Barriers to finding and maintaining open employment for people with intellectual disability in Australia

Ariella Meltzer, Sally Robinson, Karen R. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Everyone has the right to employment. Work is important for health, well-being, and social, economic, and financial inclusion. However, it is often difficult for people with intellectual disability to find and maintain work, especially in the open labour market. Policy challenges remain about who can access open employment (also sometimes called competitive or supported employment) and how often people with intellectual disability do so. Greater understanding about the barriers that people with intellectual disability encounter when they try to find and keep work in open employment is needed. Drawing on research with 51 people with intellectual disability in Australia, this paper examines the systemic barriers they report to finding and maintaining work in open employment. The findings highlight that the barriers they experience stem from narrow, dismissive, and discouraging attitudes to their work in open employment and from a spectrum of experiences of stigma and discrimination in open workplaces. The paper thus provides new knowledge about reasons that people with intellectual disability may either reject or not continue in open employment and take up less inclusive work options. The paper discusses the implications of the findings, including the need for policy development for attitudinal change, designing more varied roles for employees with intellectual disability, ensuring access to industrial relations protections, and increasing and better regulating and funding requirements on support to people with intellectual disability who are seeking work in open employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-101
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • barriers
  • competitive employment
  • intellectual disability
  • learning disability
  • open employment
  • open labour market


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