Expectations management; employer perspectives on opportunities for improved employment of persons with mental disabilities in Kenya*

Ikenna D. Ebuenyi*, Alida J. van der Ham, Joske F.G. Bunders-Aelen, Barbara J. Regeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: In Kenya, the employment rate for persons with disabilities is about 1% compared to 73.8% for the general population, and the situation is even worse for persons with mental disabilities. Persons with mental disabilities are often regarded as “mad”, and stand little or no chance of employment. We undertook an exploratory study with employers and potential employers to understand factors that hinder or facilitate their employment and to gain insight into employers’ perceptions of mental disability. Materials and methods: We adopted a mixed method study design, including in-depth interviews (n = 10) and questionnaires (n = 158) with (potential) employers in Kenya to explore the barriers and facilitators of employment for persons with mental disabilities. Results: Out of the 158 employers who completed the questionnaire, only 15.4% had ever employed persons with mental disabilities. The perceptions that these persons are not productive and may be violent was associated with an unwillingness to employ them (OR: 10.11, 95%CI: 2.87–35.59 and OR: 3.6, 95%CI: 1.34–9.64, respectively). The possession of skills was the highest reported facilitator of employing persons with mental disabilities. Employers suggested that information about mental illness and the disclosure by prospective employees with mental disabilities are relevant for the provision of reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Conclusion: Possession of skills and disclosure by persons with mental disabilities could improve their employability. Information targeted at all actors including employers, employees, government, and policymakers is necessary for balancing employers and employees expectations. Implications for rehabilitation Disabled persons’ organisations or mental disability programs that seek to improve the employment of persons with mental disabilities should incorporate methods that address employer expectations through dialogue to find mutual benefits. Employers require essential information about mental illness, and guidance and support in order to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace for persons with mental disabilities. Disabled persons’ organisations and inclusive employment programs should share the positive experiences of employers of persons with mental disabilities with employers who are unaware of the work abilities of persons with mental disabilities to stimulate adoption of inclusive practices.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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