Original Research

Exploring career advancement challenges people with disabilities are facing in the South African work context

Ingrid L. Potgieter, Melinde Coetzee, Themba Ximba
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 15 | a815 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.815 | © 2017 Ingrid L. Potgieter, Melinde Coetzee, Themba Ximba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 May 2016 | Published: 28 February 2017

About the author(s)

Ingrid L. Potgieter, Department of Human Resource Management, University of South Africa, South Africa
Melinde Coetzee, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Themba Ximba, Department of Human Resource Management, University of South Africa, South Africa


Orientation: South Africa has faced a number of discriminatory practices in the past. Most of these practices are still present today. Although a considerate amount of attention has been given to discrimination based on gender, race and religion, limited emphasis has been placed on discrimination based on disability, specifically within the workplace.

Research purpose: The objective of the study was to explore the perceptions of individuals living with a disability with regards to career advancement challenges they face in the South African workplace.

Motivation for study: The research literature shows that irrespective of employment equity legislation, employees with disabilities have restricted opportunities to advance in their careers. Research is needed to assist these employees with their career development.

Research design, approach and method: A qualitative research design with an exploratory approach was followed. Probability, purposeful and snowballing sampling techniques were applied in this study on 15 employed individuals with declared disabilities. The data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews and the verbatim transcriptions were analysed by content analysis.

Main findings/results: The findings indicated that people with disabilities generally experience career advancement challenges and reach career plateau. Managers and colleagues’ lack of knowledge about disability has an adverse impact on the careers of people living with a disability. The study found that human resource practices, especially promotion opportunities, discriminate against employees with disabilities. Furthermore, the study further indicated that there is prejudice against invisible disabilities, and as a result, employees are reluctant to declare their disability.

Practical implications: Human resource practitioners and managers need to recognise the influence that disabilities have on the career advancement of individuals living with a disability in order to assist such individuals in their own career development.

Contribution: The findings of this study will help companies improve their practices on the integration and inclusion of employees with disabilities and also on decision-making regarding their careers.


disability; career advancement; challenges; legislation


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Crossref Citations

1. Capacity building as a strategic tool for employment equity implementation in the financial sector
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doi: 10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1532