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EAWOP Small Group Meeting on Disability and Employment


EAWOP Small Group Meeting

Disability and Employment

Integrating research streams and facilitating international collaboration

Call for Papers

October 22nd – 24th, 2014

Maastricht University, The Netherlands


Fred Zijlstra, Adrienne Colella, Frans Nijhuis, Beate Muschalla, Patrizia Villotti, Katharina Vornholt

Conference Theme

The World Health Organization (2011) reports that about 15% of the world’s population has a disability. Some would even argue that this is a low estimate given the various ways in which disability is defined across countries. In countries with civil rights legislation regarding the employment of people with disabilities, unemployment rates are approximately twice what they are for people without disabilities (UN Enable report, 2012) and it can be assumed that rates are even worse in countries without such law. The issue of disability and employment has also taken center stage on the global arena because it spans several areas of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which represent eight time-bound goals designed to confront extreme poverty in its many manifestations (UN Enable report, 2012). With the recent passing of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) there is now even greater international contextual support for pursuing the interests of persons with disabilities. Despite this global focus on the issue of disability and employment, organizational psychologists have failed to form strong international collaborations. This SGM will provide a forum to foster collaboration and communication among people working on disability studies.

In this meeting we will focus on the following four themes:

1) Defining disability

Disability according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, ICF (WHO, 2001; Linden, 2012) can present in different forms. According to a bio-psycho-social model, the modern understanding of disability is no longer “A person is disabled”, but “A person becomes disabled by the context.” People with chronic illness, and especially with mental disorders, experience the most common disabilities in daily life, mostly in the context of work when the misfit between work duty or work environment on the one hand and the persons’ capacity status on the other hand end up in long-term-sick-leave or early retirement.

We need concepts for more precisely describing disability in psychological terms in order to prevent work participation problems, to create occupational interventions for preventing disability at work, and to reintegrate people with chronic impairments.

2) Hiring and Retaining Persons with Disabilities

In recent years more and more employers and business groups are facing the problem of a shrinking workforce and are having difficulty finding and keeping skilled workers. Therefore, employers need to look for new and non-traditional sources of skilled employees. One source that has been largely overlooked and underutilized is people with disabilities (Lengnick-Hall et al. 2008). This topic may cover selection issues, biases in hiring and promoting people with disabilities, return to work issues, or recruiting people with disabilities.

3) Barriers and Enablers to Full Workplace Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

The reason why people with disabilities often fail to stay in an organization for a sustained period of time is a lack of access to and supports in the workplace. It is surely true that many people with disabilities are unable to participate in the paid workforce, yet it is also true that many others could work, and would like to work. However, they are prevented from doing so because of discrimination and barriers. The goal should be to facilitate inclusion into the job market consistent with people’s desires and abilities (OECD, 2003). This topic may cover research on stereotypes, discrimination, trust, or performance issues. Furthermore, the topic “accommodating disability at work” is meant to belong to this topic, including HR issues in implementation, fairness, willingness to request, or the impact of accommodations.

4) The Supply Side Perspective

Employers play a crucial role in hiring, managing and retaining employees with disabilities. Their work and engagement, their attitudes and openness to diversity are prerequisites for the successful inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Employers are able to change and improve disability practices by demonstrating leadership and providing guidance (Bruyère et al., 2004). This topic may cover employers’ attitudes, successful systems, disability as a diversity dimension, or the role of leadership.

Format of the conference

The EAWOP Small Group Meeting is a workshop taking place over three days beginning Wednesday, 22nd of October 2014 and ending Friday, 24th of October 2014 (Wednesday, 12:30 – 17:45, Thursday 8:30 – 17:15, Friday 08:30 – 15:30). The meeting will feature four keynotes, approximately 16 paper presentations, two poster sessions, and a roundtable discussion on ideas for the future of the field, both research and practitioner focused. Additionally, time will be provided for discussions. There will be no registration fee and costs for meals during the day will be covered.


Maastricht is located in the south of the Netherlands. Founded by the Romans, Maastricht is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the Netherlands. With its striking modern buildings, 17th century townhouses, cobblestones streets and charming squares, Maastricht is a haven for students and academics, researchers and scientists, expatriates and artists.

Known as the birthplace of the European Union, Maastricht is an international city, welcoming people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. Home to over 135 international institutes, Maastricht is only a few hours away from European capitals such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London and Berlin. With a population of around 120,000, the city attracts countless foreign visitors both for tourism and business.

The Small Group Meeting will take place at the Maastricht University, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. Maastricht is easily accessible by train, plane or car.

Submission of abstracts

Paper abstracts (up to 500 words) should be submitted by March 15th, 2014 to In their submission, authors should indicate which theme of the small-group meeting their paper addresses and how it does so. Participants will be notified about the acceptance of their paper by May 1st, 2014.

Publication of Papers

We are planning to publish a selection of the papers in a special issue of an academic journal. This will be discussed in more detail at the SGM.


More information can be found at