3.1 Included exclusion
Lee Humber, an academic in the social history of learning disability, interviewed people with learning disabilities about their experience of employment over time. His research (2014) showed that people with learning disabilities sometimes experience what he describes as ‘included exclusion’ at work. By this he means that even when people hold down their jobs – sometimes for very long periods of time – they don’t feel ‘part of the team’. For example, here is Margaret, a 51-year old woman with learning disabilities, talking about her employment in a North London biscuit factory:
It was quite a big factory. I never really mixed with the people there. I mostly kept myself to myself. They didn’t seem very sociable. They did used to say hello and that but I used to take my sandwiches for lunch. I was mostly on my own there.
Equality legislation (for example the Equality Act 2010) is in place to prevent disabled people from being discriminated in the workplace. But Humber’s research shows that in order for people with learning disabilities to have a good experience of work, employers need to do more than merely avoid discrimination. Employers need to take steps to ensure that colleagues with learning disabilities are respected, valued and supported to feel included.