Disability and employment in China
: Lived experiences and approaches from perspectives of young people with learning and developmental disabilities, parents, and job coaches

  • Dong Lin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis has opened a dialogue towards understanding how disability is constructed, perceived and experienced in a specific Chinese context. It contributes to raising awareness of disability and providing practical suggestions for creating a m ore inclusive working environment and society. This PhD adopted a case study design to investigate the following research question: What are the perceptions of disability and attitudes towards employment and supported employment of young people with learning and developmental disabilities, their parents, and job coaches in supported employment in Guangzhou, China?

There are two dimensions to the construction of this work. First, adopting Studies in Ableism (SiA) as a theoretical orientation focused on ableist thinking and practice systems that formulate a notion of able-bodiedness and able-mindedness in a specific context and with different populations, including disabled people. Second, SiA provided a lens to explore and discuss the notion of peopleship and the ideal of the people, and its construction of disability in China’s political, economic and cultural context. Understanding how disability is constructed at the national level provided a foundation for this study to explore how disability is perceive d and experienced at the individual level.

The participants (n=32) included young people with learning and developmental disabilities (n=13), their parents (n=13) who had various experiences of supported employment, and job coaches (n=6) working in supported employment. Key findings and discussions from the data analysis highlight the variation in how disability is perceived, experienced, and approached, and this is understood through the following three findings: 1) young people have different ways of perceiving disability: internalising and adapting to ableism, and having a counter ableist understanding of disability; 2) parents use the family as a protective shelter in young people’s lives and work: having different ways of dealing with young people’s employment, which is affected by their face concern; 3) grassroots disabled people’s organisations play an important role in challenging the construction and practice of disability at the national level: at the risk of conducting ableist thinking and practices in the context of China.

As perceptions and experiences of disability are always conflicting, more studies using different theoretical perspectives and methodologies in exploring disability in various contexts of China would further contribute to understanding disability in China.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusan Levy (Supervisor) & Fiona Kumari Campbell (Supervisor)

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