Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Multi-Component Demand-Side Intervention Toolkit for VR Professionals to Improve Employment Outcomes of People with Physical Disabilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study - Diversity Training

by Blaise Morrison, Brian Phillips, and Fong Chan

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Diversity Training in The Workplace: Including Disability

What is diversity training?

Diversity training is an intervention intended to improve intergroup relations and to reduce prejudice. It is typically designed to enhance the skills, knowledge, and motivation of people to interact effectively with diverse others. Within the work environment, diversity training is used to help build a more successful organization with better-performing employees. To accomplish this objective, diversity training usually aims to change employee behavior towards socially disadvantaged group members. Research suggests that as many as 67% of U.S. organizations report some use of diversity training (Kulik & Roberson, 2008).

Is disability included in diversity training?

Despite a great deal of attention to gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation issues in the workplace, focus on people with disabilities has been more limited in diversity training. The neglect of disability issues in diversity training may reflect a fundamental difference in employer perceptions of disability versus other forms of diversity. Employers sometimes view disability as a “problem to be accommodated rather than a difference to be celebrated (Stensrud, 2007, p. 234).” Research indicates that using diversity training to address employers misconceptions and concerns may serve to improve hiring and retention of employees with disabilities (Brostrand, 2006; Fabian, Luecking, & Tils, 1995; Roessler, Neath, McMahon & Rumrill, 2007). Efforts to develop disability-focused diversity training programs, therefore, are greatly needed.

What do we know about disability diversity training?

A systematic review of literature on disability-focused diversity trainings in the workplace was conducted to determine the use and effectiveness of disability diversity training aimed at improving employment outcomes for employees with disabilities (Phillips, Deiches, Morrison, Chan, & Bezyak, 2015). Out of 1,322 articles searched, only three studies included an empirical investigation of a work-based, disability-focused, diversity training program.

One study (Rudstam, Hittleman, & Gower, 2013) assessed change in employers’ general disability knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, while the other two studies (Shaw, Robertson, McLellan, Verma, & Pransky, 2006; McLellan, Prasky, & Shaw, 2001) focused on promoting supervisor behavior that was supportive of employees with work-related musculoskeletal pain or disability. For the first study, significant gains were found in attitudes, knowledge, and behavioral intentions of employers after the diversity training. In the other two studies, significant decreases in lost work time and declines in injury claim rates resulted after the training, respectively. Although these three studies provide preliminary support for the effectiveness of disability diversity trainings, more rigorous research is needed to determine its influence on work-based outcomes and to establish effective practices.

Design, Content, Participents

Existing Disability Diversity Training Programs

There are a number of promising disability diversity training programs in addition to the three cited in the systematic review. Information about a few of the currently available programs are listed here:




Live Trainer

Length (hours)

Active Learning

Work Setting


Workforce Discovery






Tilting at Windmills






Work Support

N (Online)





Information for this research brief was developed for the VCU-RRTC on Employment of People with Physical Disabilities.

The authors for this research brief are Blaise Morrison, MRC, CRC, LPC; Dr. Brian Phillips; and Dr. Fong Chan from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Questions on this brief should be directed to Dr. Brian Phillips at bnphillips2@wisc.edu.

For more information on the VCU-RRTC or if accommodations are needed, please contact Dr. Katherine Inge, Project Director at kinge@vcu.edu or (804)-828-5956.