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Enabled Voices: An Interpretive Study of the 'Lived Experiences' of Young Adults with Disabilities During Their Transition to the Workplace Open Access

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This is a qualitative phenomenological interpretive research study examining the "lived experiences" of a group of young adults (ages 22 to 28) during their transition from school to the workplace. Each participant is personally challenged with a physical, emotional, or cognitive disability or some combination therein. This study found that within the experiences of these young adults during transition there were themes associated with relationships, vocation, autonomy, change, affect, identity, learning, and service. The study found that each person was unique in how the themes were manifest in their lives. This was a time in their lives characterized by periodic unevenness, order and disorder, self organization and change. The study adopted a semi-structured interview protocol. Participants engaged in a pre-interview exercise which was used to facilitate the individual's initial re-creation of their experiences. This provided a self-starting framework for the first interview. A second interview allowed the participant to confirm or correct initial interpretations from the first interview as well as provide additional commentary. This is consistent with qualitative research verification procedures establishing trustworthiness. Data analysis used Moustakas (1994) "modified van Kaam" approach involving phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis. The findings are the result of first-hand accounts of the "lived experiences" from the participants themselves. These are individuals from a population group many of whom too often graduate from high school to transitional states of social silence and invisibility. The study adopted a theoretical framework involving the mainstream domains of adult learning and development, and incorporated chaos and complexity theory as the systems context for research and analysis. In that context allowance is made for interdisciplinary convergence and mutuality, dynamical instability that yet contains an underlying order, self-organization as well as constant states of change. The findings contribute to the fields of mainstream adult development and learning. The inter-relationship of these knowledge domains may be recognized to some degree but potential benefits remain unexplored relative to young adults with disabilities. On the practitioner level, understanding more about the "lived experiences" of young adults with disabilities will increase awareness and understanding of the individual and therefore increase the possibilities for improved adult services and support.

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