accenture to outsource business activities that are
considered non-core and mostly transactional in nature. BC Hydro has two wholly-owned
subsidiaries: (a) Powerex Corp trades energy products across North America, and (b) Powertech
Labs Inc. provides global consulting and testing services to help clients solve energy-related
problems (BC Hydro, 2009a).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 19
BC Hydro is governed through many legislative bodies. The Crown corporation receives
its mandate through the Hydro and Power Authority Act (1996), a long-standing piece of
legislation that has been amended over the years to reflect the evolution of the business. The
Utilities Commission Act (1996) gives the power to BC Utilities Commission to regulate the
provision of ―safe, reasonable, adequate and fair services‖ (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 7) and to
evaluate proposed rate increases. Public ownership of BC Hydro‘s transmission and distribution
systems, and existing generation and storage assets, is ensured by the BC Hydro Public Power
Legacy and Heritage Contract Act (2003). This act enables the Heritage Contract, which has
provisions to include the future capacities of these assets. The Government of BC also guides BC
Hydro‘s business activities through policies, established in the BC Energy Plan (2010), and the
Clean Energy Act (2010), which contain the visions and objectives of the government to ensure
that future energy needs of British Columbians are met (BC Hydro, 2009a, 2010b).
BC Hydro is accountable to its Shareholder, the Government of BC. Roles of both parties
are defined through the letter of expectation (BC Hydro, 2009c). The purpose of the document,
which is not legally binding, is to promote collaboration and positive relationships between BC
Hydro and the Shareholder. It supports the understanding of the respective roles and the
corporate mandate of BC Hydro. It serves the Shareholder to guide BC Hydro in the continuous
review of the corporate structure to ensure accountability, control costs, and improve
performance.
BC Hydro‘s governance framework is comprised of a board of directors appointed by the
Government of BC. Directors carry out their responsibilities through task groups or advisory
committees. Directors are responsible to oversee management, and the CEO is responsible for
the leadership and management of the organization. Although not a director, the CEO does have
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 20
access to the same information as any director, excluding access to information pertaining to his
performance (BC Hydro, 2009e). The Board created BC Hydro‘s purpose, values, and guiding
principles to provide ―the framework that governs‖ (BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 8) the way the
company operates.
BC Hydro‘s corporate purpose is ―to provide reliable power, at low cost, for generations‖
(BC Hydro, 2009a, p. 8) and is guided by five core values: ―safety, integrity, accountability,
service, and teamwork‖ (p. 8). The long-term goals of the company have been named guiding
principles because ―they are aspirational in nature‖ (p. 8). All guiding principles are relevant to
this research project. However, the three having the most significance are: (a) ―Workplace: to be
a top employer for generations‖ (p. 122); (b) ―Teamwork: to use exceptional teamwork to engage
all employees in the achievement of BC Hydro‘s purpose and long-term goals‖ (p. 122); and
(c) ―Safety: to provide the safest work environment compared with the best performers in any
industry, with none of our employees experiencing a serious safety injury‖ (p. 122).
As discussed in the previous section, BC Hydro subscribes to a triple bottom-line
approach to reporting performance: environmental, social, and economic, using GRI guidelines
(GRI, 2009b). The environmental bottom line examines the impacts the company‘s operations
have on the environment now and in the future. The social bottom line entails the safety and
well-being of all people involved and is concerned with a healthy community. The economic
bottom line ensures the company can be in business forever through efficiency, productivity,
profitability, and value for the money (BC Hydro, 2009a).
The company is strategically structured into various operational business groups:
Corporate Affairs; Corporate HR; Customer Care and Conservation; Engineering, Aboriginal
Relations, and Generation; Field Operations; Finance and Corporate Resources; Safety, Health
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 21
and Environment; and Smart Metering and Infrastructure Program. Each workgroup is led by a
vice-president who reports directly to the CEO (BC Hydro, 2009d). With regards to this action
research, it was conducted across the business groups and sponsored by HR.
I believe that this project has relevance in this strong hierarchical structure because it is
not possible to lead from the top and have an entire organization follow the great strategies of
one heroic leader. Excelling organizations learn to tap into the commitment and the capacity of
their people at all levels, creating learning organizations (Senge, 2006).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 22
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction
The literature review is derived from academic sources representing various perspectives
relating to the topics of diversity and inclusion, organizational culture, change management, and
leadership. The topics are sequenced to explore issues at the macro level first, and as the
discussion evolves, topics are addressed more specifically. The chapter begins with the concepts
of diversity and inclusion in general terms. Then, the review expounds on the topic of inclusion
of persons with disabilities by delving into relevant sub-topics to elucidate the social realities
these persons face and the precept for their full citizenship. Finally, inclusion and diversity are
examined in the organizational and global contexts, making the argument for the economic
benefits and emphasizing the importance of organizational culture, leadership, and continuous
learning. Legal and academic definitions of key concepts are dispersed throughout the chapter to
illuminate the complexity of the subject.
Diversity and Inclusion
Legislation mandates the removal of barriers to employment for certain legislated groups.
Although many Canadian organizations have established goals, they generally admit that their
performance of diversity programs often fall short of objectives. The value of diversity in the
workplace goes beyond humanistic practices to become part of the solution to the global
competition for talent. In this section, literature on the following two sub-topics is reviewed: (a)
definitions of diversity and inclusion, and (b) diversity in a global system.
Definitions of Diversity and Inclusion
In Canada, the Employment Equity Act mandates employers to remove barriers to
employment for four identified diversity groups: Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 23
members of visible minorities, and women (as cited in Government of Canada, Human
Resources and Skills Development Canada [HRSDC], 2009, para. 1). The act ensures that people
from these diverse groups are provided equal opportunity for employment and, if required,
special consideration to accommodate differences (HRSDC, 2009; Parris et al., 2006). However,
diversity and inclusion are concepts that are broader and more complex than the legal definitions.
In conversations with diversity practitioners, Miller (2008) found that various people
have different definitions of diversity and that diversity is inherent to each individual. Moore (as
cited in Miller, 2008) expressed ―everybody has diversity aspects of their life that you can bring
to the surface‖ (p. 19). Sweeney (2009) concurred that it is difficult to determine who and what
is considered diversity. However, many authors agreed that diversity spans beyond the legislated
groups to include age, gender, transgender, race, ethnicity, physical and intellectual ability,
sexual orientation, religion, opinion, social custom, thinking pattern, personality profile, and
more (Gandz, 2001; Goldsmith, 2007; Lencioni, 2009; Lester, 2006; Miller, 2008; Parris et al.,
2006; Sweeney, 2009). For example, diversity can be the conflict emerging between two groups
of people with polarized temperaments: one relying on facts and the other on intuitive feelings,
or diversity can be the disruptive input from people with dissenting views.
As for the differentiation between diversity and inclusion, Chavez and Weisinger (2008)
related that ―‗inclusion‘ and ‗diversity‘ are separate but overlapping concepts‖ (p. 333), and they
considered these concepts imperative in the creation of an inclusive culture. Parris et al. (2006)
defined inclusion or inclusiveness as ―an attribute of organizational culture characterized by a
demonstrated commitment to diversity‖ (p. 2). In an inclusive environment, this commitment is
evident in all activities of the organization, where various contributions are encouraged and
appreciated. Inclusion means that people ―are allowed to participate and are enabled to contribute
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 24
fully‖ (Miller, as cited in Chavez & Weisinger, 2008, p. 333). With inclusion, diversity is not just
tolerated, it is celebrated with respect and acceptance (Gandz, 2001; Parris et al., 2006).
Inclusive values and behaviours are essential in cultivating a diverse workplace. Some
definitions of diversity evoke values, such as respect, understanding, communication,
acceptance, compassion, and others. In fact, Herdman and McMillan-Capehart (2009) found
evidence that managerial values are linked to the effectiveness of the diversity programs in the
organizations they researched. Galloway (as cited in Senge, 2006), said about diversity: ―It is
about our ability to understand and appreciate how [others] think, communicate, and relate. It‘s
about living together‖ (p. 312). Similarly, ILO (2001) advocated that ―diversity means finding
political, legal, social and economic mechanisms to ensure mutual respect and to mediate
relations across differences‖ (p. 9).
For the purpose of this action research, the broader definition of diversity described in
this section is adopted. This is because disabilities by themselves are not the reason to include
persons with disabilities, and persons with disabilities are not just a medium for organizations to
meet diversity objectives. Instead, as it is suggested throughout this chapter, their inclusion
allows these persons to bring their unique talents, perspectives, and personalities to their
organizations and to make meaningful contributions to society.
At BC Hydro, the benefits of an inclusive workplace, accepting differences, and the
various perspectives these bring, will probably go further than meeting diversity targets. The
development of an inclusive culture should, in many cases, close the gap between the
organizational values and individual behaviours. It should also empower all individuals, whether
they belong to a legislated group or not, to maximize their contribution, learn from each other,
and contribute to the overall effectiveness of the organization.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 25
Diversity in a Global System
Bloom and MacBride-King (2010) projected that demographics, globalization, and
technology will transform the workforce of the future. Globalization is the integration of
stakeholders around the world, where barriers are broken down and organizations, including
competitors, are collaborating and forming relationships in complex, ever-changing webs,
irrespective of geographical boundaries. Technology, such as the Internet and social media,
makes global connections possible and allows people to work more productively and creatively.
Furthermore, in this integrated and interconnected system, diversity becomes a business
imperative to face impending challenges and to remain competitive.
Bloom and MacBride-King (2010), Cowan and Wright (2010), Lengnick-Hall et al.
(2008), and Parris et al. (2006) noted that a talent short fall is emerging as baby boomers are
entering retirement age. Cowan and Wright estimated that starting in 2014, the growth of the
Canadian labour force will begin to decline, and this will continue through the decade. They
reported, ―Economists believe that labour force participation rates, currently at 60.2%, are well
very close to peak. There simply will not be sufficient growth in the labour pool to offset the
attrition of baby boomers‖ (p. 8).
Talent shortage is not unique to Canada; it is a global problem. Canada competes with
other jurisdictions for diverse talent as countries around the world face similar challenges. China
and India have rapidly growing economies, and these foreign employers entice highly skilled
workers who have emigrated to Canada to return to their home countries and fill lucrative
positions (Bloom & MacBride-King, 2010). At present, ―about two-thirds of net growth in the
population comes from net migration (immigration minus emigration)‖ (p. 8). In Canada, the
need for immigration will continue to increase. Bloom and MacBride-King emphasized,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 26
―Radical action is required to ensure that there are enough skilled new workers to replace the
retirees‖ (p. 8).
Lester (2006), Parris et al. (2006), and Sweeney (2009) agreed organizations have made
strides over the last several years in integrating diversity in the workplace. Organizations
understand the benefits of accessing an expanded talent pool, being perceived as an employer of
choice, being seen as doing the right thing, and remaining competitive. However, Parris et al.
noted that although organizations have made commitments to diversity by establishing it as a
priority and setting targets, they have not consistently met their objectives. Canadian labour
markets continue to have diverse talents that are not well represented in the workplace, and many
organizations, including BC Hydro, admit to a culture that is inadequately inclusive. A diverse
pool of talent that continues to be overlooked and even obstructed is the disability community
(Lengnick-Hall et al., 2008).
Definitions and Inclusion Issues Relating to Persons with Disabilities
Although legislation has long prohibited the discrimination of persons with disabilities,
societal prejudices persist. Persons with disabilities do not want to be the recipient of societal
pity: they aspire to contribute fully to society. Understanding disabilities from the social model
perspective can help remove barriers to their integration. Therefore, the following topics are
examined: (a) definitions of disabilities, (b) prejudices and questions of full citizenship, and (c)
persons with disabilities and employment.
Definitions of Disabilities
Prince (2009) stated, ―Federal and provincial laws define disability in terms of a range of
impairment: physical, sensory, neurological, learning, intellectual or developmental, psychiatric
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 27
or mental disorder‖ (p. 5). In BC, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development (2008)
defined that,
A person with disabilities is a person with a physical or mental impairment who is
significantly restricted in his or her ability to perform daily living activities either
―continuously or periodically for extended periods‖ and, as a result of these restrictions
requires assistance with daily living activities. Assistance could come from another
person, an assistance animal or an assistive device. (para. 3)
A disability may have been acquired, ensuing from an accident or illness, or congenital,
occurring at birth or shortly thereafter (Shah, 2005). Disability can be either continuous or
episodic. An episodic disability means that a person lives with periods of illness or wellness,
which are intermittent and usually unpredictable. Episodic disabilities include ―conditions such
as mental illness, arthritis, diabetes, some forms of cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS and more‖ (Canadian
Working Group on HIV & Rehabilitation, 2009, para. 1).
The literature makes reference to two dichotomous models of disability: medical and
social. The definitions in the preceding paragraphs are congruent with the medical model, which
supports the conventional views that impairment is a medical issue inherent to an individual and
is the cause for disablement (Prince, 2009; Weber, 2007). ILO (2010) noted, ―Focusing only on
the impairment or on the disabled person as someone to be ‗cured‘ is called the ‗medical model‘
of disability. This approach often overlooks the abilities the disabled person has‖ (p. 17). Hence,
this judgment reduces people to their disabilities, creating a distinct category of humans, leading
to their isolation.
Conversely, the social model, which has been conceptualized by academics and disability
advocates all over the world in recent decades, is based on social rights and the rationalization
that disability is not within an individual. Rather, the relationship with external factors, such as
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 28
social barriers and the constructed environment, engender disabilities (Prince, 2009; Robert &
Harlan, 2006; Weber, 2007). Robert and Harlan explained further:
The social model of disability rejects organic impairment as the most burdensome
problem faced by people with disabilities and erects a cogent case for the disabling and
oppressive effects of social discrimination based on the ascriptive [sic] status of
disability. (p. 601)
Weber emphasized, ―Disability, then, is not something inherent in the individual but rather a
product of the absence of social accommodations‖ (p. 13). Therefore, narrow hallways and
narrow minds perpetuate disabilities.
Touching on the medical and social models of disabilities in this chapter is useful for BC
Hydro to set the context about disabilities and to understand how prejudice has become so deeply
rooted in society. According to the social model, it is not the disability that disables, but the way
people look at it and how they overlook the person altogether. Prejudice and stigma are the
greatest barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities (Robert & Harlan, 2006).
Prejudices and Questions of Full Citizenship
Legislation has been enacted all over the world to promote inclusion and to prohibit the
harassment of persons with disabilities. Under the Human Rights Code, the Government of BC,
Ministry of Attorney General (2008) claims to protect ―people from being treated differently and
poorly because they have a disability‖ (p. 1). At the global level, the UN Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was proclaimed in May 2008, promotes the ―full
participation in economic, social, cultural and political life of persons with disabilities‖ (ILO,
2010, p. 29). In Canada, the convention was ratified in March, 2010 (BC Coalition of Persons
with Disabilities, 2010).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 29
Unfortunately, even under the current legal and human rights convention frameworks,
barriers and harassment persist and result in the isolation of, and the discrimination against,
persons with disabilities (ILO, 2010; Prince, 2009; Robert & Harlan, 2006; Weber, 2007). Social
attitudes, which are manifested by pity, fear, segregation, disregard, and even ridicule, further
alienate persons with disabilities and infer their impairments should prevent them from
participating in work, study, and recreation (Prince, 2009; Weber, 2007). In fact, persons with
disabilities are often denied full citizenship in certain jurisdictions. Prince observed,
And too often, persons with disabilities are treated as dependents and personal tragedies
in schools and workplaces or left out altogether from cultural and media representations.
Persons with disabilities are, in many respects, missing from the theories and practices of
social rights, political participation, employment, and civic membership. They are absent
citizens. (p. viii)
Prince (2009) further advocated that persons with disabilities want to be full citizens.
They do not want charity, government support, pensions, or tax relief. They want to be
employed, pay taxes, and have full participation in society. Further, Shah (2005) and Whiting
(2001) concurred that regular employment not only remunerates, it garners respect, human
dignity, acceptance, and status. Shah suggested that participation in the workforce increases the
self-esteem and confidence of persons with disabilities and gives them a sense of purpose.
Further, it fosters relationships and creates role models for the entire society.
That being said, Lengnick-Hall et al. (2008), Robert and Harlan (2006), and Schur,
Kruse, and Blanck (2005) reported that based on prejudice, employers are still reluctant to hire
persons with disabilities. These persons are often labelled a liability regardless of talent or
ability. Also, Whiting (2001) determined that making the wrong business case is one reason
employers do not hire persons with disabilities. They fear that accommodations are complex and
costly, when, in reality, these are relatively simple, and the cost is generally low. Thus, physical
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 30
accessibility is not the most difficult barrier for persons with disabilities to overcome in
accessing employment, societal stigma and prejudices are. Fortunately, Whiting suggested that
misconceptions can be overcome once employers understand that employees with the disabilities
can get the job done.
Persons with Disabilities and Employment
Employers all over the world have measured the performance of persons with disabilities
for many decades and found that their performance is either the same or exceeds that of other
workers (ILO, 2010). Shah (2005) concluded that successful persons with disabilities are
motivated, not unlike their non-disabled peers, as they seek responsibility, challenge, and
learning. They are determined and stubborn in overcoming barriers, and they tend to view these
as learning opportunities. They have an internal locus of control. As Shah illustrated:
They believed it was their own behaviour that determined the success or failure of their
future life prospects, and not purely external factors such as luck, chance or significant
others. . . . Individuals can create their own luck by making certain choices, working
hard, and being in the right place at the right time. (p. 178)
Further, people with disabilities are intrinsically motivated. They believe that serving others as
opposed to being served disproves stereotypes and ascriptions of low-class status. Also, their
participation in work is a way to demonstrate self-worth and to divert attention from the
disability (Shah, 2005). Persons with disabilities are good problem solvers, as they need to be
creative in dealing with their impairments on a daily basis. They are grateful and loyal to their
employers, tend to stay employed longer in one job, and have no more sick days than other
workers (Shah, 2005; Whiting, 2001).
As Schur et al. (2005) asserted, ―Corporate culture and societal attitudes must change if
people with disabilities are to be accepted and incorporated fully into the workplace‖ (pp. 3 4).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 31
In sponsoring this research project, BC Hydro is in a good position to effect change at the
organizational level and further influence societal attitudes through its many interactions with
various systems and to demonstrate that diversity makes business sense.
The Business Case for Diversity
The literature presented divergent perspectives in making the business case for diversity.
However, there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a good diversity program, supported by
top leaders and promoted throughout the organization, results in improved performance. Further,
the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour force has positive economic effect beyond
the organizational context, as it benefits society overall. To make the business case for diversity,
the following sub-topics are explored: (a) divergent perspectives and (b) economic value of
integrating persons with disabilities.
Divergent Perspectives
Gonzales and DeNisi (2007) and Herdman and McMillan-Capehart (2009) have claimed
that academic research has been insufficient and has yielded inconclusive results to corroborate
the effect diversity has on organizational performance. They said it is difficult to determine
because the relationship between diversity and financial performance is more complex than
linear. However, a study on ethnic and gender diversity in the workplace by Gonzales and
DeNisi demonstrated that under a positive diversity climate, diversity can be beneficial to
organizational effectiveness or reduce negative outcomes, but under adverse diversity climate
conditions, the effects are negative. They concluded, ―At the organizational level, we found that
[diversity climate] moderates the impact of organizational diversity on firm productivity and
return on profit‖ (p. 21). Diversity climate relates to the perception and attitudes people have
pertaining to the extent to which diversity is entrenched in the organization. It involves the
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 32
intricate interactions between employee experience; organizational values, systems, and politics;
and level of inclusiveness. Although Gonzales and DeNisi appeared confident in their
conclusions, the authors were not absolute. They indicated that they would like to see consistent
patterns in future research.
In debating the financial benefits diversity has on organizations, some authors were more
affirmative. Bloom and MacBride-King (2010) reported that diversity has positive effects on the
financial bottom line and organizational effectiveness, as it offers the ability to compete in global
markets and to access skilled labour, and it affords the development of innovative business
practices. Parris et al. (2006) suggested that competition for talent and for market share in a
global economy are concurrent, and diversity differentiates a company from its competitors.
Therefore, an organization that has a reputation for diversity can attract a larger selection of
talent, and a diverse organization is more competitive.
Parris et al. (2006) and Slater, Weigand, and Zwirlein (2008) correlated diversity to
financial performance by reporting the results of a study conducted by DiversityInc. The study
revealed that the top 50 US companies for diversity outperformed their peers, based on the
metrics of net profit margin, return on assets, and return on equity, consistently over a six year
period. Slater et al. concluded:
As the probability that any single profitability metric would be higher for six consecutive
years due to random chance is less than 3%, we interpret these findings as supportive of
the proposition that developing a diverse workforce and cultivating relationships with a
diverse set of stakeholders provides firms with a competitive advantage. (p. 205)
Moreover, Creary (2008) reasoned that organizations doing business in a globalized system face
complex situations rendering the strategic planning process complicated. Diversity or
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 33
heterogeneity can bring enough perspectives to improve the effectiveness of strategic planning
and avert costly errors in judgment.
Economic Value of Integrating Persons with Disabilities
Lengnick-Hall et al. (2008), Shah (2005), and Wright (2001) concurred that, given the
demographic projections, the integration of persons with disabilities in the workplace makes
good business sense. ILO (2010) noted persons with disabilities make up 10% of the world‘s
population, and many of them have proven to make significant contributions to their
organizations (p. 5). According to research, the removal of social and environmental barriers
faced by persons with disabilities would liberate more than half of them, who are of working age,
to participate in the Canadian workforce (Prince, 2009, p. 23). In BC, labour force statistics are
as follows:
Of 355,430 disabled persons of working age in B.C., 200,640 were employed, 136,720
were not in the labour force and 18,060 were unemployed. Disabled persons were
significantly more often not in the labour force compared to those without disabilities
(38.5% vs. 21.5%, respectively). (BC Stats, 2009, p. 8)
If Prince‘s formula is applied to those statistics, it would mean that close to 80,000 additional
people could enter the workforce in BC and provide a solution to the looming labour shortage.
Unfortunately, because of their marginalization, persons with disabilities and their
families are often poor (ILO, 2010; Prince, 2009). ILO correlated that poor people are more
inclined to becoming disabled because of their living conditions, and, conversely, the lack of
opportunities for education and work for persons with disabilities lead to poverty. Therefore,
integrating persons with disabilities in the workplace has benefits beyond the organizational
context. It provides ―win-win solution[s]‖ (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2008, p. 269) to employers and
the disability community, as well as for society. Buckup (2009) related that excluding persons
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 34
with disabilities is costing Canadian and global societies. He reported that, according to previous
research, Canada lost, on an annual basis, ―US$ 55.8 billion or 7.7 per cent of Canada‘s 1993
GDP‖ (p. 1), and the world has lost between ―US$ 1.37 and US$ 1.94 trillion‖ (p. 1).
Wurst (2005) demonstrated the competitive advantage of employing persons with
disabilities in a book she authored, which featured a real case study of a company whose
majority of employees has disabilities. This company experienced a higher productivity rate than
its competitors, with labour costs 5% of gross sales compared to the 25 30% reported in the
industry (p. 188), which was achieved by paying competitive salaries. The owner had one core
philosophy: ―If you do this, you will have a better company financially and otherwise‖ (p. 191).
There is probably sufficient evidence to suggest that diversity in general and the inclusion
of persons with disabilities in the workplace have economic value. That being said, Slater et al.
(2008) argued that diversity can be a costly proposition if an organization is not seriously
committed to it. This is because without commitment, a dysfunctional diversity culture festered
by unproductive conflicts could emerge, defeating the good intentions of the program.
Leadership commitment and the development of an inclusive culture at BC Hydro are
unequivocally required to ensure a successful diversity program and organizational effectiveness.
Leading Heterogeneous Organizations
In this section of the chapter, discussions are concentrated on leadership, in either
functional or behavioural context. The rationales, which build on the preceding concepts,
highlight the importance of developing holistic leadership values at every level of the
organization, in order that the work environment becomes authentically inclusive. For these
reasons, the following subtopics are discussed: (a) organizational culture and leadership
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 35
commitment, (b) change management, (c) understanding prejudice, (d) leadership as a behaviour,
and (e) developing awareness.
Organizational Culture and Leadership Commitment
Leadership, as a behaviour at every level of the organization, provides the spirituality
required to incubate the values that are essential for inclusion. However, there is a distinct
relationship between functional leadership and organizational culture. It is incumbent on top
leaders to mandate an inclusive culture and to model the behaviour.
Schein (2004) recognized that there have been diverse conceptions and definitions of
organizational culture among scholars and practitioners. However, he formally defined
organizational culture as:
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its
problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to
be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to
perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (Culture Formally Defined section,
para. 1)
In other words, organizational culture is the collection of shared behaviours, beliefs, and
expectations that establish the rules of engagement among members of a group (Gewurtz &
Kirsh, 2009). Moreover, culture and leadership are ―two sides of the same coin‖ (Schein, 2004,
Culture and Leadership section, para. 1), and one has the ability to influence the other. Schein
explained that once cultures are established, ―they determine the criteria for leadership‖
(Summary & Conclusion section, para. 4), and, consequently, it is the role of the leader to
recognize the need for organizational change and to ―manage cultural evolution and change‖
(para. 4).
Therefore, as Miller (2008), Parris et al. (2006), Slater et al. (2008), and Sweeney (2009)
stressed, fostering a diversified work environment requires the commitment from the very top of
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 36
the organization. Slater et al. noted, ―The CEO and other top executives must be passionate about
and create a culture of inclusion‖ (p. 206). In order to create an inclusive culture committed to
diversity, leaders need to: (a) communicate the importance of diversity; (b) disseminate
accountability and responsibility among senior and middle managers throughout the
organization; (c) mandate inclusive hiring practices; (d) advocate respect through sensitivity
training and mission statements; and (e) value, recognize, and reward contributions (Miller,
2008; Parris et al., 2006; Slater et al., 2008; Sweeney, 2009). Additionally, it is at that the top
leadership level that discrimination needs to be addressed. Leaders who do not confront
discriminatory behaviours in their organizations send the message that the behaviours are
tolerated, and, consequently, discrimination remains pervasive (Robert & Harlan, 2006).
Further, for diversity to be embraced across the organization, senior and middle managers
must be visibly involved and relentlessly communicate the benefits. Otherwise, diversity
initiatives risk to be viewed as just another HR program (Slater et al., 2008). Managers also need
to connect diversity to the successful achievement of strategic objectives and business goals,
because ―for meaningful commitment to occur in an organization, employees must understand
and embrace the business case for diversity‖ (p. 206). Reporting successful metrics is important,
but it is not enough. Individuals also need to know that their efforts are making a difference
beyond the organization, extending into the community, and that their accomplishments are
noble (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).
Change Management
As mentioned earlier, leadership can shape culture; however, other members of the
organization also exert considerable influence (Schein, 2004). Creating an inclusive workplace is
a process of change management and individual and organizational learning (Wooten, 2008).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 37
Change is typically encountered with some level of resistance among organizational
members. Academics have established the thesis that ―resistance is as much part of the human
psyche as are needs, fear, and anger‖ (Burke, Lake, & Paine, 2009, p. 334). In acting resistant,
people demonstrate their concern about what is about to be lost in the change. Resistance may be
a mechanism to protect some ideal in which people are emotionally invested, such as
maintaining a position of status and receiving financial rewards (Watson, 2009, p. 371).
However, people might act out resistance as a means to communicate to the leadership their
concerns about sustaining a high level of organizational performance (Piderit, 2009). Conversely,
Piderit concluded, ―What some may perceive as disrespectful or unfounded opposition might
also be motivated by individual‘s ethical principles or by their desire to protect the organization‘s
best interests‖ (p. 421).
For these reasons, it is important to engage concerned stakeholders in the change process.
People need to be able to talk openly about the unspeakable, concerns, and fears and to be
involved in the solution. Typically, people are invested in their ideas, and organizational change
is likely to be more successful when the concerns of the members are considered and
incorporated into future plans, rather than trying to persuade them to adopt an HR program. In
this way, people can become aware of how they contribute to the issues and transform their
behaviours accordingly (Weisbord, 2004). Jick (2009) made the case about the importance of
getting people involved by saying,
No organization can institute change if its employees will not, at the very least, accept the
change. No change will ―work‖ if employees don‘t help in the effort. And change is not
possible without people changing themselves. Any organization that believes change can
take hold without considering how people will react to it is in deep delusion. (p. 404)
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 38
Understanding Prejudice
Understanding how prejudices emerge is important to the development of personal
leadership characteristics. It is even more critical because prejudices are developed unwittingly
and entrenched in unconscious behaviours. Becoming aware of prejudices and bringing them
into question can make people stop and think about their reaction and adjust their behaviour.
As Robert and Harlan (2006) observed, some people assume that persons with disabilities
are slow, lack intelligence, and are mentally unable. These characterizations do not reflect the
way persons with disabilities see themselves. In turn, these persons infer that since certain
colleagues make attributions, everyone else must do the same, propagating the ill results of
prejudice. Therefore, it is important for everyone, including persons with disabilities, to
understand how prejudice is formulated and what can be done to overcome it.
Johnson-Laird (2006), Senge (2006), and Short (1998) agreed that prejudices are mental
models so deeply entrenched that people are not aware of them, which unwittingly affects their
beliefs and behaviours. Senge explained that mental models are essentially a strategy to simplify
complex phenomena into assumptions and generalizations, based on personal experiences and
beliefs. People create scenarios in their minds and become oblivious of facts that are incongruent
with their constructs of others and themselves, despite claims of having adopted certain values.
This gap in behaviour can be explained with Argyris‘ (2002) concept of ―espoused theories [and]
theories-in-use‖ (p. 212). An espoused theory might be a belief or a value that is held, but
actually the theory-in-use (e.g., mental model) creates contradictory behaviour. For example, an
employer may believe in diversity and inclusion and still discard the résumé of a person with a
disability, making the unfunded assumption that the person cannot perform the requirements of
the job. Further, Schur et al. (2005) suggested that certain personality factors are more conducive
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 39
to prejudice, by explaining, ―Prejudice is greater among employees who are high on aggression,
anxiety, dogmatism, ethnocentrism, general prejudice, or who have limited tolerance for
ambiguity or poor self-concept and body satisfaction‖ (p. 11).
Leadership as a Behaviour
The full integration of persons with disabilities in the workplace depends on changing
attitudes (Schur et al., 2005). For this to happen, all members of the organization need to become
aware of their mental models and recognize when they are distorting reality. They need to
develop leadership skills, which are not necessarily reserved for top executives. As such,
leadership, as a behaviour, is presented as the main tenet in the following discussion (Kouzes &
Posner, 2007).
Kouzes and Posner (2007) stated, ―The instrument of leadership is the self, and mastery
of the art of leadership comes from mastery of the self‖ (p. 344). To me, this quote inspires
people to learn continually about the impact they have on others, develop moral values, and
engage in holistic leadership behaviours. Kouzes and Posner conducted a cross-cultural study
and confirmed what other researchers had concluded before: The most admired characteristic of
leadership is honesty, and honesty is the window to values and ethics. Covey (2006) noted that
many people interchange the words honesty and integrity, but he observed that leaders could be
honest in that they are telling the truth, but still be perceived as not being honest because their
actions appear disconnected. Covey continued that integrity is the coalescence of honesty with
congruence, humility, and courage. Congruence is the alignment of values and behaviours, which
is noticeable to others (p. 62). Humility means to engage in leadership behaviours that are void
of arrogance and to recognize the contributions of others, placing principles before ego (p. 63).
Finally, having courage entails doing the right thing, even when faced with dissension. In that
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 40
context, integrity is the foundation of trust (p. 64). As Covey concluded, ―Most massive
violations of trust are violation of integrity‖ (p. 54).
Personal mastery is only achieved when leaders continue to learn (Senge, 2006). First,
they learn about themselves and become self-aware (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). Self-awareness is
a function of emotional intelligence and is an important characteristic of effective leadership
(Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002). Goleman et al. defined emotional intelligence simply as
―being intelligent about emotions‖ (p. ix). When leaders are self-aware, they understand how
their beliefs and values influence their outlook (Hayes, 2003), and they can transcend their
assumptions (Bloom & Mac-Bride-King, 2010). Therefore, self-awareness is an essential step in
overcoming prejudices, but compassion is also required.
Goleman et al. (2002) expressed that emotionally intelligent leaders have empathy: ―the
sine qua non of all social effectiveness in working life‖ (p. 50). Empathy endows people with an
additional sense to capture subtle cues in others and interpret them more accurately. Goleman
(1994) said that empathy enables reading emotions in others, in order to understand their
perspectives, become sensitive to their feelings, and really listen to them. With empathy, people
shelve egocentric perspectives so that they can care for others, act more altruistically, and have
more compassion. Compassion can grow over time. Senge (2006) reflected that the more people
can see others within their own circumstances and anxieties, the more they naturally develop
compassion. Incorporating caring and compassion in the organizational fabric fosters a trusting
environment. It would be difficult to have a trusting environment if leaders are not caring.
Inclusion is only possible in organizations led by honest and caring leaders with the integrity to
foster a culture of collaboration and trust (Bloom-Mac Bride-King, 2010; Covey, 2006; Kouzes
& Posner, 2007).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 41
Developing Awareness
As already mentioned, personal mastery means that the learning is continual (Senge,
2006). Witherspoon and Cannon (2009) claimed that leaders who are open to learning
demonstrate respect and contribute to a collaborative environment, and their inclination has
reverberating effect in the organization. They said:
By maintaining a learning orientation, the leader conveys openness and respect and the
potential for flexibility and creative collaboration. When others sense this openness, they
are more likely to get involved and get on board rather than resist or take a ―wait and see‖
approach. (p. 619)
Training programs are helpful to overcome the stigma associated with disabilities as they
increase awareness and sensitize stakeholders who can learn to appreciate the value of diversity
(Miller, 2008; Parris et al., 2006; Wright, 2001). The efficacy of diversity training can be
increased with the involvement of senior managers by way of attendance, introduction, and
reinforced messaging. Another way to increase awareness is to prepare co-workers to the
introduction of persons with disabilities into the workplace by answering questions and
addressing concerns (Wright, 2001).
However, some academics have argued that the elucidation of sensitivity training is
typically short lived, because attitudes can be so deeply entrenched that people revert back to
their old ways of thinking and behaving under the constraints of the workplace (Watson, 2009).
Some authors have claimed research has demonstrated that ―many programs not only failed to
accomplish the intended goals, but also resulted in social conflict—divisiveness, hostility,
backlash, and an increase in litigation‖ (Chavez & Weisinger, 2008, p. 331). Reportedly, this is
because organizations are ―managing diversity [instead of] managing for diversity‖ (p. 332). A
good approach is to create an organizational culture that emphasizes the uniqueness of diverse
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 42
talents, rather than providing training that highlights the differences of individuals, which often
results in more resilient stereotypes (pp. 332 334).
Chavez and Weisinger (2008) made the case for an active learning approach, where
formal presentations are followed by stories told by members of the group about their own
personal experiences, over several sessions. This way, there is no special emphasis on one
diverse group over another, allowing participants to be open and to learn from shared stories. In
this learning model, the facilitator‘s role is to ―‗tease out‘ and adapt the stories to key issues
within the organization‖ (p. 343) by asking relevant questions. Participation in sharing personal
stories needs to be voluntary, and how much people share should be left to their discretion. This
approach fosters an environment that enables deep discussions about sensitive issues. Wheatley
(2005) confirmed, ―The exchange of perceptions of self and others unites groups in powerful
ways. People learn to accept themselves, to trust one another, and to resolve their differences"
(p. 353).
Inclusion requires a climate of integrity, trust, respect, altruism, compassion, and caring.
Change is possible in an environment that fosters learning, by being alert and open to new
information. Generally, people working at BC Hydro have busy jobs and are focused on meeting
the requirements of their employment contracts. Taking the time to develop some awareness
about disabilities would go a long way not only to remove barriers, but also to create an
environment of trust. With trust, persons with disabilities will be more likely to self-disclose,
creating exposure and increased awareness. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the
workplace depends on the commitment of organizational members who think that ―leadership is
not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart‖ (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 351).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 43
CHAPTER THREE: CONDUCT OF ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT
Introduction
This project has attempted to answer the main research question: What recruitment
strategies could Corporate HR implement to ensure that BC Hydro‘s inclusion objectives for
persons with disabilities are achieved? The sub-questions have also been answered: What
barriers to employment at BC Hydro are perceived to exist by persons with disabilities? What
physical and social realities exist within BC Hydro that could contribute to perceived barriers of
recruitment for persons with disabilities? How could perceived barriers to employment be
eliminated or minimized within the operational realities of BC Hydro?
In this chapter, I provide a brief rationale about the selection of action research as the
preferred methodology to answer the above questions, how the stakeholders were identified, how
the study was conducted, and what tools of inquiry were used. Then, a discussion ensues about
case-ordered display as the method of analyzing the findings. In order to maximize the
confidentiality of the participants and narrow down the possibility of identification, I relate to
them throughout the report in general terms by not using possessives, pronouns, and other words
that could identify gender or other characteristics. This chapter ends with a discussion on ethical
issues, demonstrating diligence in exercising the kind of duty of care advocated in Stringer
(2007).
Research Approach
Because this research has investigated the complex dynamics of inclusion of persons with
disabilities in the workplace, action research was a preferred option as compared to the
positivistic or experimental approach of quantitative research. Stringer (2007) conveyed
quantitative inquiry typically leads to ―generalized solutions‖ (p. 5). He reasoned the purpose of
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 44
action research is to explore the experience of people, get clarity about the issues, and identify
solutions to problems. Action research is an effective ―methodical process of inquiry‖ (p. 4) that
requires the use of qualitative methods. It involves repeated ―observation, reflection, and action‖
(p. 9), although not necessarily in that sequence, and the collaboration of many stakeholders. In
sum, action research is based on consensual collaboration between various parties to achieve
common goals, with the researcher as an active contributor.
Additionally, Miles and Huberman (1994) suggested that quantitative research places an
emphasis on people and the meaning they place on their life experiences, which are based on
their own perceptions in relation to the world around them. Consequently, action research was
selected because the issues examined focussed on a particular group of employees and their
experiences in the workplace. The findings needed to be holistic and specific enough in order to
formulate pertinent and workable strategies to improve the inclusion rate of persons with
disabilities at BC Hydro. Conversely, quantitative research with relatively small groups of
participants would have provided statistical information too superficial and impersonal to be of
relevance (Palys & Atchison, 2008).
Project Participants
The purpose of this study was to examine the barriers to employment and the employee
experiences persons with disabilities have when they get recruited and once they have entered
the workplace at BC Hydro. Therefore, persons with disabilities currently employed at BC
Hydro and others who worked for external organizations were invited to participate and share
their diverse perspectives and various experiences, allowing the exploration and comparison of
inclusion practices between the organizations. In addition, one individual who is currently
unemployed was also interviewed, in order to understand the challenges faced by persons with
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 45
disabilities when they search for employment. Finally, BC Hydro leaders were asked to share
their vision and impart their respective views about the company‘s diversity goal.
The purpose of action research is not only to uncover what is happening, but also to
achieve an understanding of how different people or groups view the truth from their own
perspectives (Stringer, 2007). Moreover, selecting stakeholders from various levels of BC Hydro
and from other organizations provided ―multiple sources of evidence‖ (Yin, 2008, p. 98). This
important principle served to triangulate the findings and reveal either similar or contradicting
experiences. The data could then be juxtaposed and analyzed, contributing to validated
conclusions. Senge (2006) advocated that examining the interrelationships surrounding an issue
will help people look at reality in a different way, resulting in better solutions. Further, the
engagement of senior people and getting their support should ―ensure legitimacy‖ (Coghlan &
Brannick, 2005, p. 72) for the project and facilitate the successful implementation of
recommendations.
I did not work with a research team. However, I collaborated with my sponsor and other
HR stakeholders who are accountable to implement programs toward achieving BC Hydro‘s
diversity goals. Also, my academic supervisor, Dr. Rich Brown, has coached me throughout the
research and the writing of this report.
Research Methods and Tools
The rationale behind the selection of structured interviews as a preferred tool to gather
the data is described in this section. Then, the procedures used in selecting participants,
establishing trusting rapport, conducting the interviews, and interpreting the data are explained in
details.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 46
Research Tools
Structured Interviews
In the planning phase of this project, given the sensitivity of the topic, I was mindful that
participants might be reluctant to speak in group settings. Some might have unpopular views that
they did not wish to express in public. Others might have invisible disabilities, in the way of
clinically diagnosed mental illness or learning challenges, which they wanted to keep to
themselves (Palys & Atchison, 2008). Therefore, individual structured interviews were selected
as a preferred data gathering tool over group methods. The chosen method created the intimacy
required to elicit authentic stories and provided triangulation.
Triangulation is the strategic combination of various research methods, inclusive of the
diverse perspectives of all stakeholders, which contributes to data integrity (Glesne, 2006). In
this case, the triangulation strategy involved gathering data from four distinct groups: (a) BC
Hydro employees with disabilities, (b) employed external persons with disabilities, (c) one
unemployed external person with disabilities, and (d) BC Hydro leaders. All persons with
disabilities were asked the exact same questions to elicit discussions about the barriers or the
level of inclusiveness they currently experience. For the BC Hydro leadership participants, the
questions were posed differently to invite their perception of the physical and social experiences
employees with disabilities have in the workplace and to share their views about inclusion.
Questions aimed at making recommendations were posed to all participants. This triangulation
approach was consistent with Miles and Huberman‘s (1994) suggestion ―to pick triangulation
sources that have different biases, different strengths, so they can complement each other‖
(p. 267).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 47
Pilot Test
A pilot was run in my home with a friend who has had experience in research. For the
purpose of the pilot, she played the role of someone with a disability, based on her experience
with a close family member who has a chronic illness. After the test, we determined the question
protocol was sound, and my friend provided feedback and encouraged a conversational style.
Additionally, I informed the first participant that the interview was the first and, therefore, was
part of the pilot phase. The interview was experienced successfully, and the contributions from
this person could be used. At that point, I determined that testing was no longer required. The
pilot was in accord with Glesne (2006), who recommended testing the questions with others,
including participants from the study group, and encouraging respondents to think critically
about the questions and to provide feedback.
Study Conduct
Selection and Invitation of the Participants
Rebecca Clapperton, who is Manager, Diversity and my sponsor, first introduced the
research project to her workgroup by way of e-mail in March 2010. She summarized the purpose
for sponsoring the project and she framed some of the expected outcomes. Rebecca reported that
the news was received enthusiastically by her colleagues. In June 2010, Rebecca e-mailed a
larger group of employees and managers at BC Hydro to launch the research and invite people to
share their stories. People who were interested in contributing replied to her e-mail with the
signed BC Hydro consent form as an attachment, which was required by the Freedom of
Information Co-ordination Office at BC Hydro. Rebecca then forwarded me the e-mails.
For the external group, I identified organizations providing services to the disability
community. Additionally, I asked Rebecca for a list of outreach partners who had worked with
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 48
BC Hydro in the past. I integrated both sources into a list of potential partners who could help
find prospects employed with other organizations. I sent a personal e-mail to each organization
introducing the research and requesting assistance to access participants (see Appendix A). Some
of the contacts posted the research, by e-mail or otherwise, and invited their clients to participate.
None of their clients came forward. However, some of the disability service organizations
contacted had employees who were interested, and they offered their participation. Then, one
person decided to join in after learning about the research through the networking of another
participant.
Once the list of participants was confirmed, I e-mailed them individually and asked if
they preferred using their e-mail address at home or their work e-mail. Based on their choices, I
sent individual e-mails containing a formal invitation, the consent form, a list of the questions,
and the Royal Roads University ethics approval letter (see Appendices B, C, D, and E). Once
they returned the signed consent form, I sent locked meeting requests via e-mail and asked them
to choose a private and comfortable location (Glesne, 2006). I met with them in person if they
were within reasonable traveling distance; otherwise, I asked for a phone number so we could
have a telephone interview. Of the BC Hydro individuals, many who were within geographical
reach chose to meet privately in meeting rooms located on BC Hydro premises, one person
requested to meet at home, and two others were interviewed over the phone. Participants in more
remote areas of BC were contacted by telephone. Most external participants were met in person,
except for one who answered the questions in writing and forwarded the answers via e-mail.
Creating Trusting Rapport and Prolonged Engagement
At the beginning of each interview, I introduced myself, explained the purpose of the
project, reviewed the stipulations of the consent letter (see Appendix C), and emphasized
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 49
participation was elective and the individual was free to withdraw at any time. I added that,
instead of taking notes, our discussion would be captured with a digital recorder in order for me
to be fully attentive to them and to retrieve the conversation fully for accurate transcription. For
people interviewed by telephone, I went through the same process and added that I would put
them on speaker phone so that the interview could be recorded. I advised them that I was alone
in my home and that no one could overhear our conversation. The participants‘ confidentiality
was secured by using an alias on the recordings. The actual names and aliases were referenced
on a separate record hidden in my personal office (Glesne, 2006).
In action research, prolonged engagement is imperative in ensuring participants have the
time to get comfortable enough with the process and to encourage open communication
(Stringer, 2007). One of the strategies I used for prolonged engagement was simply giving
participants a list of questions ahead of time, which allowed them to reflect and gave them a
chance to think about the answers, so that they could contribute meaningful stories. Also, this
strategy allowed participants to withdraw, if they wished, before finding themselves in an
awkward situation during the interview.
I did not know most of the participants, and it was important to develop a trusting
relationship and to maintain rapport. Trust and rapport was established by asking carefully
worded and sequenced questions, starting with ones that explored generalities and building
toward more focused inquiry, finally getting closer to the heart of the issues. Moreover, rapport
could be established by people who were motivated to share their story and get something out of
their participation (Glesne, 2006).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 50
Conducting the Interviews and Data Gathering
A total of 16 participants were categorized in four distinctive groups. I gathered data
from 6.5 employees with disabilities within BC Hydro, 4.5 employed individuals with
disabilities from external organizations, 1 unemployed person with a disability, and 4 BC Hydro
leaders. The 0.5 representation, in both external and internal groups, reflects one participant who
was employed by an outsourcing partner, but who was embedded in the BC Hydro workplace.
The findings from this participant were tabulated according to the context of the questions.
Disabled persons either had sensory disabilities, such as in hearing loss and visual impairment;
mobility impairments; mental health issues; or cognitive issues.
Most interviews took under 60 minutes. After the ethical issues were addressed, I usually
started the interviews with a greeting question, such as a simple: ―How are you doing?‖ Then, I
turned on the digital recorder and asked the protocol questions (see Appendix D), which were
designed based on structured interviewing. This method entailed the use of open-ended questions
and allowed the freedom to create new questions in order to explore impromptu concepts as they
emerged (Glesne, 2006). At times, when I required clarity about the actors in the stories or the
feelings of the interviewees, I asked extension questions, such as ―tell me more‖; encouragement
questions, such as ―yeah, go on‖; and specific questions, like ―tell me how you felt about the
situation‖ (Stringer, 2007). I facilitated conversations while remaining mindful not to lead the
answers to feed my bias (Glesne, 2006; Palys & Atchison, 2008). The remainder of the questions
were posed in a way to foster the development of collaborative recommendations. Finally, one
last question delved into the feelings about the use of terminology.
Meeting participants in person was preferred, but the phone interviews also provided an
adequate level of contact. This personal contact and structured interviews presented the
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 51
opportunity for more detailed and deeper conversations, the ability to probe, and the benefit of
observation (Palys & Atchison, 2008). My observations, whether from body language or other
sensory cues, confirmed a positive reaction from all participants during the interview.
Transcription
Soon after the meetings or telephone calls, I transcribed the raw data from the digital
recorder into separate text documents, each replicating an individual interview. According to
Miles and Huberman (1994), this step renders the recordings legible and prepares the data for
any analysis methods selected by the researcher. The transcripts were electronically forwarded to
their respective originators so they could verify accuracy if they wished. In addition to ensuring
integrity, this strategy also provided a level of credibility to the findings, which is critical in
getting buy-in for the recommendations in the final report and for change to occur (Stringer,
2007). Then, I printed the transcripts making sure the alias and the group was on the top of the
first page for each of them and sorted them by stakeholder category. This way the data were
ready to analyze using a case-ordered display method (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Data Analysis
Case-Ordered Display
Following the transcription of the raw voice data into print form, I created a case-ordered
descriptive matrix (Miles & Huberman, 1994), which I divided into three specific cased-ordered
displays: one for internal employee group, a second for external employee groups, and the third
one for the BC Hydro leadership sampling. Glesne (2006) concurred that data display, as
recommended in Miles and Huberman‘s work, is a useful visual tool to ―assist in making
meaning of data, as well as in exposing the gaps or the areas where more data are needed‖
(p. 155).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 52
Miles and Huberman (1994) defined data analysis as ―consisting of three concurrent
flows of activity: data reduction, data display, and conclusion drawing/verification‖ (p. 10), and
noted ―unreduced text alone is a weak and cumbersome form of display‖ (p. 91). Therefore, as a
first cut, I scrutinized the transcripts and proceeded to enter the data in the spreadsheet under the
appropriate participant. This process also served to reduce the data by dismissing duplication of
input from the same participant and irrelevant side conversations. However, as Miles and
Huberman advised, I was cautious to preserve the context from which the data emanated.
Glesne (2006) suggested, in analysing the data, the researcher needs to look beyond the
stories and start making connections to find the themes and patterns consistent from the stories.
Raw data from the interviews went through iteration, this time clumping the data into themes,
which was helpful to categorize ―like-minded pieces together in data clumps‖ (p. 152) and allow
taxonomies to emerge. Cataloguing themes in this manner had the added benefit of facilitating
the identification of study findings and contributing to the logical flow of the report (Glesne,
2006). I proceeded to integrate the findings and developed the story (Glesne, 2006).
Credibility of the Research
Regarding credibility, Stringer (2007) has said,
Rigor in action research is based on checks to ensure that the outcomes of research are
trustworthy—that they do not merely reflect the particular perspectives, biases, or
worldview of the researcher and that they are not based solely on superficial or simplistic
analyses of the issues investigated. (p. 57)
Stringer denoted the credibility of the research is improved if the researcher utilizes a few
strategies that foster trust. One of the ways to ensure rigor in the project was to have participants
review their interview transcript for accuracy. Additionally, ―diverse case analysis‖ (p. 58),
which included the perspectives of various stakeholders, ensured the data were balanced. These
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 53
three methods of verification were incorporated in the inquiry, analysis, and conclusions phases
of the research.
Additionally, to test the trustworthiness of data interpretation, Glesne (2006) proposed
four questions: ―What do you notice? Why do you notice what you notice? How can you
interpret what you notice? How can you know that your interpretation is the ‗right‘ one?‖
(p. 166). In asking myself these questions, I could reflect and critically think in order to invoke
my awareness of what could be missing, not seen, or misinterpreted, and I could also examine
my assumptions, motives, and commitments. As Glesne suggested, I asked my supervisor to look
at the ordered-case display and asked for feedback on the themes I thought had emerged. Further,
during the analysis of the data, if questions of integrity came to my awareness, I went back to the
original transcripts to verify the contextual validity of the findings.
Moreover, as I was conducting the research, I became aware of the limitations, which
were consistent with the emergent nature of action projects in general. I have brought attention to
them in the next chapter under the appropriate section. This fact should contribute to the
credibility of the report and help people interpret my work (Glesne, 2006).
Ethical Issues
This research had for objective to improve the experience persons with disabilities have
in the workplace. This constituent group and the other participants have merited my ethical
vigilance in every activity associated with this project. In turn, it was imperative that participants
had rich and rewarding experiences free from any retribution (Glesne, 2006). Therefore, in all
aspects of the research I followed the guiding principles of Royal Roads University Research
Ethics Policy. The eight principles are respect for human dignity, respect for free and informed
consent, respect for vulnerable persons, respect for privacy and confidentiality, respect for
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 54
justice and inclusiveness, balancing harms and benefits, minimizing harm, and maximizing
benefits (Royal Roads University, 2010, Section D).
Respect for Human Dignity
Palys and Atchison (2008) avowed as researchers, ―we have a humanistic obligation to
treat people with dignity and safeguard their interests‖ (p. 70). In the research context, the choice
of words matters, as it may prejudice and impose labels. My first ethical challenge was the
obvious bias in the way our society refers to the physically disabled and the mentally ill. The
American Psychological Association (2001) acknowledged ―the guiding principle for
‗nonhandicapping‘ language is to maintain the integrity of individuals as human beings …
language that equates persons with their condition‖ (p. 69) should be avoided. I learned in doing
this research that the term, persons with disabilities, is acceptable to that community. Therefore, I
used the term throughout this report.
Respect for Free and Informed Consent
Stringer (2007) cautioned, ―As researchers we have a ‗duty of care‘ in relation to all
people we engage in the process of investigation‖ (p. 54). Participants were asked to participate
without coercion and had the right of refusal. Also, at any time during the research, participants
were allowed to withdraw. No one did. The purpose of the project was enunciated right at the
onset (see Appendices A and B). At all times, contributors could expect transparency of purpose
and process.
Respect for Vulnerable Persons
Contributors to my research included persons with sensory impairment, persons with
mobility issues, persons diagnosed with mental illness, and a person with cognitive issues. Even
if written consent was given, as the researcher, I had the responsibility to determine whether or
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 55
not a research activity should be pursued. Palys and Atchison (2008) advocated, ―No gain in
knowledge can justify the denial of human dignity that is involved when human beings are
treated as no more than means to an end‖ (p. 70).
Respect for Privacy and Confidentiality
Glesne (2006) confirmed that participants typically have great concerns when it comes to
the preservation of their privacy. At the onset of the research, BC Hydro‘s Freedom of
Information Co-ordination Office advised that all participants would have to sign its consent
form and present it to the project sponsor, Rebecca Clapperton, before I could invite them. This
resulted in employees revealing their participation willingly to Rebecca. However, I have neither
discussed with her individual testimonies nor shared the raw data. Glesne suggested, ―Respect
confidentiality by not discussing with anyone the specifics of what you see and hear‖ (p. 138).
Anonymity of internal participants could not be preserved, but confidentiality has.
Respect for Justice and Inclusiveness
The inclusion of all stakeholders in the investigative phase was critical to the outcome of
the research project (Stringer, 2007). As the researcher, I needed to foster a climate of trust and
acceptance where exchanges of mutual interest could be done freely in order to create solutions
to common problems. An environment that encouraged the concentration of power with a certain
group was avoided.
Balancing Harms and Benefits
Stringer (2007) related the purpose of research is to contribute to information that
describes the issues from the perspective of various stakeholders and to deepen understanding.
Given that the contributors to this research had various hierarchic relationships, the data gathered
provided much insight into the problem, which was a benefit. However, I had to be cognizant of
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 56
the sensitivities the problem posed and the precarious positions into which people could have
been placed if a connection was made between a contributor and an unpopular view. Whether
this connection is true or assumed, it could prove to be harmful to the contributor in the way of
embarrassment, loss of reputation, and even harassment (Palys & Atchison, 2008).
Minimizing Harm
Glesne (2006) asserted, ―All unnecessary risks to a research subject must be eliminated‖
(p. 130). The constituency group was particularly susceptible to emotional and reputational
harm. I paid close attention to how I presented the data and suggestions received, to ensure that
no harm ensued from the final report.
Maximizing Benefits
The purpose of this project was to improve the experience of all participants.
Furthermore, the benefits should also extend to other areas of the organization and provide
insights into a diverse and productive workplace. Glesne (2006) emphasized, ―Benefits to the
subject or society, preferably both, must outweigh all potential risks‖ (p. 130).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 57
CHAPTER FOUR: ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
Introduction
The findings of the study have provided considerable input in answering the main
research question and sub-questions. The main question was: What recruitment strategies could
Corporate HR implement to ensure that BC Hydro‘s inclusion objectives for persons with
disabilities are achieved? Since this question was more designed to invite strategic
recommendations, it is properly addressed in chapter five along with the sub-question: How
could perceived barriers to employment be eliminated or minimized within the operational
realities of BC Hydro? The following sub-questions are answered in this chapter: (a) What
barriers to employment at BC Hydro are perceived to exist by persons with disabilities, and (b)
What physical and social realities exist within BC Hydro that could contribute to perceived
barriers of recruitment for persons with disabilities?
Participants were comprised of four distinct groups: (a) 6.5 persons with disabilities
employed at BC Hydro, (b) 4.5 persons with disabilities employed with other organizations,
(c) one person with disability who was currently unemployed, and (d) four BC Hydro leaders.
The 0.5 representation, in both external and internal groups, reflects one participant who was
employed by an outsourcing partner, but who was embedded in the BC Hydro workplace. The
findings from this participant were tabulated according to the context of the questions. Disabled
persons either had sensory disabilities such as in hearing loss and visual impairment, mobility
impairments, mental health issues, or cognitive issues.
The method of inquiry was through structured interviews (see Appendix D). The
participants with disabilities in the three groups were asked the same questions. The leaders were
asked slightly different questions oriented toward providing findings from a leadership lens.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 58
Findings from these various perspectives provided the triangulation of the data. The data was
sorted into three specific case-ordered displays representing each group of participants.
The discussions begin with the study findings, which are arranged in five overarching
topics divided into associated themes. The conclusions make reference to findings and overlap in
some cases. Then, scope and limitations of the research are examined.
Study Findings
There were five overarching findings to the study: (a) barriers to recruitment,
(b) employment requirements at BC Hydro, (c) employee experience relating to perceived
physical realities, (d) employee experience relating to perceived social realities, and (e) BC
Hydro leaders‘ perspectives.
Finding One: Barriers to Recruitment
For most people, the recruitment process is a critical stage to enter the workforce
successfully. Persons with disabilities face challenges during recruitment, which can eliminate
their chances for employment. The study revealed the following barriers: (a) negative societal
attitudes prevail, (b) people are reluctant to disclose their disabilities, and (c) persons with
sensory impairment face additional barriers early in the recruitment process.
Negative Societal Attitudes Prevail
During the interviews, most participants expressed that stigma and discrimination prevail
in society in relation with the employment of persons with disabilities, and this has created a
barrier for them. Participants attributed the situation to lack of awareness and discomfort around
disabilities.
Not all employers discriminate, as demonstrated by persons with disabilities in the study
who were currently employed. However, based on their personal experiences and observations,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 59
participants indicated that discrimination persists. One interviewee expressed, ―There seems to
be a prejudice out there that still needs to be overcome.‖ Participants related that if employers
have not experienced the success of integrating persons with disabilities in the workplace, they
fear that these people will not fit in or perform adequately. Employers with misguided attitudes
toward disabilities make hiring decisions based on attribution and discriminate. They are not
forthright about their reasoning. Rather, they disqualify a candidate on the grounds of not having
the prerequisites for the job. A participant elaborated,
They can come up with all kinds of reasons because they are not going to be stupid
enough to say, ―Oh yeah, you have a disability!‖ They are going to say whatever: They
found another qualified candidate or they are going to start getting pickier about
credentials.
The interviewee who was unemployed revealed that mainstream recruiting consultants,
who are supposedly facilitators in connecting the right people to the right employer and helping
people find jobs, continue to ignore the pool of talent with disabilities. By wanting to present a
flawless product to their clients, these agencies have a culture that perpetuates discrimination,
contributing to the isolation of persons with disabilities. The interviewee averred, ―They want the
nicest products, and this doesn‘t include persons with disabilities. I think these agencies
discriminate, and their development is worrisome. I‘ve had several deceiving, even outrageous
experiences. I‘ve avoided these recruiters, ever since.‖
Moreover, lack of awareness steers people toward making assumptions about the
intellectual capabilities of persons with disabilities and overlooking them altogether. This is
because, as one participant noted, people assume a person with a disability is ―not worth talking
to . . . [or] not very smart.‖ Another interviewee thought that the bigger issue was not so much
that people do not want to interact with persons with disabilities; they just do not have the skills
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 60
to do it. This person surmised, ―I think the biggest social barrier is people‘s sense of
awkwardness, people not knowing what to do.‖
People Are Reluctant to Disclose Their Disabilities
The research suggested that people are reluctant to disclose their disabilities during the
job recruitment process, because they fear discrimination from potential employers. The situation
poses a challenge for an employer like BC Hydro wanting to access this talent pool and meet
diversity objectives. Consequently, not disclosing raises a barrier for persons with disabilities to
connect with the inclusive organization.
Persons with disabilities generally deliberate whether or not they should readily reveal
disabilities that are inconspicuous in the context of the job application. They say making the
wrong decision during the recruitment process can screen out recruits with disabilities and
preclude them altogether as viable and qualified candidates, despite organizational claims of
inclusiveness. For this reason, they often elect not to disclose their conditions, to the extent
possible, as a common strategy to elude stigma and rejection. A participant remarked:
In a market like today, my chances will be 50/50 my application gets rejected because I
have a disability, even if they claim to be inclusive. . . . We have debated that in the
disability community whether or not we should [disclose]. That‘s a big challenge.
On the other hand, during the interviews, it became evident that BC Hydro‘s leadership is
looking for ways to become more diverse and cultivate a workforce characteristic of the labour
market. As one leader declared, ―We want to be the face of BC.‖ Therefore, in BC Hydro,
persons with disabilities have a potential employer who has an inclusion objective and has
improved hiring practices to attract this talent pool. On the application, candidates are invited to
designate if they belong to one of the legislated minority groups, which include persons with
disabilities, so that recruiters can take this into consideration when planning the interviews. Still,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 61
people are hesitant to disclose. A leader at BC Hydro stated, ―It‘s our hardest category for us to
attract and part of the problem is people are reluctant to self-identify. . . . Once we know, we can
take that into account and adjust the interview process appropriately. If we don‘t, it‘s difficult.‖
Persons with Sensory Impairments Face Additional Barriers Early in the Recruitment Process
The findings suggested that communication methods commonly used in the recruiting
process pose additional challenges for persons with sensory disabilities. In fact, what is an
accommodation for one, presents accessibility issues for the other.
Participants with hearing loss related that, as organizations are trying to cut costs and
save time, phone interviews are becoming more popular as part of the screening process. This is
a challenge, because even with the use of a hearing device, deaf persons said they have difficulty
hearing well on the telephone. Generally, in a first interview, people want to make a good first
impression: an opportunity that does not present itself again. For persons who are hard of
hearing, phone interviews present a barrier at a critical time of the employment process. Further,
one person noted that the situation compels applicants to disclose a disability, that is otherwise
invisible, and potentially face rejection. One deaf person affirmed, ―When I apply for a job, I
have to use the phone, and that‘s tricky. Sometimes, people don‘t understand and they don‘t want
to go further. It‘s kind of a barrier, a phone interview.‖ Therefore, deaf persons stated they prefer
using e-mail or showing up in person to make that initial contact.
Conversely, persons with visual impairment do not have a problem speaking on the
telephone. However, they experience other accessibility issues. These people need special
software or the assistance of others to read printed material or the computer screen. In today‘s
world, most organizations, including BC Hydro, post their job opportunities on-line. An
interviewee pointed out that BC Hydro‘s public website is not easily accessible for someone who
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 62
is visually impaired, because there is no voice option. This person remarked, ―If they‘re visually
impaired, they will have difficulty because . . . any assistive devices aren‘t available to the public
website.‖ This lack of accessibility adds an additional challenge for people with vision issues to
apply independently to career opportunities at BC Hydro.
Finding Two: Employment Requirements at BC Hydro
Interviewees discussed employment requirements from both employer and employee
perspectives. Leaders reported that BC Hydro has substantive employment requirements, and
this may be a barrier to inclusion, particularly when certain positions do not benefit from such
requirements. Interestingly, none of the disability groups reported high requirements as a barrier
to employment or even alluded to them as encumbering. Persons with disabilities indicated that
meeting the employers‘ requirements was imperative.
BC Hydro Has High Employment Requirements
BC Hydro is mandated to provide a reliable supply of electricity to all its customers. This
entails high operational standards and a skilled workforce capable of managing substantial risk.
Most leaders in the study indicated that a potential barrier to employment was the high
employment requirements at BC Hydro and the few entry-level positions available. One leader
noted that BC Hydro seeks candidates with educational credentials, with a minimum grade 12
Math and Physics and proper certification for skilled trades, and a university degree or a college
diploma for professional and management positions. Further, these high employment
requirements and the outsourcing of non-core services and more routine jobs have minimized
entry-level opportunities. This one leader affirmed, ―We don‘t have many jobs that are unskilled
or entry level . . . because the business we‘re in is highly risky.‖
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 63
Reportedly, the tasks and duties of many positions limit job opportunities for persons
with certain disabilities. The trades people working in the field have physical and potentially
dangerous jobs, which are often performed around live electrical wires. This could pose personal
and public safety concerns, exposing the company to risk. A leader noted, ―It depends on the
nature of the disability, because a third of our company is trades related. About 2,000 employees
are working in physical jobs, then again, if it is a physical disability.‖ Even jobs that are
characterized as office work can require the employee to be out on customer sites or to attend
external events on a regular basis. This would be difficult for people with mobility or vision
issues. In reflecting on the possibility of having someone in a wheelchair on the team, a leader
concluded, ―That might be an issue because a lot of time, they have to go on site.‖
Moreover, one leader mentioned that BC Hydro employs many engineers, accountants,
lawyers, HR professionals, marketing people, and communications experts. All these roles
require persons who have high levels of cognitive skills and knowledge, and who can reliably
perform their duties, in many cases, within established work schedules. The participant stated,
―The other 4,000 [employees] are what I‘d call knowledge workers. If you‘ve got a
psychological disability, mental health issue, it would depend on how self-managed that is and
[the] ability to perform in a demanding knowledge role.‖
One participant thought that the minimum of a Grade 12 Math and Physics is not always
required to perform well in certain jobs. This person felt that the requirements might exclude
otherwise qualified candidates from positions that have nothing to do with Math or Physics.
Giving the example of a customer service position in an office environment, this person
emphasized, ―There is no reason that it could not be done by a person with a disability as long as
they had the ability to answer the phone. . . . We are all looking for quality.‖
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 64
Persons with Disabilities Are Intent on Meeting Requirements
Interviewees with disabilities expressed they were mindful of meeting the employer‘s
requirements. Many were of the view that credentials, and not the disability, should influence the
hiring decision.
Other than to say they were performing well in their roles, persons with disabilities
employed at BC Hydro did not make observations about the employment requirements being a
barrier to employment. On the other hand, most external persons with disabilities in the study
made mention to requirements. This was probably because they work in organizations providing
services to the disability community, and the topic is top of mind. These interviewees did not
believe that disabilities should be the conduit to employment. They made statements, such as:
―Just because they have a disability does not give them the job.‖ Instead, they were determined
that persons with disabilities should have the skills and competency necessary to meet the
requirements of the employers. They cautioned, ―It‘s easy to get overly focused on the right of
the disabled person you‘ve accommodated. You also have to consider the needs of the employer
and the concerns of the employer.‖
When it came to performance and wanting to make a difference, most persons with
disabilities, from both internal and external groups, indicated they rise to the occasion. They
claimed to contribute to their organizations and help others. They work hard, do a good job, and
add value to their employers. They accommodate their disabilities as much as possible and are
creative in developing strategies to make them more effective in their work. Many expressed
similar sentiments to the participant who declared, ―I‘m accomplishing something of value for
the company. I feel fortunate to contribute on a positive scale.‖
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 65
Finding Three: Employee Experience Relating to Perceived Physical Realities
The study indicated that disabilities span widely in their nature and have a range of
variations within them. Therefore, accommodations are unique to each individual and difficult to
anticipate fully. The physical design of the environment and the methods of communication can
pose accessibility issues depending on the type of disability.
Accommodations are Difficult to Plan
Noticeably, many interviewees with disabilities already came with accommodations to
assist them with their disabilities. Persons with hearing loss had hearing devices, a visually
impaired person had an assistance dog, and the people with mental health issues were under
treatment. A participant related, ―For the most part, we, people with disabilities, come in with
what we need to do our job.‖ Even though they come prepared with their own accommodations,
adjustments are sometimes required in the physical environment.
Architectural features, such as ramps, wide hallways, adjusted washroom fixtures, and
elevators, are commonly incorporated in the design of renovations and new buildings to increase
accessibility. However, some accommodations cannot be totally planned until the person enters
the physical environment because these have to be customized to meet the needs of the persons.
For example, various participants said they had to have their workstation adjusted to increase
comfort, special software installed to improve their effectiveness, and their own office space
assigned to minimize background noises. Therefore, in planning accommodations, ―There are
things you don‘t encounter until you suddenly learn that you‘re not equipped to handle and you
have to figure it out at the time,‖ one leader acknowledged. Further, one participant echoed many
others in denoting that, in planning accommodations, ―There are no cookie cutter solutions.‖
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 66
Additionally, one interviewee pointed out details that people do not always contemplate
as needing accommodation. They are the everyday little activities of life that most people do
without giving much attention, like turning a door knob, carrying binders, or picking up
something off the floor. These mundane tasks are real hindrances for people with mobility issues.
A participant gave an example by musing, ―I don‘t think people realize a simple thing like a
bathroom tissue dispenser can be painful for some people to use because it‘s not adjusted
properly.‖
Further, employers need to recognize that persons with disabilities may be reluctant to
ask for accommodations because they do not want to bring attention to their disabilities. As one
participant revealed, ―You don‘t want to be seen as having a disability, not being able to fully
participate, be part of the team.‖ For an inclusive employer who is willing to accommodate,
making the right adjustments is difficult to plan because accessibility is relative to the disability,
and, even more, the leader may not be aware that the accommodation is needed. Therefore, a
participant believed that providing accommodations is a learning process that requires flexibility,
trust, communication, and humour, and the participant had come to the conclusion: ―The more
you try to develop a crystal ball, the more you‘re wrong.‖
Physical Accessibility Issues Exist at BC Hydro
Some facilities occupied by BC Hydro are older and do not meet present accessibility
code, making the manoeuvring of a wheelchair or the use of walker challenging. Renovations are
planned, but these take time.
None of the interviewees in the study were in a wheelchair. However, BC Hydro people
were well aware of accessibility issues in some of the buildings. A three-story building, in
particular, had no elevator, which led one person to wonder, ―I don‘t know how somebody who
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 67
was wheelchair bound would get to the third floor [without an elevator], which has all the
conference rooms.‖ Another building was in the process of being renovated, but inaccessibility
existed in some washrooms, the cafeteria, and some of the offices. Renovations to inaccessible
facilities are planned, but it is a process that requires resources and spans a period of time. Until
renovations are complete, accessibility challenges persist. A leader pointed out, ―We‘re
upgrading, but it‘s a process that has to wait until the renovations happen. In the meantime, it‘s
very challenging.‖
In addition, a participant noted that the design of the workplace at BC Hydro is often
configured with a number of workstations and with very few offices. In one building in
particular, on all eight floors leased by BC Hydro, there are only a few personal offices, which
are assigned to senior managers. This office style is a challenge when part of the accommodation
requires the employees to have quiet space either because they have concentration issues, they
need to use voice identification software, or they try to eliminate background noise in order for
their hearing devices to function properly. A leader related, ―The visually impaired, they may
need to have a computer or software with auditory capability, and that‘s a challenge in an open
office environment.‖
Methods of Communication can be Inaccessible for Persons with Sensory Impairments
Participants who have hearing loss and visual impairments experience verbal and written
communication differently. Therefore, they need to be accommodated accordingly.
Persons with visual impairment cannot read computer screens, printed material, or handwritten notes. The persons in the study required special technology to read back to them or
needed magnified computer screens. A participant revealed that, at BC Hydro, the IT system is
dated and is not well equipped to accommodate readily a blind person into the workplace.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 68
According to the participant‘s account, in such large organization, the IT department is
motivated to keep systems as standard as possible. Adjustments can be made on an exception
basis, and this takes time. The participant gave this example to illustrate the difficulty someone
with a visual impairment would have in just logging on the system: ―To even log on the security
system, you have to do it by typing. You can‘t use voice because you have to get into the system
before you can get into the voice software.‖
On the other hand, participants with hearing loss said they found verbal communications
challenging on the phone or during face-to-face interactions. Although they can hear somewhat
on the telephone, these participants relayed that it makes communication difficult because
hearing devices can pick up a lot of background sounds. These persons have to spend extensive
energy trying to decipher the words of the caller through all the feedback. One participant
explained, ―You‘re functioning with a piece of technology that is not functioning very well on
the phone.‖ In spite of many other available communication technologies, such as e-mail and
texting, much communication is generally conducted by telephone. ―At the end of the day,
people want to talk on the phone,‖ one interviewee affirmed. Moreover, during personal
interactions, persons who are hard of hearing rely on others to speak loudly enough, enunciate
properly, and look at the person to allow lip reading. A participant said simply, ―I need to see
your lips.‖
Finding Four: Employee Experience Relating to Perceived Social Realities
BC Hydro employees who participated in the study described both positive and negative
aspects of their employment experiences. The participants in the external group reported working
in inclusive environments.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 69
BC Hydro Employees Reported Positive Experiences
BC Hydro employees with disabilities who participated in the study reported generally
positive employee experiences. They appreciated the collaboration of others. They enjoyed
working with considerate and compassionate managers and colleagues.
When the question was posed about their interactions in the workplace, some participants
said having a wonderful experience and feeling lucky to have BC Hydro as an employer. They
felt that BC Hydro, at the organizational level, was on the journey toward inclusiveness as
evidenced by the many diverse people in the workforce. One interviewee declared, ―Overall, it‘s
been absolutely amazing. I love working at BC Hydro.‖
Many others, particularly those who had returned from disability leaves, mentioned
having received good support from the organization over the years. They valued certain
programs, namely the Employee and Family Assistance and the Return to Work programs. Some
cited having taken advantage of these in the past to help them resolve issues related to their
disabilities. This comment from one participant reflected others: ―BC Hydro as a corporation was
behind me . . . [and] is doing a great job with [its] programs.‖ Further, an interviewee expressed
that the fact this study was taking place was an indication that the organization cared about its
employees and decided to participate to show gratitude. This person shared, ―One of the things
that it shows is that BC Hydro is continuing to try to help its employees. For that, I loved to tell
you my story.‖
Participants, who had taken disability leaves and were assisted through the Return to
Work program, gave the coordinators raving reviews. These coordinators were said to be
cooperative in negotiating various alternatives with managers, including finding more suitable
positions, managing changes of status issues, and representing them in union transfers. The
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 70
coordinators were considered to be exceptional people who listened, understood, and
accommodated. A participant commented, ―The people who are involved in that are exceptional
at providing that link into the work place.‖
All interviewees, when describing their relationship with their managers, indicated their
appreciation of collaborative and supportive leaders who expressed some level of understanding
and compassion about the disability and who were willing to accommodate with flexibility.
Many participants had similar comments as this one who said, ―My work lead and manager, right
now, are quite compassionate people. They understand it‘s not easy.‖ Another participant
depicted having had the best experience with a particular leader who was accepting, emphasized
strengths, was a good teacher, and fostered a fun and productive environment. The person
recounted:
He made the office a fun place to work, a place where you could work a lot, and he
taught; he was a great teacher. He realized everybody has their strengths and weaknesses.
He seemed to be able to accept you for your strengths. If there was a weakness, he tried
to assist you with that. That was the best manager I‘d ever had.
Another story of positive leadership was told by one interviewee who, just after returning
from a leave of absence, had encountered the previous CEO in the elevator. The employee was
very impressed that he would take the time out of his busy schedule to show interest and convey
his good wishes. This interviewee said, ―He took the time. . . . I thought that was exceptional.‖
As for their interactions with colleagues, persons with disabilities claimed that, as a
whole, they were positive. Some reported appreciating the concern, understanding, support, and
help of others. One participant noted how a co-worker was ―a sounding base‖, listening to
concerns, and offering support. Another, who had been accommodated with flexible working
hours, was thankful of colleagues explaining to others that the accommodation was needed to
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 71
manage the disability and that it was not due to preferential treatment. Yet another person related
getting teased in good humour by co-workers, which is generally indicative of inclusion. For the
most part, persons with disabilities reported getting along well with colleagues. ―My co-workers
are great,‖ one participant declared.
BC Hydro Employees Also Reported Negative Experiences
The majority of interviewees at BC Hydro imparted having negative feelings, conflict, or
stress at some point during their employment due to the lack of awareness about their disabilities
from managers and colleagues. This had a negative effect on their employee experience.
Findings indicated that although BC Hydro has an employee engagement framework that
promotes an inclusion philosophy, it is not quintessentially embraced by all members of the
organization. One person noted, ―There are so many neat programs, initiatives, or concepts.
That‘s the idea of inclusion that BC Hydro actually has tried to convey. It doesn‘t necessarily
mean . . . inclusion.‖ Most participants believed that people in the workplace generally lack
awareness and understanding of disabilities. They claimed that people are uncomfortable relating
to disabled persons, sustaining prejudice, discrimination, and inappropriate behaviour. One
individual shared, ―It‘s attitude from the part of the person because they lack the knowledge in
how to deal with somebody with a disability.‖
All employees returning to work claimed to have had some difficulty adjusting to their
reintegration into the workplace, creating a certain degree of anxiety, stress, and feelings of
worthlessness. The causes cited depended on the individuals and ranged from fear of facing
others, stress of learning new skills, emotionally processing a reduced job status, not being
involved in decisions impacting them, coming back to discontented managers, and submitting to
inconvenient HR policies. However, after a period of adjustment, most reported the
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 72
circumstances had resolved themselves or they had accepted them. By that point, all claimed to
be working hard, performing well, and contributing to the company. One participant expressed,
―I‘m glad I stuck with it. . . . It was a challenge. It was really rewarding at the end, though.‖
A few participants recounted unfortunate experiences with managers in the course of
their employment. Many described the relationships with certain managers as being either
dismissive, a source of stress, insufficiently accommodating, or leading to feelings of anger. One
person indicated being harassed in the past while on disability leave by a manager who would
call early every morning to find out when the employee would return to work. The phone calls
ended only after the union representative got involved. A few participants expressed that stress
from the managers added to the stress they already had in trying to cope with the challenges of
disability. Participants correlated the negative experiences with lack of compassion,
misunderstanding of disabilities, no flexibility to accommodate, and emphasis on results. One
person noted, ―They seem . . . managers in general . . . just need to get their business done.‖
Another said, ―There is no awareness or education. That doesn‘t make my [disability] easy.‖
Many participants admitted having occasional tense moments with their colleagues,
creating feelings of upset and isolation. They claimed to have experienced the anger of others,
ignorant behaviours, and lack of social accommodation. A participant expressed, ―There‘s a lot
of accommodating and caring people here at BC Hydro. . . . Some are just not there yet.‖ They
attributed these occurrences as stemming, again, from a lack of awareness and education and
lack of understanding over the accommodations.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 73
The External People Related Positive Workplace Experience
Many external participants are employed with organizations providing services to the
disability community. They claimed that the high level of awareness about disabilities in such
environments lends to a positive employee experience.
All the external participants imparted having a positive employee experience. None
mentioned negative experiences with their current employers. They related that their
organizations, by providing services to the disability community, have a high degree of
awareness and understanding of disabilities, and this contributed to a positive experience. A
participant remarked, ―They are already aware and disabilities are not a stigma to them. . . . This
is a very inclusive environment.‖ Further, one participant remarked that witnessing fellow
employees receiving accommodations evidenced the inclusive culture of the employer.
Although many persons with disabilities are employed in these organizations, not all
employees have disabilities. The interviewees reported colleagues, in general, are collaborative
and creative at developing solutions to improve accommodations. They show concern and
thoughtfulness by ensuring everyone is included, as illustrated by this interviewee: ―Even little
things, they make sure that I‘m coming to coffee and things like that. People will make sure
that‘s being done.‖ In addition, they displayed a great sense of humour, many laughing during
the interviews about funny incidents inherent to their disabilities and those of their peers, which
generally demonstrates a tight working environment.
Finding Five: BC Hydro Leaders’ Perspective
Interviewees who hold leadership positions at BC Hydro demonstrated inclusive
tendencies. Also, on average, their responses indicated that their perspectives of accessibility,
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 74
accommodation, and the climate for inclusiveness were aligned with those of the employees
interviewed in this study.
Leaders Interviewed Demonstrated Inclusiveness
All leaders in the study had inclusive inclinations. One creatively increased awareness
about accessibility among consequential leaders by inviting them to spend a day in a wheelchair.
Much of data gathered from the interviews with BC Hydro leaders demonstrate their
inclinations toward inclusiveness. One of the best examples is the leader who wanted to effect
change in the planning of renovations and new buildings in order to make the physical
environment more accessible. This leader organized an event where other leaders, including one
from property management, were invited to spend a day in a wheelchair. The purpose of the
campaign was to experience the challenges a person in a wheelchair would have in manoeuvring
around the building. The participants discovered that some of the washrooms were inaccessible,
the cafeteria was not wheelchair friendly, and some things were out of reach in the office. One
person affirmed, ―This floor is highly difficult to get around if you‘re in a wheelchair or using a
walker.‖ The exercise resulted in the property manager acknowledging the accessibility issues
and committing to include these considerations in the future design of renovations and new
buildings. ―They have integrated accessibility standards of a higher nature, of all senses, into
their future designs,‖ one leader noted.
Leaders Were Willing to Accommodate; Business Requirements Also Had to be Met
All leaders had accommodated to a point. They had differing perspectives of the degree
of accommodation at BC Hydro. One leader concluded that BC Hydro was fulfilling its legal
duty. Sometimes, accommodations could not be made.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 75
The study found that all leaders said they had witnessed accommodations in the
workplace or had facilitated them. They generally perceived BC Hydro as accommodating,
particularly once an employee had entered the environment. One leader declared that the
―highest duty is to accommodate employees who have become disabled because of illness and
injury . . . to the point where they can return to work.‖ Therefore, Corporate HR has made
improvements to the Return to Work program, which includes an escalation process to resolve
issues. That being said, this leader thought that BC Hydro was ―at the very fundamental stage‖
and was meeting the basic requirements of its ―legal duty‖. On the other hand, another leader,
who had experienced different organizations, thought that BC Hydro was ―an incredibly
collaborative workforce compared to any other workplaces.‖ The difference in points of view
was probably due to the different roles these participants currently occupied and the experiences
they had in the past.
One leader, who is willing to accommodate with whatever physical adjustments
employees need to be comfortable at work, was also concerned about getting the work done.
This person related that some positions on the team required reliable physical attendance in the
office during business hours. Flexibility in terms of schedule or working from home was an issue
in one particular case. ―I couldn‘t find a way to accommodate to work from home. It just
wouldn‘t have worked for my business,‖ said the leader.
Leaders Are Conscious of Less Inclusive Practices
The study revealed that leaders were aware that some areas of the organization are less
inclusive. They felt that changes could be made to make BC Hydro more inclusive.
One leader, in discussing the removal of barriers, mentioned the need ―to look at pockets
in [the] workforce that have become very monochrome and see how [that] can change.‖ Another
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 76
leader observed that no one had a visible disability in a particular building and that, given the
type of work employees performed at the location, persons with disabilities could be easily
integrated. This person said, ―A person in a wheelchair, a person that is hearing impaired, or
whatever could probably function fine here but there aren‘t any people like that.‖ Lack of
awareness among managers was cited as being an issue. A leader talked about the need to
demystify ―the social misconceptions about disability affecting work performance,
accomplishment, achievement, and potential.‖
Study Conclusions
The main question was: What recruitment strategies could Corporate HR implement to
ensure that BC Hydro‘s inclusion objectives for persons with disabilities are achieved? The study
concludes: (a) awareness of disabilities influences the outcome, (b) high employment
requirements and few entry-level positions do not preclude the inclusion of persons with
disabilities, (c) disability is contextual, and (d) inclusiveness requires leadership values.
Conclusion One: Awareness of Disabilities Influences the Outcome
BC Hydro employees with disabilities have both positive and negative employee
experiences. Negative experiences emanate from lack of awareness. Conversely, positive
experiences are linked to awareness.
The greatest barrier to recruitment for persons with disabilities is ―discrimination,
prejudice, or employer reluctance to hire them‖ (Schur et al., 2005, p. 9). The attitudinal
responses are rooted in misinformation and lack of understanding of disabilities. Many people in
the workplace assume persons with disabilities are slow, lack intelligence, and are mentally
unable. In turn, persons with disabilities develop their own misconceptions by inferring that
since certain people make attributions, everybody else must have the same perception (Robert &
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 77
Harlan, 2006). The mistrust leads to reluctance in revealing disabilities even when it is
advantageous.
Once persons with disabilities enter the workplace, Schur et al. (2005) noted that the
attitudes of managers and colleagues toward them have a direct effect on their productive
engagement. The marginalizing behaviours from counterparts negatively affect the performance
and chances for advancement for persons with disabilities. On the other hand, sustained contact
helps co-workers and managers gather enough information to view these constituents as
individuals rather than as part of a marginalized group. If the shift in attitudes is considerable
enough, it creates organizational learning that becomes positively entrenched in the
organization‘s mental model (Wooten & James, 2005).
Increased awareness can also be achieved with training. Wright (2001) claimed that
education dispels the misconceptions about disabilities. Training is even more effective and has
increased credibility when delivered by persons with disabilities, who openly talk about them. It
is ―an effective way to open eyes and change mindsets‖ (p. 35). It also needs to be launched and
endorsed by the top leaders.
Conclusion Two: High Employment Requirements and Few Entry-Level Positions do not
Preclude the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
Although BC Hydro leaders introduced this theme as a potential barrier, the study
concludes that employment requirements and few entry-level positions are not barriers. They are
functions of the business realities at BC Hydro.
BC Hydro is an electric utility mandated to provide reliable energy in a safe and efficient
manner. For this reason, BC Hydro needs to fill its positions with highly skilled trades people
and educated professionals who can mitigate the risk factor of the operation. The fact that BC
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 78
Hydro has high employment requirements is not a barrier (Whiting, 2001). It is a reality of the
business, and this can be leveraged to increase the status of employees with disabilities within
their community (Shah, 2005). The inclusion of educated and skilled persons with disabilities in
demanding jobs marks the desire of these persons to be full citizens, which means persons ―train
for and accept real jobs for real wages, with associated duties of meeting schedules and
performing tasks‖ (Prince, 2009, p. 180).
Moreover, to suggest that high employment requirements are a barrier implies the
generalization that persons with disabilities do not have the capacity to perform highly skilled
and demanding jobs, which is not consistent with the characteristics of the participants in this
study and the reviewed literature (Shah, 2005; Whiting, 2001; Wright, 2001). The twelve persons
with disabilities in the study are skilled and educated, and they claim to meet the demanding
requirements of their jobs. BC Stats (2009) informed the level of education of persons with
disabilities in BC is not much different than that of their non-disabled counterparts and further
suggested that a higher level of education enhances the chances of accessing employment.
Therefore, high employment requirements at BC Hydro do not preclude qualified persons
with disabilities from entering the workforce. In fact, inclusion of persons with disabilities who
can meet these requirements could raise the bar for the disability community and encourage more
of its members to acquire the necessary skills. Furthermore, education is essential for the ―social,
psychological and cultural development‖ (Shah, 2005, p. 171) of persons with disabilities and
exposes them to rules and expectations required to fit in society, thereby facilitating their
integration in mainstream society.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 79
Conclusion Three: Disability is Contextual
Persons with disabilities, when accommodated, can function and perform in the
workplace and are not that different from other workers. All people have abilities: things they
can do, and inabilities: things they cannot do, regardless whether or not they have disabilities.
This conclusion is based on the tenet that disability is a social construct upheld by the
medical perspective that a person with disabilities needs to be cured and normalized to fit in
society, when, in fact, the real barriers to integrate these persons are imposed by the physical
environment and societal attitudes (ILO, 2010; Prince, 2009; Robert & Harlan, 2006; Weber,
2007). This philosophy, which lies in the social model of disability, asserts that disabilities are ―a
social process more than as some individual condition‖ (Prince, 2009, p. 5) and, therefore, are
not inherent to an individual. Further, Prince argued that most people experience disability in
some way. One participant in the study concurred: ―What does disability mean? We all have our
times when we‘re not all mentally and physically at 100%.‖
During the conduct of this research, it became evident that persons with disabilities, once
accommodated, are no different than non-disabled people (Shah, 2005). The present study
engaged articulate, intelligent, and productive persons who have employment principles similar
to any other successful workers. They have high loci of control. They want meaningful lives, to
serve others, and to make a difference (Shah, 2005). Therefore, the competence and values of
these employees were not impeded by their disabilities.
Further, lack of certain capabilities is inherent to all people, regardless of physical
prowess, sensory acuteness, and cognitive abilities. People bring special expertise, interest, and
talent, whether they belong to a legislated group or not. The Paralympics are evidence that
persons with disabilities can be athletes and achieve athletic performances against which most
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 80
able people in society could not compete. So, persons with disabilities can perform certain
activities and not others. As one interviewee observed, ―Disability is a contextual concept. . . .
Some things, I do pretty well, and some things, I‘m just [hopeless]. That has nothing to do with
my [disability].‖
Conclusion Four: Inclusiveness Requires Leadership Values
Compassion, sensitivity, and understanding are reported as leadership values making a
difference to the employment experience of employees with disabilities. Leaders in the study
demonstrate these values. However, all participants have alluded to knowing leaders and
workgroups in the organization who demonstrate less inclusive characteristics.
It is clear in the study that the degree to which participants felt included and had positive
employment experiences depended on collaborative and supportive managers with leadership
values, such as compassion, awareness, and sensitivity. Together with their managers, these
employees are able to overcome difficulties and contribute meaningfully. As Kouzes and Posner
(2007) pointed out, ―A relationship characterized by mutual respect and confidence will
overcome the greatest adversities and leave a legacy of significance‖ (p. 24).
Most internal participants offered accounts of less-inclusive managers. These managers
were not directly involved in the study; therefore, the source of their resistive views cannot be
clearly defined. However, the hesitance to include persons with disabilities in the workplace is
generally due to constrained resources and fear that these employees may not perform to parity
(Robert & Harlan, 2006; Wright, 2001), although these attributed appraisals have not been
founded in research (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2008). If people fail to ―appreciate the differences of
others, it is unlikely that [they] will appreciate their contributions‖ (Chavez & Weisinger, 2008,
p. 337).
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 81
Based on the findings, the study concludes that compassion from the leader moderates the
employment experiences of persons with disabilities. Compassion is the ability to leave the ego
behind and see others through their lens, thereby removing prejudice (Goleman, 1994; Senge,
2006). In fact, research has indicated ―being able to see a situation from someone else‘s point of
view‖ (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 25) to be the number one characteristic of good leadership.
Scope and Limitations of the Research
The study has explored the employment experiences of persons with disabilities in order
to develop the required strategies to remove the barriers that are perceived to exist at BC Hydro,
preventing a more inclusive workplace. The findings of this action research are specific to the
participants‘ stories, and conclusions are derived from these perspectives. Therefore, limitations
have been identified.
This study has not ascertained the commitment to integrate persons with disabilities in
the workforce at the CEO and executive levels. The most senior leader represented in the study is
a director. However, because the director leads a workgroup that has considerable access to the
executives, the thesis of the study is considered relevant and in alignment with corporate
objectives.
The possibility exists that the findings may have been limited due to loss of anonymity in
the process of recruiting internal participants. BC Hydro confidentiality policy requires
participants to go through a consent process connecting them to the project sponsor, thereby,
forgoing anonymity. This probably has had the effect to either constrict the range of people who
might have otherwise participated or to stifle the freedom of input from interviewees.
The findings offer a narrow look at the challenges BC Hydro faces in creating an
inclusive workplace. All the leaders interviewed have inclusive inclinations. The perspectives
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 82
and experiences of leaders with more resistive viewpoints are inadvertently omitted. Also, the
leaders and employees interviewed for this study do not have direct working relationships. The
findings rely on the sole perspective of individual participants and preclude the counteractions of
other actors.
Two situations are recognized to limit findings relating to barriers to recruitment at BC
Hydro. For one, most BC Hydro participants have acquired their disabilities after having entered
the workforce, leaving one participant to relay recruitment experiences with full knowledge of
the disability. Second, persons who have unsuccessfully applied for employment at BC Hydro
have not been included in the study. The data used to corroborate the barriers to recruitment
depended on the general knowledge and experiences of the participants.
A good majority of the external participants with disabilities belong to organizations
providing services to the disability community. These organizations have a high level of
awareness about disabilities, which has significant influence in the quality of employee
engagement. At first glance, this is perceived as a limitation, because comparing these persons‘
experiences to others seems to be inequitable. Upon reflection, this may not a limitation. The
awareness these organizations and their members have of the issues faced by persons of
disabilities in the workplace as compared to the experiences they relate about their own
workplaces provide a reachable ideal for an organization such as BC Hydro, that has a goal to be
a top employer.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 83
CHAPTER FIVE: RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS
Introduction
In this chapter, recommendations are offered to answer the main research question: What
recruitment strategies could Corporate HR implement to ensure that BC Hydro‘s inclusion
objectives for persons with disabilities are achieved, and the sub-question: How could perceived
barriers to employment be eliminated or minimized within the operational realities of BC Hydro?
Then, organizational implications are discussed with an emphasis on taking action if BC Hydro
is serious about an inclusion culture. The chapter closes with implications for future research in
order to provide more answers to the challenges that BC Hydro and other organizations face in
attracting persons with disabilities to the workforce.
Study Recommendations
Keeping with the participative approach of action research, the study recommendations
are developed based on the input of the participants and also include best practices offered by
experts in the literature. The four main group themes of recommendations are: (a) promote an
inclusion culture, (b) cultivate leadership capacity, (c) attract talent with disabilities, and
(d) influence and learn from other systems. The recommendations are complemented with
specific actions or sub-recommendations, and all of these are arranged in order of importance to
maximize the success of the inclusion program.
Promote an Inclusion Culture
The findings indicate that persons with disabilities working at BC Hydro have
experienced both inclusiveness and alienation from managers and colleagues at some point
during their employment. Inclusiveness depends on a favourable organizational culture mandated
by top executives, and this requires their visible commitment. Once the commitment is
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 84
communicated, initiating a change management process would be useful to address stigma and
misconceptions that managers and colleagues may sustain about persons with disabilities and to
assign accountability for inclusiveness at all levels of the organization. Therefore, the first
recommendation is to promote an inclusion culture throughout the organization by:
(a) confirming and communicating commitment from top leaders, (b) addressing resistance, and
(c) disseminating accountability.
Confirm and Communicate Commitment from Top Leaders
There have been recent changes to the top leadership at BC Hydro and, as suggested in
chapter four, executive commitment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace
could not be verified. The findings demonstrate that, at present, inclusiveness has been embraced
inconsistently throughout the organization, and this situation will persist unless there is
unequivocal executive commitment (Whiting, 2001; Wright, 2001). This commitment is
imperative and is the first step in creating a culture of inclusion (Parris et al., 2006). Otherwise,
diversity may be viewed internally as just another HR program and risks not to be taken
seriously by line managers and, even worse, to be perceived externally as a self-promoting
campaign without substance.
Once the vision and commitment for an inclusive workplace are confirmed, top leaders
need to communicate their vision over and over again, and with passion (Kouzes & Posner,
2007). The communication should enunciate the business reasons for inclusion, the benefits to
society as whole, and the change initiatives that are about to take place. There are many
opportunities at BC Hydro for top leaders to communicate their commitment to the inclusion of
persons with disabilities in the workplace. These include: (a) CEO weekly updates, (b) annual
reports, (c) employee town hall meetings, (d) the daily newsletter: Keeping Current, (e) the
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 85
Plugged In magazine, (f) the intranet, (g) union newsletters, and (h) whatever other means
leaders have in connecting with people.
Address Resistance
As stated in chapter two, no organizational change will happen unless people accept it
and get involved (Jick, 2009). Change is usually met with resistance, and this is a natural
reaction deeply seated in people‘s psyche (Burke et al., 2009). People who resist change may not
necessarily intend to be difficult; they may well adopt the behaviour for altruistic and ethical
reasons and as a way to communicate concerns. Therefore, fears and concerns need to be brought
into the open in order to address them. As Burke et al. stated, ―To overcome resistance in
organizations, the implication for the change agent is to understand such barriers to
organizational learning and change and, through reflection and dialogue, promote the
development of a more adaptive organizational self-concept‖ (p. 337).
Therefore, one recommendation in dealing with resistance would be to apply the concepts
of action research, which is the methodology used in the present study. This process of inquiry is
recommended because it takes a systems approach, which involves all persons affected with the
change to collaborate together in an inquiry process to reveal the real issues and to engage in the
participative development of solutions in order to achieve desired goals (Stringer, 2007). The
findings should prove valuable for Corporate HR to see the big picture and expose the real
causes of resistance (Weisbord, 2004). Resistance to change is likely to be reduced when the
concerns of the leaders are taken into consideration and addressed rather than trying to persuade
them to adopt the HR guidelines (Watson, 2009). In this way, it is not so much about a group of
HR people providing the right answers; it is about enabling people who are close to the issue to
be part of the solutions and empowering them to act with flexibility and knowledge as new
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 86
problems arise (Burke et al., 2009). Additionally, the dialogue should go beyond data gathering
to continue during the transition phase in order to address conflict and develop a feedback loop.
Burke et al. thought that coaching is a good approach to keep the lines of communications open,
by suggesting ―timely transition coaching can add significant value to the individual clients and
their organizations‖ (p. 620).
Consequently, for the inquiry to be successful, people with dissenting views need to be
identified, given voice, and involved in the process. These people may not come forward unless
they have the assurance that there will be no repercussion to their status. Therefore, unlike the
situation in the current study, their anonymity and confidentiality must be guaranteed in future
inquiry (Palys & Atchison, 2008).
For the reasons outlined above, the recommended next steps would be more effective if a
third-party agency was to conduct the inquiry and was given enough reign to access participants
directly. The consultant would be responsible in engaging leaders with resistive views to
(a) identify themselves and share their concerns, (b) enter into a dialogue about the inclusion
mandate and collect valuable feedback, (c) solicit innovative ideas, (d) develop
recommendations, and (e) provide confidential coaching to learn from and address issues
inherent with the change.
Disseminate Accountability
As discussed already, the responsibility of top leaders is to communicate the vision and to
mandate the inclusion strategy. At BC Hydro, as in many organizations, Corporate HR is the
diversity sponsor and is responsible to develop inclusion programs. Organizations that have
succeeded at including persons with disabilities in the workplace also disseminate accountability
through the managerial channels of the organization. This ensures that everyone has a stake in
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 87
the success of the program and engages each other in the behaviours propitious to inclusiveness.
Without accountability, the accomplishment of the diversity program would be in jeopardy
(Wright, 2001).
That being said, middle managers who generally receive rewards to deliver results may
fear that change will hinder their performance. They may even view the inclusion program as
depleting their resources and adding to their already considerable responsibilities. These leaders
may rationalize that it is in their best interest to maintain the current position, and while they do
not conspicuously obstruct diversity initiatives, they may frustrate them through inaction. BC
Hydro should recognize that covert objections are inevitable, and they need to be attended,
because the engagement of leaders at all levels of the organization is crucial in creating an
inclusion culture (Members of the Conference Board‘s Diversity Council, 2007).
Therefore, once leaders have had a chance to voice their concerns and contribute ideas, as
suggested in the previous recommendation, distribute accountability by (a) setting corporate
objectives and work collaboratively with VPs to set divisional targets and allocate them through
their workgroups, (b) making inclusive behaviour a performance requirement by developing a
new competency as part of the leadership and employee performance contracts, (c) keeping track
of inclusion initiatives across all work groups and teams, (d) developing performance metrics
and measuring performance, and (e) recognizing championing teams (Creary, 2008).
Cultivate Leadership Capacity
As concluded in chapter four and corroborated in the literature review, awareness,
compassion, and caring are important moderators of employee experience for persons with
disabilities, having a direct effect on their performance and potential for advancement.
Unfortunately, persistent societal attitudes and lack of awareness and understanding about
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 88
disabilities continue to create barriers to employment and to affect employee experience
negatively. Awareness requires the development of leadership capabilities at the individual level.
Senge (2006) related, ―The commitment to personal growth is important—and it is most
important for those in positions of leadership‖ (p. 266). Leadership here is placed in the context
of Kouzes and Posner (2007), who advocated that ―leadership is a relationship . . . characterized
by mutual respect and confidence‖ (p. 24), in addition to the ability to understand other people‘s
perspective and create positive interactions. Therefore, leadership capacity in all organizational
members could be achieved by promoting holistic leadership behaviours and creating awareness
about disabilities.
Promote Holistic Leadership Behaviours in all Individuals
Senge (2006) noted, ―An organization‘s commitment to and capacity for learning can be
no greater than that of its members‖ (p. 7). For BC Hydro to be successful in achieving its
inclusion targets will require that organizational members develop ―personal mastery. . . by
becoming committed to their own lifelong learning‖ (p. 7). In pursuing personal mastery, people
are able to focus on what matters and have a more objective perception of reality. Senge further
observed that personal mastery is ―the learning organization‘s spiritual foundation‖ (p. 7).
Therefore, the importance of continual learning cannot be overstated in developing selfawareness, appreciating differences in others, addressing relational issues, and accepting
diversity in order to promote a culture of inclusion.
Self-awareness is a fundamental leadership characteristic that awakens people to their
own emotions, strengths, limitations, values, and motives, which filter the way they view the
world (Goleman et al., 2002). Additionally, Kouzes and Posner (2007) stated, ―The most critical
knowledge for all of us . . . turns out to be self-knowledge‖ (p. 346). Psychometric tools, which
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 89
inventory personal characteristics, such as the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (Psychometrics,
2010) and Insights Discovery (Insights, 2010), are useful as a starting point to help people
understand what their behavioural preferences are, how they react to change, and how others
perceive them. Further, these tools, when applied with expertise, provide a safe environment to
give and receive feedback, validate the uniqueness in people, and foster trust among team
members (Lencioni, 2005).
Once people have reached a level of consciousness, they can engage in behaviours that
express caring, compassion, and a desire for continual learning, in order to contribute to a
trusting, respectful, and collaborative workplace (Covey, 2006; Kouzes & Posner, 2007). As
mentioned, these behaviours need to be encouraged in all individuals, but they are particularly
critical for those who hold positions of leadership. Gewurtz and Kirsh (2009) supported that a
manager‘s ―understanding, support and acceptance [create] a culture of trust and confidence as
opposed to discomfort and distance‖ (p. 39). The development of holistic leadership behaviours
can be initiated by (a) promoting self-awareness in leaders and team members; (b) encouraging
team leaders to create team environments that value self-awareness, caring, compassion, and
continual learning; and (c) providing team leaders and members confidential coaching to address
conflict and provide feedback.
Create Awareness about Disabilities
In conversation with the sponsor, BC Hydro offers some forms of training touching on
diversity. For new employees, the company has an orientation session on a respectful workplace.
For managers, the company offers week-long leadership seminars, including a module on
diversity in general, and has on-line training to recognize and manage mental health issues in the
workplace (R. Clapperton, personal communications, 2010). However, the findings strongly
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 90
suggest that lack of awareness about disabilities is prevalent at BC Hydro and is an issue for
persons with disabilities. Most study participants recommended the development of an awareness
campaign for managers and colleagues to increase their understanding of disabilities.
As suggested in chapter two, prejudices are deeply entrenched mental models based on a
predetermined set of beliefs, values, and experiences. People unconsciously filter life phenomena
through these mental models and make unsubstantiated judgments. Fortunately, prejudices can
be examined and challenged once they are brought to a level of awareness. To build on the
previous recommendation, any awareness training should start with an emotional intelligence
component with emphasis on self-awareness and compassion and be designed to focus on
abilities rather than disabilities (Whiting, 2001), on uniqueness rather than diversity (Chavez &
Weisinger, 2008), similarities to peers in wanting an active part in society and work, sensitivities
in interaction, and understanding accommodations (Wright, 2001).
Encourage Storytelling
The findings identified that one of the barriers to employment for persons with
disabilities is reluctance to disclose their disabilities, even if the employer claims to have a
favourable environment. In disclosing, persons with disabilities never know if they will be
evaluated based on their abilities or through the filter of prejudice. It comes to reason that for
persons with disabilities to feel comfortable in disclosing their impairment during recruitment or
employment, an environment of trust needs to be fostered. Trust can be achieved with awareness,
exposure, and open interaction (Chavez & Weisinger, 2008; Gewurtz & Kirsh, 2009; Lencioni,
2005).
Although training is suggested in the previous recommendation to increase awareness,
the literature indicated that one-time sensitivity training is typically short-lived and is likely
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 91
insufficient to transform entrenched behaviours (Watson, 2009). Chavez and Weisinger (2008)
suggested that an active learning approach to diversity training, with regular sessions moderated
by a facilitator who can ask specific questions to stimulate discussions on sensitive issues, is an
excellent method to increase awareness and develop trust. In addition, Lencioni (2005) claimed
that sharing personal histories contribute to creating trust on a team by saying, ―When team
members reveal aspects of their personal lives to their peers, they learn to get comfortable being
open with them about other things. They begin to let down their guard about their strengths,
weaknesses, opinions and ideas‖ (p. 20). Lencioni also cautioned that this should be a gradual
process. Enticing team members to become too vulnerable too quickly could create more
resistance than trust. Therefore, schedule regular sessions to encourage sharing of personal
histories and storytelling to celebrate the uniqueness of people, including disabilities and other
diversity.
Attract Talent with Disabilities
The recommendations so far have focused on organizational culture and commitment and
getting the organization and its members ready to foster an inclusive work environment. At this
point, the recommendations turn to attracting and retaining the talent with disabilities. Therefore,
the recommendations going forward are more tactical in nature and are based on best practices
reviewed in the literature and on the suggestions offered by the participants.
Create Inviting Job Advertisements
Similarly to managing the transition toward an inclusive workplace, ―commitment is the
most important aspect of a successful campaign to identify and recruit workers with disabilities‖
(Whiting, 2001, p. 24). Recruiters at BC Hydro and Accenture should be made aware of BC
Hydro‘s inclusion objectives and ensure that the recruitment process is inviting of persons with
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 92
disabilities and yet does not discriminate against other applicants. Further, recruiters should
understand that, as the findings and conclusions in chapter four have determined, persons with
sensory disabilities require special consideration. For example, recruiters need to recognize that a
telephone interview for applicants with a hearing impairment could create some angst.
The following actions are recommended to attract more persons with disabilities in
applying for positions at BC Hydro: (a) update the career website to communicate objectives of
an inclusive workplace, specifically inviting persons with disabilities to compete for any position
and specifying that the selection process will be the same for all applicants to avoid
discrimination (Wooten, 2008); (b) include a catchy tag line like this one, which is borrowed
from one of the study participants: ―We want to be the face of BC‖; (c) ensure all recruiters are
aware of BC Hydro‘s inclusive workplace policy and are trained to be objective in the selection
process; (d) advertize jobs in magazines oriented toward the disability community; (e) fully
participate in government initiatives, such as WorkAble Solutions and WORKink; and (f)
develop outreach partnerships with learning institutions, such as secondary and special needs
schools, colleges, and universities, to educate about BC Hydro job requirements and help persons
with disabilities plan their education if they aspire to work for an employer like BC Hydro
(Whiting, 2001; WorkAble Solutions, 2010; WORKink, 2010; Wright, 2001).
Accommodate in Collaboration with the Employee with Disabilities
Provided through the input of participants with disabilities during the research, these
persons recognized that beyond the standard architecture of physical accessibility features, often
accommodations are difficult to plan and need to be determined when the person enters the
environment. However, hiring managers need to be cognizant of the fact that persons with
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 93
disabilities are reluctant to ask for accommodations because they generally do not want to bring
attention to their disabilities.
Therefore, during the employment process, recruiters and managers should convey their
wish to plan accommodations collaboratively and be first to ask new employees with disabilities
what accommodations are needed. Moreover, managers should enquire now and then from
employees with disabilities about how the accommodations are working out and if there is
anything more that they need. Even if the manager knows nothing else is required, asking is still
important because it demonstrates caring and better engages employees with disabilities. This
was evidenced in the study by persons with disabilities relating that they appreciate managers
who care and are flexible with accommodations. The following recommendations should be
helpful to accommodate persons with disabilities in the workplace: (a) ask persons with
disabilities for their input in the accommodations, (b) keep checking occasionally if they need
anything, (c) explain accommodations to co-workers, and (d) conduct third-party assessments of
physical, technological, and social accessibility.
Review HR Policies
At present, BC Hydro has a Duty to Accommodate committee to evaluate and approve
accommodations (R. Clapperton, personal communication, September 9, 2010). However, a
committee mandated with a more strategic and comprehensive approach to inclusion would help
BC Hydro in moving its diversity performance beyond the legal requirements. Moreover, in
chapter four, it has been stated that BC Hydro has high employment requirements, entailing a
certain level of physical, intellectual, and emotional fitness. This committee could also evaluate
the inclusion target and ensure that it is achievable within the prescribed time frame and the
employment realities of the workplace.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 94
The literature has suggested that bureaucratic organizations like BC Hydro often have
systems that are based on equitable practice and overlook individual consideration. For example,
jobs can be designed with prerequisites that are not imperative to the successful fulfillment of
responsibilities (Whiting, 2001). In fact, this situation was raised by some managers in the study
who felt that Grade 12 Math and Physics are not always essential for job performance.
Additionally, although BC Hydro participants with disabilities reported positive experiences with
the Return to Work program, they also revealed facing inconvenient HR policies after they return
from a disability absence. Many claim to have experienced unnecessary stress and negative
feelings in dealing with the consequences of these policies.
BC Hydro should be cautious that job designs and employment systems do not create
obstacles for persons with disabilities to enter the workplace. Instead, exercising some flexibility
and allowing persons with disabilities to demonstrate their abilities would be conducive to more
inclusive employment practices. The following recommendations on reviewing HR policies are
based on the study findings and the suggestions of the participants and are founded in literature
(Schur et al., 2005; Wright, 2001). They are: (a) commission an advisory committee to review
recruitment practices and systems and to assess the feasibility of the inclusion target; (b) reevaluate certain job roles to ascertain that the requirements are necessary; (c) give the hiring
manager enough latitude to flex the requirements, given job performance is not jeopardized; and
(d) enhance the Return to Work program by taking into consideration the findings in this study
pertaining to: decreased job status, vacation policy, and the preparation and sensitization of coworkers and managers toward the returning employee.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 95
Influence and Learn from Other Systems
As stated in the systems analysis in chapter one, BC Hydro and its interactions with
individual, government, and global systems can reach many stakeholders and encourage the
societal change required to include persons with disabilities in society. A few opportunities BC
Hydro has to influence and learn from other systems are recommended in this section. They
include: (a) make use of the media; (b) demonstrate commitment through suppliers, and (c) study
best practices in other organizations.
Make use of the Media
Persons with disabilities are seldom featured in the media (Prince, 2009). On the
occasions that they are included, they are personalized in characters that sustain prejudices (ILO,
2010; Weber, 2007). The media present many opportunities to increase the profile of persons
with disabilities, educate society about their value, and assuage stigma. BC Hydro makes
considerable use of the media to advertise its programs and could ask advertizing agencies to
feature actors with disabilities in media ads on television, radio, web, or print. This visibility
would communicate that BC Hydro is a diverse and inclusive organization and could influence
other systems.
Demonstrate Commitment through Suppliers
Organizations that are serious about a diversified workforce increasingly incorporate
procurement diversity statements in request for proposal documents (Slater et al, 2008). By
communicating its culture of inclusion and declaring the desire to partner with organizations that
hold similar values, BC Hydro influences its business partners in becoming more inclusive.
Furthermore, in making it clear that BC Hydro wants to do business with companies that
embrace diversity, BC Hydro can prevent inadvertent complicity. GRI (2009a) explained that
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 96
complicity occurs when an organization associates with others whose activities violate human
rights, whether the breach is known to the organization or not. GRI continued: ―Companies can
affect human rights directly—through their interaction and relationships with others, including
governments, local communities and suppliers‖ (p. 9). Furthermore, a procurement diversity
statement has the added benefit of improving the quality of sustainability reporting through GRI.
Study Best Practices in Other Organizations
As mentioned in chapter one, BC Hydro has received top employer and top diversity
awards (BC Hydro, 2010e). BC Hydro‘s website is clear about its diversified workforce in the
way of gender and ethnicity, but it is not so clear in being inclusive of persons with disabilities.
Other Top 50 Diversity companies have showcased their inclusion of persons with disabilities
and have achieved higher ratings on the equity continuum (Canadastop100.com, 2010). BC
Hydro could study the diversity practices of these organizations and other successful ones around
the world to inspire the development of diversity strategies, earn higher equity rating, and
actively contribute to the disability movement.
Organizational Implications
BC Hydro has a goal to have a workforce representative of the BC labour market by 2017
(BC Hydro, 2009b; R. Clapperton, personal communication, September 9, 2010). In its 2009
GRI report, BC Hydro declared that the number of employees with disabilities accounts for 2.1%
of a total workforce of 5,200 employees, representing approximately 110 persons with
disabilities integrated in the workplace (BC Hydro, 2009a, 2010d). In BC, the current rate of
persons with disabilities considered to be in the labour force is 7.8% (BC Stats, 2009). With the
latest head count of 6,000 employees currently working at BC Hydro, it would mean that an
additional 360 employees with disabilities would have to enter the workforce, from now until
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 97
2017, in order for the rate of inclusion to align with that of the BC labour market (BC Hydro,
2010a, 2010b). If this target is broken down on an annual basis, BC Hydro would have to include
60 employees with disabilities each year starting in 2011 to meet its inclusion target by 2017.
Those estimates are in accordance with statistical information available today, and the statistics
will probably increase by 2017, as both the numbers of employees at BC Hydro and the rate of
the labour force with disabilities are likely to go up by then. Therefore, if the organization is
serious in embracing the notion of a workplace inclusive of persons with disabilities,
incorporating the recommendations offered in this report into the workforce planning strategies
requires immediate and sustained action.
Like many organizations, BC Hydro confronts challenges in attracting persons with
disabilities. One challenge in particular is that a great proportion of the jobs have physical
requirements, which might prevent persons with certain physical and sensory impairments to
work in these positions. BC Hydro needs to evaluate whether or not a workforce fully
representative of the BC labour demographics is achievable in some parts of the organization.
However, BC Hydro faces good prospects in meeting inclusion objectives for knowledge worker
positions. BC Stats (2004) reported that some 40,000 persons with disabilities are unemployed
and estimated that 52% of them had post-secondary education: ―There is a pool of well-educated
and experienced potential workers out there who if given the opportunity could contribute
directly to the economy of the province‖ (p. 2). For BC Hydro, having a workforce
representative of the BC labour market hinges on how it breaks down its inclusion targets for
persons with disabilities.
Depending on how the objectives are allocated, BC Hydro may not necessarily have to
recruit 60 persons with disabilities each year. It could very well be that persons with disabilities
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 98
are already embedded in the workforce and have not disclosed their disabilities for reasons of
their own. Statistically, it would be beneficial for BC Hydro to encourage these persons to selfidentify. However, how advantageous would it be for those employees? Would they face stigma?
How would they be perceived by their managers and colleagues? Why would they disclose if
they are performing well and getting along right now?
These questions provide the impetus for BC Hydro to foster an authentic inclusion
culture in its workplace. BC Hydro‘s inclusiveness needs to be communicated clearly within and
outside the organization, and a climate of trust must be nurtured in order for persons with
disabilities to disclose either during the recruiting process or once they have entered the
workforce. Moreover, the benefits of inclusiveness go beyond that of embracing visible
diversity. An inclusive culture incubates acceptance and respect among people with various
perspectives, allowing more big-picture thinking to explore innovative ideas for meeting the
challenges of organizational existence in a global system (Lencioni, 2009; Miller, 2008; Parris et
al., 2006; Senge, 2006).
Legislation has existed for many years to encourage equitable workplaces for all
members of society (HRSDC, 2009), and it has proven somewhat effective to increase the rights
of persons with disabilities in attaining employment (Gewurtz & Kirsch, 2009). However,
legislation alone is not sufficient to abolish workplace discrimination for these persons;
organizations also need to participate by creating equitable work environments (Robert &
Harlan, 2006). Auspiciously, inclusion within the BC Hydro workplace can have a ripple effect
in global society. As mentioned in the introductory chapter of this report, BC Hydro has
visibility and can exert considerable influence locally, nationally, and globally; and it has the
opportunity to make a difference through its networks of employees, suppliers, customers, and
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 99
other associates. As Prince (2009) observed, ―The full participation of persons with disabilities
requires the commitment of all sectors of society‖ (p. 8).
Implications for Future Research
In chapter four, limitations of the research were identified and indicated that some
questions remain to be answered. It would be helpful for BC Hydro to piece the picture together
if research was conducted to uncover the barriers to employment for new recruits with disclosed
disabilities. Participants of the proposed research should involve internal and external groups,
and the types of disabilities should be targeted to include more severe physical mobility issues
and learning and intellectual disabilities, as these have not been well represented in the present
research.
As already proposed as a recommendation in this chapter, dissenting views need to be
exposed and addressed to nurture an authentic inclusion culture. This should be done by a thirdparty agency with considerable leverage to access participants directly and to ensure anonymity
and confidentiality. Additionally, a documentation review of other inclusive organizations,
including those offering services to the disability community, should be performed to ensure
continual learning and to inspire present and future strategies. Again, this would be better
achieved by a third-party in order to avoid bias.
Many organizations in jurisdictions all over the world have set targets to include persons
with disabilities in the workplace and have not yet been successful in meeting their objectives.
The challenges that they face are likely similar to those at BC Hydro, particularly in industries
that demand high employment requirements. The conclusions and recommendations derived
from the present and future research could be applied to other organizations. Also, the results
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 100
could build on the body of evidence already gathered by other research conducted in those
industries.
A gap in research may have been identified. A question that kept emerging for me during
this study relates to the relationship between the concepts of fit and diversity. The importance of
organizational fit is a notion that often surfaces in academic and business literature. If diversity is
to be embraced by an organization, how is fit or lack thereof determined by its members? At
what point does the fit card, which is often played in evaluating employee performance, trump
inclusiveness? The literature reviewed for the preparation of this report has been considerable
and, except to address subjects relating to meeting qualifications and following direction, the
contemplation of a deeper meaning on how these concepts interrelate has not been noted. This
may be a good avenue worth pursuing to address a possible gap in research.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 101
CHAPTER SIX: LESSONS LEARNED
Participating in this program has been a rewarding learning journey, and it has been a
spiritual one in many ways. The salient lesson for me has been: realizing that becoming a
lifelong learner requires humility and trust. My learning has occurred with the vulnerability to be
self-aware enough to examine my own fallibility and to be open enough to change perspectives.
In this chapter, I talk about some of these learnings.
Chapter Four Was Challenging to Write
I had underestimated the challenges of composing chapter four: action research project
results and conclusions. As I was doing the interviews and transcribing them, connections were
becoming clear in my mind, and I believed that writing the chapter was going to be a breeze. The
breeze became a twister once the 108 pages of transcript were condensed in the case-ordered
display into over 600 clumps of data, which I felt obligated to report entirely. I wanted all the
voices to be heard, find solutions for them all, and to become this inexhaustible advocate for all
issues pertaining to the persons with disabilities I had interviewed. I quickly realized that this
was well beyond the scope of the project. A few conversations with my supervisor made me
remember that, although I had enough data for two or three more theses, my job was to answer
the main research question and sub-questions of this thesis. Therefore, I went back to the
research questions and isolated the issues, concentrating on findings that would address them.
The themes emerged with much more definition and clarity. Also, borrowing words from the
questions to name the overarching findings was useful to neatly sort their subthemes and create a
logical flow to the paper.
Another struggle I faced in the first draft of the report was to take the diverse stories of
the participants and to integrate them into one. Instead, I used the participants‘ quotes structured
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 102
within sentences like: that person said . . ., and that other interviewee said. . . . I was afraid to
paraphrase and step out of line. I had become overly cautious of preserving the context of the
data. I was reluctant to separate the contributor from the contribution and to allow the
contribution to be part of the whole story. This resulted in a first draft clearly demonstrating
insufficient processing of the data with a flow that was rugged and lacked integration. Then, I
recalled and submitted to a piece of advice from Glesne (2006). Once I liberated my mind of
who said what and elevated my view to look for convergence and divergence and focus on
groups rather than individuals, the writing became more poised. As Glesne stated, ―Distancing
helps you approach writing from a perspective that is more global than situation specific‖
(p. 177).
In reflecting on this process, a few things that I could have done differently come to
mind. I had developed a comprehensive case-ordered display that contained data I had
paraphrased and some I had quoted verbatim. Although I had put quotation marks around the
verbatim text, I questioned myself about its accuracy. What if I had put quotes when I had
paraphrased? To avoid this in the future, I would use only exact quotes in the display. This
would give me the option to either transfer them directly to evidence the findings or paraphrase
them to develop the story. This blunder cost a lot of time because, instead of being able to use
the case-ordered display with confidence, which is meant to condense bulky data, I had to
rummage through 108 pages of typed transcripts and double check every quote that would go in
the report. Another thing that I should have done is to go back and repair the display to include
only quotes, but I did not do that. Taking the time to do this would have allowed me to work
more efficiently.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 103
It Takes Time
Since my personal situation allowed me to spend a considerable amount of time on
researching the topic and writing the report, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try to
finish it early. So, I gave myself a deadline and diligently went to work 7 days a week for 8 to 12
hours a day. I did this for weeks, until I reached a point where I became very unproductive. I
could not see the project any more. I had writer‘s block: I could not think or write anything. I
expressed my conundrum to my academic supervisor, who advised to take the weekend off. I
followed his advice and refused to turn on the computer, read, review, or even talk about the
project with my friends. He was right. When I came back, I was able to break through more data
and write again.
I also contemplated that there must be a reason for Royal Roads University to allocate 12
credits and nine months for the realization of this major project. Twelve credits are the
equivalent of successfully completing three or four courses. I reached the conclusion that it takes
time to assimilate the information and produce a quality report. At that point, I was able to place
the schedule in perspective.
How About not Answering a Question before Posing it?
I have learned that terminology matters and that we should not unilaterally change it,
particularly as members belonging to an out-group. I had written the project proposal and the
invitation letters using the term ―persons with diverse abilities‖ (see Appendices B, C, and D)
because my sponsor was using similar verbiage, and it resonated better with me as well. I felt,
although the term persons with disabilities is accepted and considered respectful (ILO, 2010), it
designates a label that does not properly reflect persons in the disability community. APA (2001)
has suggested asking people belonging to characterized groups what they would like to be called.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 104
So, my last interview question asked participants how they felt about the term persons with
disabilities and if they would prefer using alternate terminology instead. The majority of them
responded with comments similar to this one: ―call a spade a spade‖. In addition, a participant
said, ―Arbitrarily picking a different term even by a person with a disability feels very
disrespectful to the broader community.‖ I should have clued in by the use of wording in the
literature, but I was determined to change the world. Fortunately, the participants understood my
good intentions and gently put me back on track.
This anecdote illustrates how easy it is to be insensitive to others unintentionally and how
the credibility of the project could have been jeopardized. Now, I wonder if this situation had a
role to play in not getting responses from the community when the invitations were sent asking
people to participate in the study, as discussed in chapter three (see Appendices A and B).
Further, one of the philosophies of action research is the process of getting the truth by
interacting with stakeholders who have first-hand information of the issues investigated
(Stringer, 2007). Therefore, nothing should ever be assumed before the data are analyzed.
Having Confidence in our Learning Style
As said in the introduction of this chapter, my learning required trust. When difficulty is
encountered and it seems hopeless whether all that data can be processed, we have to trust in our
abilities, be patient with ourselves, and remember the challenges we have already overcome in
this program. We get through this. We also have to trust our supervisor who has gone through
this process at least once already. In my case, I was lucky that he had just completed his masters
and his doctorate in close succession. He was able to relate and reassure me.
Further, at some point, I found solace in reading chapter eight in Glesne (2006), who
encouraged researchers to keep writing regardless of flow, syntax, and grammar. She also
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 105
suggested revising the writing done the day before, but I took this a step further. When I got
writer‘s block, I went back and re-read course assignments for which I had received a desirable
mark. This gave me more confidence in my writing because I knew I had done it successfully
before. It was also helpful to revisit the training material on learning styles, which was handed
out during the first residency, and reflect on my intuitive, feeling style, and to accept it as
opposed to feeling inadequate in some ways. In discussing the writing challenges with my
supervisor and referring to the literature, I received the assurance that what I was going through
was normal.
Humility
We need to remember that as humans we are not infallible, particularly when learning,
and that we should not expect to be perfect and not to get lost now and then. As much as I like to
get it right the first time, humility became my fast friend. Writing a master‘s research paper is
not like writing an assignment from the course load. We, as master students, have the
responsibility to put the truth out there. We owe it to the persons who participated in the research
and to the readers who will be assimilating the information. The report could become a learning
medium for stakeholders who are counting on a reliable source of information on the researched
topic. Therefore, when my supervisor made comments and asked to improve the content, I
embraced it. I considered it a gift from someone who was invested in my learning and committed
to excellence. I learned what Covey (2006) professed, ―A humble person is more concerned
about what is right than about being right‖ (p. 64).
Conclusion
When I started this project, I wanted to reach outside my comfort zone and learn
something new. I have achieved that. This has been a rich and rewarding experience that has
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 106
awakened my awareness about persons with disabilities and their experiences in society and in
the workplace. I am puzzled at the attitudes that still prevail. Throughout this project, I kept
asking myself, ―What‘s the big deal?‖ I was so impressed with the blind person who runs a
business, with the deaf person who learned to talk by touching people‘s throat and who now
speaks eloquently, and the persons with mental health issues who have had the courage to talk
about their disabilities to their peers in order to help them with their family situations. I am
impressed by all persons with disabilities in the study who accepted my invitation with the
objective to increase awareness and make a difference in the workplace.
I have learned we all have abilities and inabilities, and at times, we all have disabilities.
For example, I need to wear reading glasses. Without this accommodation, I would not have
been able to read the literature that allowed me to complete this master‘s degree. I have had
times in life when my mental or physical health has not been optimal. I do not know anyone who
has not! We all have disabilities at some point in our lives. We all want to be accepted as we are.
Why do we not accept and understand others? Why do we continue to discriminate? Why do we
not take the time to scratch the surface to discover what is beneath in other people? These are
questions to which I plan to continue seeking answers.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 107
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Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 114
APPENDIX A: E-MAIL REQUEST TO EXTERNAL PARTICIPANTS
My name is Louise Tremblay and I am a student at Royal Roads University.
As a partial fulfillment toward a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership, I am conducting a
research project on the inclusion of persons with diverse abilities in the workplace. The sponsor
organization (or client), a BC Crown Corporation, is looking to answer the main research
question: What recruitment strategies could Corporate HR implement to ensure that the
company's inclusion objectives for persons with diverse abilities are achieved? Please note that I
am not an employee or representative of the Crown Corporation.
The Crown Corporation has a goal to be top employer with an inclusive and diverse workforce
representative of all demographics in the BC labour market. At present, the number of employees
with disabilities has declined below the rate of the labour market. Corporate Human Resources
(HR) needs to examine the current dynamics between hiring managers and employees within this
specific diversity group and develop recruitment strategies that may assist the company in
meeting its diversity goals.
This project will be conducted based on the methodology of action research involving human
participants and using qualitative research methods. A portion of the data will be gathered by
interviewing persons with diverse abilities currently working at the Crown Corporation. An
external group of participants with diverse abilities is also required to provide different
perspectives and to triangulate the findings.
The purpose of my e-mail is to explore the possibility that [your organization] might be willing
to provide access participants to assist the research. Only a total of five participants are required
for the study. Confidentiality is assured. Participation is totally voluntary and participants may
withdraw at any time. The final research report will be available to the participants. I would like
to start the interviews by July 1, 2010 and finish on July 15, 2010.
Rest assured that in all aspects of my work, I intend to maintain the highest ethical integrity by
adhering to Royal Roads University's (RRU) Research Ethics Policy. This research project has
received Ethics Review approval from RRU and a copy of the confirmation letter is appended. I
would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this in greater details and provide more information
on the research.
I look forward to hearing from you. I can be reached at home at [phone #] or via e-mail at [email
address].
Louise Tremblay
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 115
APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INVITATION FOR INTERVIEWS
March 20, 2010
Dear _____,
I would like to invite you to be part of a research project that I am conducting. This project is
part of the requirement for a Master of Arts in Leadership degree, at Royal Roads University. My
name is Louise Tremblay and my credentials with Royal Roads University can be established by
calling Wendy Rowe, Acting Director, Faculty of Leadership at [phone #].
The objective of my research project is to learn about experiences employees with disabilities
have at BC Hydro, leading toward the development of recruitment and employee experience
recommendations to ensure BC Hydro meets its diversity goals.
Your name was chosen as a prospective participant because you are either (1) a person with
diverse abilities currently employed at BC Hydro, or (2) a person with diverse abilities employed
with another organization, or (3) a person with or without a disability working in leadership
position at BC Hydro. Your feedback will be valuable toward the development of
recommendations to assist BC Hydro in meeting its objectives for a diverse workforce.
My research project will consist of an interview. You will be meeting with me in person in a
location of your choice. The interview is anticipated to last about one hour and may be longer
depending on the participant‘s input. If you are a person with diverse abilities, the questions will
refer to discussing your experience when you were recruited and sharing your story as an
employee with diverse abilities still employed with your organization, and sharing your
perspective about your employer‘s diversity and inclusion practices. If you are a leader at BC
Hydro, the questions will pertain to your perception the current workplace and your vision for
inclusion of persons with diverse abilities. A few days following the interview, you will have the
opportunity to review the transcript to ensure its accuracy.
Information will be captured in an audio recorder and hand-written notes, where appropriate
summarized, in anonymous format, in the body of the final report. At no time will any specific
comment be attributed to any individual unless your specific agreement has been obtained
beforehand. All documentation will be kept strictly confidential in my home where I am a single
occupant. No records will be stored on BC Hydro premises or computers. My work will be done
in my home office using my personal computer and no writing or communication will be done
using BC Hydro computers. Recordings and notes will be destroyed upon the approval of the
final report by RRU.
In addition to being a student at Royal Roads, I am employed at BC Hydro as a Key Account
Manager. You are not obligated to participate in this research project. Whether you choose to
participate or not will have no effect upon your employment or advancement. If you do choose to
participate, you are free to withdraw at any time without prejudice. Similarly, if you choose not
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 116
to participate in this research project, this information will also be maintained in confidence. If
you wish to withdraw during the interview, you will have the option to withdraw your
comments. No other person but me will know whether or not you choose to participate and if you
withdraw. I have attached a copy of the questionnaires for you to preview.
I will be submitting my final report to Royal Roads University in partial fulfillment of a Master
of Arts in Leadership degree. I will also be sharing my research findings with BC Hydro in the
form of a report and slide presentation. A copy of the final report will be published. A copy will
be housed at Royal Roads University, available online through UMI/Proquest and the Theses
Canada portal and will be publicly accessible. Access and distribution will be unrestricted. You
will be able to view this document on line.
I do not intend to have a debriefing session. So, please contact me at any time if you have
additional questions regarding the project and its outcomes or if you would like to participate in
my research project at:
Louise Tremblay
Email: [email address]
Home telephone: [phone #].
Sincerely,
Louise Tremblay
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 117
APPENDIX C: DRAFT RESEARCH CONSENT FORM FOR INTERVIEWS
My name is Louise Tremblay, and this research project is part of the requirement for a Master of
Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University. My credentials with Royal Roads University can
be established by telephoning Wendy Rowe, Acting Director, Faculty of Leadership at [phone
#]..
This document constitutes an agreement to participate in my research project, the objective of
which is to learn about the experiences employees with diverse abilities have at BC Hydro,
leading toward the development of recruitment and employee experience recommendations to
ensure BC Hydro meets its diversity goals. As a participant, you may fit in any of these three
groupings: (1) BC Hydro employee with diverse abilities, (2) part of BC Hydro leadership team,
and (3) person with diverse abilities currently employed in an external organization.
The research will consist of a personal face to face interview asking open ended questions and is
anticipated to last about one hour. This time may be extended if the participant wishes to do so.
If you are a person with diverse abilities, the questions will refer to discussing your experience
when you were recruited and sharing your story as an employee with diverse abilities still
employed with your organization, and sharing your perspective about your employer‘s diversity
and inclusion practices. If you are a leader at BC Hydro, the questions will pertain to your
perception of the current workplace and your vision for inclusion of persons with diverse
abilities. A few days following the interview, you will have the opportunity to review the
transcript to ensure its accuracy.
Information will be captured in an audio recorder and hand-written notes and, where appropriate,
summarized, in anonymous format, in the body of the final report. This will ensure the efficient
and accurate transcription of the interview. At no time will any specific comments be attributed
to any individual unless specific agreement has been obtained beforehand. All documentation
and recordings will be kept strictly confidential in my home where I am a single occupant. No
records will be stored on BC Hydro premises or computers. My work will be done in my home
office using my personal computer and no writing or other communication will be done using
BC Hydro‘s tools. Recordings, notes, records, and consent forms will be destroyed upon the
approval of the final report by RRU.
In addition to submitting my final report to Royal Roads University in partial fulfillment of a
Master of Arts in Leadership degree, I will also be sharing my research findings with BC Hydro
in the form of a report and slide presentation. A copy of the final report will be published. A
copy will be housed at Royal Roads University, available online through UMI/Proquest and the
Theses Canada portal and will be publicly accessible. Access and distribution will be
unrestricted. A copy of the report will be available for you to see on line.
In addition to being a student at Royal Roads University, I am employed at BC Hydro as a Key
Account Manager. You are not compelled to participate in this research project. Whether you
choose to participate or not will have no effect upon your employment or advancement. If you do
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 118
choose to participate, you are free to withdraw at any time without prejudice. Similarly, if you
choose not to participate in this research project, this information will also be maintained in
confidence. If you wish to withdraw during the interview, you have the option to withdraw your
contributions. I will not be discussing your participation and your input with anyone within BC
Hydro or externally.
As a student, I am obligated to follow Royal Roads University Research Ethics Policy, which is
in accordance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving
Humans, and have undergone a rigorous Ethics Review Process. As an employee of BC Hydro, I
am bound by the Code of Business Conduct and the policies of the Freedom of Information and
Confidentiality Office and I have signed a confidentiality agreement.
By signing this letter, you give free and informed consent to participate in this project.
Name: (Please Print): __________________________________________________
Signed: _____________________________________________________________
Date: _______________________________________________________________
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 119
APPENDIX D: DRAFT QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS
For Current Employees with Diverse Abilities
1. Tell me about your experience applying for employment at BC Hydro as a person
with diverse abilities.
2. When you first considered applying at BC Hydro for employment, what barriers
did you encounter specific to your situation?
3. Since you have been employed with us, what barriers have you encountered
consistently that may discourage someone with similar diverse abilities to yours
from applying for a position?
4. Tell me about your experience working at BC Hydro as a person with diverse
abilities?
5. How is the physical environment designed to accommodate you?
6. How would you describe the way your colleagues interact with you?
7. What suggestions would you offer BC Hydro to eliminate or minimize the
barriers you encountered and enhance your working experience?
8. What recommendations would you have to make the workplace more inclusive
and enhance the experience of persons with diverse abilities? What could BC
Hydro do more of or less of within the current realities?
9. Although I use the term person with diverse abilities, the term person with a
disability seems to be accepted broadly in our society, how do you feel about this
characterization? If you could change it, would you? To what?
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 120
For External Persons with Diverse Abilities
1. Tell me about your experience in applying for employment in your current
organization as a person with diverse abilities?
2. When you first considered applying for your current position, what barriers did
you encounter specific to your situation?
3. Since you have been employed with your organization, what barriers have you
encountered consistently that may discourage someone with similar abilities to
yours from applying for a position?
4. Tell me about your experience working with your current employer as a person
with diverse abilities?
5. How is the physical environment designed to accommodate you?
6. How would you describe the way your colleagues interact with you?
7. What suggestions would you offer your employer to eliminate or minimize the
barriers you encountered and enhance your working experience?
8. What recommendations would you have to make the workplace more inclusive
and enhance the experience of persons with diverse abilities? What could your
employer do more of or less of within the current realities?
9. Although I use the term person with diverse abilities, the term person with a
disability seems to be accepted broadly in our society, how do you feel about this
characterization? If you could change it, would you? To what?
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 121
For Member of the Leadership Team at BC Hydro
1. What do you think are the barriers experienced by persons with diverse abilities
when they apply for employment at BC Hydro?
2. Once persons with diverse abilities are employed with BC Hydro, what barriers
do you think they are experiencing that could prevent other people with diverse
abilities from applying for a position with us?
3. How satisfied are you that the physical environment has been adequately planned
and designed to accommodate persons with diverse abilities currently working in
the office?
4. How are the guidelines HR has implemented being considered when engaging
employees with diverse abilities to develop the relationships they need to do their
jobs effectively and to enhance their working experience?
5. What recommendations would you make to eliminate or minimize the barriers
you perceive persons with diverse abilities face at BC Hydro?
6. What recommendations would you make to HR to ensure that BC Hydro‘s
diversity goals are achieved?
7. Although I use the term person with diverse abilities, the term person with a
disability seems to be accepted broadly in society, how do you feel about this
characterization? If you could change it, would you? To what?
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 122
APPENDIX E: ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY ETHICS APPROVAL
3 June, 2010
Louise Tremblay
[Address]
Re: Ethical Review – Louise Tremblay
Dear Louise,
Please accept this letter as confirmation that the Royal Roads Research Ethics Board has given
clearance for your research on the project: ―Inclusion of Persons with Diverse Abilities‖.
This letter is to confirm that final clearance was granted on the 30th of May, 2010, pending any
additional clearances required by the sponsoring organization or any other organization.
Should you require any additional information, please feel free to contact us.
Sincerely,
Colleen Hoppins
Colleen Hoppins
Research Ethics Coordinator
Office of Research
Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Road
Victoria, BC Canada V9B 5Y2
Email: [email address]
Website: www.royalroads.ca
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