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Participation of people with disabilities in working life

New project: 1,2 Million Euros for transition to labour market research

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Portrait of Dr. Bastian Pelka © Jana Sandner
Substitute professor Dr. Bastian Pelka and his team are happy about the project approval and funding for the project "Work the way I want it!" ("Arbeiten wie ich es will!")

Dr. Bastian Pelka and his team are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a project grant: the “Ausgleichsfonds für überregionale Vorhaben zur Teilhabe schwerbehinderter Menschen am Arbeitsleben” (Compensation Fund for Supraregional Projects for the Participation of Severely Disabled People in Working Life) will fund a five-year project to improve the transition of employees in workshops for disabled people (WfbM) to the general labour market. An AI-supported app, the "real lab" method and the "social innovation" approach are used.

People with severe disabilities participate in the general labour market to a significantly lesser extent than people without disabilities. The instrument of WfbM can also only fulfil the expectation of a transition of employees to the general labour market to a small extent. The digital transformation of work, education and business processes creates further barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing the labour market.

"This is the background against which we are looking for starting points for improving the transition," explains Pelka, who heads the research area "Innovation and Education in the Digital Society" at the sfs and currently holds the professorship in Rehabilitation Sociology at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences. The project enters a situation in which, on the one hand, discourses on the importance of the WfbM as a place of learning have been going on for a long time, but on the other hand, current legislation, judgements and political framework conditions are calling for innovations in the design of the transition. "This makes the project both academically and socially exciting and has the potential to take up and accompany many changes within the project period," says Pelka.

In the project "Working the way I want to!", the four partner institutions - the supporting association Franz Sales Haus (Essen), the Fraunhofer Application Centre SYMILA, the Münster University of Applied Sciences/Münster School of Design as well as the TU Dortmund University - want to support people with disabilities in making decisions about access to the labour market more themselves. People are to be enabled to better recognise their own competences, to match these with the requirements of the labour market and, if necessary, to be able to call on support in a targeted manner. In a system in which many participants (e.g. pedagogical specialists and instructors in the WfbM) influence these decisions and perhaps also make decisions for people with disabilities, they are aiming for a shift in decision-making towards the people concerned. In research on social innovations, this is referred to as "reconfigurations of social practices".

Methodologically, the project relies on an AI-supported app that people with disabilities can use for information about labour market access and that provides barrier-free information about, for example, aids, support offers and their own entitlements, as well as integrating this into the context of possible jobs. In addition, people are supported with the instrument of the real laboratory to experience their own competences in a very practical way and to acquire competences in dealing with digital media. In a further step, surveys in the WfbM will identify hindering and supporting factors for the necessary innovation process and workshops with companies will address interfaces at the transition.

The project will run from 11/2022 to 10/2026 and has a funding volume of 5.9 million Euros, 1.2 million Euros of which will go to the TU Dortmund University.