Organizations are increasingly investing in disability-specific sensitization workshops. Yet, there is limited understanding about their hoped outcomes, that is, increased knowledge about disability-related issues and behavioral changes with respect to those with a disability. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness and boundaries of disability-specific sensitization training in organizations.
This is an interview-based study where 33 employees from five industries across India were interviewed over the span of a year.
The findings suggest that sensitization workshops are successful with regard to awareness generation. Paradoxically, the same awareness also reinforced group boundaries through “othering.” Further, workshops resonated more so with individuals who already had some prior experience with disability, implying that voluntary sensitization is likely attracting those who have the least need of such sensitization. The findings also suggest that non-mandated interventions may not necessarily influence organizational level outcomes, especially if workshops are conducted in isolation from a broader organizational culture of inclusion.
The present study helps outline effects of sensitization training initiatives and enhances our understanding about how negative attitudes toward persons with a disability can be overcome. The study also indicates how such training initiatives may inadvertently lead to “othering.” Finally, this study offers suggestions to human resource managers for designing impactful disability sensitization workshops.
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