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Socially constructed ‘value’ and vocational experiences following neurological injury
Fadyl, JK; Payne, D
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Purpose: Paid work is seen as a key outcome in rehabilitation. However, research demonstrates that because of normative expectations in the job market and workplace, experiences of disability can be intensified in a work context. We sought to explore this issue in more depth by analysing the effects of societal constructions of worker ‘value’ within individual case studies of people with acquired neurological injury. Method: Instrumental case study of four heterogeneous participants, employing a discourse analysis approach. Results: Participants described a perpetuation of discourses in which a disabled body or mind itself is seen to qualify, disqualify or limit a person’s value in employment. Nevertheless, interviews also highlighted discourses that constructed other worker identities: based on pre-injury identities, life experiences and other aspects of self. The contrasts between individuals illustrated how worker identities, when situated within broader societal discourses of worker ‘value’, can either constrain or expand the vocational opportunities available to individuals who experience disability. However, current and historical interactions about worker ‘value’ shaped the identities genuinely available to each individual. Conclusion: Understanding how societal discourses enable and constrain worker identities may be vital to (a) facilitating valid opportunities and (b) navigating situations that could unintentionally hinder vocational possibilities.Implications for RehabilitationThis study shows how worker identities, situated within societal discourses of worker ‘value’, can constrain or broaden vocational opportunities available to individuals who experience disability.Barriers to gaining, maintaining and developing in employment could be re-envisaged in terms of what is limiting a person’s ability to embody an enabling identity.A knowledge of both societal discourses and individuals’ interactions with them may be vital to facilitating opportunities that users of rehabilitation services experience as valid options. This knowledge can also provide information with which to navigate situations that could potentially (sometimes unintentionally) constrain vocational possibilities.