Nations are increasingly demonstrating a commitment to disability rights by enacting national policies on disability. Among them, the United Republic of Tanzania has, in addition to being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), made a public commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities through a number of national policy mechanisms such as the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010. As in other nations with policy commitments to disability rights, however, the principles and promises made in policy documents often are not reflected in direct action for the Act's intended beneficiaries. This article explores the challenges of translating policy to action by examining the accountability mechanisms tied to the employment-related Articles of the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010 and by discussing studies that provide the "on the ground" employment reality in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Governments are increasingly demonstrating their commitment to disability rights through the enactment of policies on disability. Among them, the United Republic of Tanzania, in addition to being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), has made a public commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities through a number of policy mechanisms, most recently through the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010. With this enactment of the 2010 Act, Tanzania demonstrates an attitude shift in favor of concrete policy outcomes that will further the societal integration and human rights of people with disabilities. By passing an Act that has strong policy recommendations and that came about through significant consultation with people with disabilities themselves (Tanzania Federation of Disabled People Organization, 2010), Tanzania has effectively begun to reconceptualize the capacity of people with disabilities. Because Tanzania engaged in extensive and unprecedented consultation with Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) in the writing of the 2010 Act, people with disabilities who were formally thought of as a "burden," are starting to be regarded as valuable and contributing members of society with crucial input to provide on disability policy.

As in other nations with policy commitments to disability rights, however, the principles and promises made in policy documents often are not reflected in direct action for the intended beneficiaries. It can often be difficult to implement macro-level policy ideals. Indeed, the policy impact on employment levels of people with disabilities has been minimal, and people with disabilities around the world continue to be under represented in the paid workforce (Edwards, Rentschler, Fujimoto & Le, 2010). Although it may take time and effort to change practices within a society or culture, there are mechanisms within policy that enable change — including penalties (e.g., the "stick" approach, such as due process and monetary fines) and moral imperatives (e.g., the "carrot" approach, such as rewarding positive actions and appealing to the wider good of society).

Here, I explore the challenges of translating policy to action by examining the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As Edwards and colleagues (2010) assert, low rates of employment of people with disabilities worldwide, "reflects a failure of governments of all stripes to adequately meet their social inclusion obligations" (p. 119). I argue that the government of Tanzania is no exception. With greater integration of people with disabilities in Tanzanian workplaces, people with disabilities themselves will have greater opportunities to demonstrate their capacity to contribute to society through work, thus further reconceptualizing the "burden" of disability in Tanzanian society.

First, I outline Tanzania's policy commitment to persons with disabilities in the workplace, focusing on the most recent workplace accountability mechanisms in Tanzania's Persons with Disabilities Act. Next, I discuss the misalignment between policy aspirations and reality on the ground, drawing from data published in a survey on disability in the workplace by Radar Development and its partners in 2010. Finally, I suggest why this misalignment between policy and reality exists and propose ways in which the government of Tanzania and civil society organizations may achieve greater alignment between the values set out in its policy and the reality in Dar es Salaam.

The United Republic of Tanzania

The East African nation of Tanzania is a useful case for examining the reconceptualization of disability and the difficulties in translating policy to practice because Tanzania, among other African nations, has had a comparatively longstanding commitment to disability policy (see table 1) and has improved its policy for people with disabilities over time. Most recently this improvement is evidenced in the increased consultation with DPOs and the improved accountability mechanisms in the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010 as compared with the 2004 National Policy on Disability (NPD).

Table 1:
Relevant disability policies enacted by Tanzania.*
Policy Name Date Enacted Key information
Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (No. 2) 1982 Establishes a quota system that stipulates that 2 per cent of the workforce in companies (50+ employees) must be people with disabilities. Also establishes a National Advisory Council to advise the minister responsible for disability issues.
Disabled Persons (Employment) Regulations 1985 Defines the eligibility and registration requirements for people with disabilities.
Vocational Education and Training Act (No. 1) 1994 Provides a legal framework for the implementation of a flexible vocational education/training system.
National Employment Promotion Service Act (No. 9) 1999 Provides or makes arrangements for the registration,employment, counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and placement of persons with disabilities.
National Policy on Disability 2004 Aims to provide a conducive environment for people with disabilities to engage in productive work.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Signed: 2007
Ratified: 2009
(Optional protocol signed 2008 & ratified 2009)
Recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others. Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement and safe and healthy working conditions.
Persons with Disabilities Act 2010 Provides an obligation for employers to provide employment to qualified persons with disabilities; mandates the continuance of employment for workers who acquire a disability; prohibits discrimination in employment towards people with disabilities; mandates safe and accessible work environment. Requires that all employers of a workforce of 20+ must hire at least 3% employees with disabilities.

*Data on Tanzanian employment policies retrieved from ILO (2004; 2009), Tanzania (2004; 2010), and United Nations Enable (2012).

Tanzania demonstrates a commitment to the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities in a number of ways, including by signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), integrating people with disabilities in national poverty reduction strategies, and, most recently, enacting the 2010 Persons with Disabilities Act ("the Act"). Prior to the Act, Tanzania's commitment to disability rights was affirmed in its 2004 National Policy on Disability. Please refer to Table 1 for more information about the relevant policies and dates of enactment.

As the predecessor of the Act, NPD's purpose was to encourage the development of people with disabilities; empower families of people with disabilities; review/amend laws and regulations that are do not advance the interests of individuals with disabilities; review/amend laws that are not disability friendly; improve service delivery; allow the participation of people with disabilities in decision making and implementation of important activities in the society; and enable families of people with disabilities and the society at large to participate in decisions and implementation of important disability activities (Tanzania, 2004, sec. 2.1).

With respect to disability and work, the NPD was intended to help provide an environment for people with disabilities to engage in productive (i.e., paid) work. Although this policy demonstrated valuable aspirational goals, a recent analysis of this policy has shown that it lacked the necessary accountability mechanisms to effectively translate these goals into reality (Aldersey & Turnbull, 2011).

The Act of 2010 superseded the 2004 National Policy on Disability. By its own terms, the purpose of the Act is, "to make provisions for the health care, social support, accessibility, rehabilitation, education, and vocational training, communication, employment or work protection and promotion of basic rights for the persons with disabilities and to provide for related matters" (Tanzania, 2010, p. 5). Similar to its predecessor, the Act of 2010 covers a diverse range of areas in which the rights of persons with disabilities may be compromised; in contrast to the NPD, however, the Act provides various legal and social accountability mechanisms intended to translate policy into practice. Examples of these accountability mechanisms include the establishment of a National Advisory Council, the creation of the office of the Commissioner for persons with disabilities (Articles 8-13), implementation of a workplace quota system (Article 31), and the establishment of a National Fund for Persons with Disabilities (Article 57) (Tanzania, 2010).

Having briefly introduced Tanzania's national policies for people with disabilities, an examination of the previous and current Tanzanian policy mechanisms that have sought to ensure the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace follows. These are the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (No. 2), 1982, and Articles 31 - 34 of the 2010 Act.

Tanzania's Disability and Work Legislation Quotas

Tanzania enacted the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (No. 2) in 1982. This act established a quota system requiring that two percent of the workforce in companies with more than 50 employees must be persons with disabilities. It also established the National Advisory Council, the role of which was to advise the minister responsible for the social welfare of people with disabilities (International Labour Organization, 2009). Although covered employers were required to hire based upon the quota system, this law was neither effectively publicized nor enforced by the Tanzanian government. Indeed, in 2010 only one-third of employers that participated in a survey on disability were aware of the Disabled Persons Employment Act of 1982 (Kweka, 2010).

The 2010 Act imposes similar requirements with respect to the employment of people with disabilities. Specifically, Article 31 requires employers to hire and maintain the employment of people with disabilities and establishes a work force quota under which every employer with a work force of 20 or more individuals must employ persons with disabilities at a rate of at least 3% of the employer's total workforce (Tanzania, 2010). As disability employment accountability mechanisms, workplace quotas are still utilized in a number of different national contexts, including Austria, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Poland, China, and Korea (Heyer, 2005; Kim, 2011; Tamako, 2007); however, their utilization has been subject to criticism on theoretical grounds, namely the "tensions between the rights model, which in the employment arena mandates equal employment opportunity, and the welfare model, which responds to employment discrimination by mandating quotas" (Heyer, 2005, p. 238). The quota system has been further criticized on other grounds as well: (a) labeling people with disabilities; (b) company preference for paying a penalty rather than employing people with disabilities; (c) difficulty to set effective sanctions to force/strengthen the system; (d) low wages and underemployment of people with disabilities; (e) difficulty in meeting the multiple and diverse needs of people with disabilities in the workplace; and (f), effects of economic recession on full employment goals (Kudo, 2010).

A further examination of quotas versus civil rights

The contemporary Disability Studies community typically favors the civil rights (as opposed to the quota) model because the former replaces the medical model's focus on the individual with a focus on disabling social environments and social structures (Heyer, 2005). However, it is arguable that both the civil rights and the quota models have strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand the differences between the quota model and civil rights models as it relates to the Tanzanian situation because these two models contribute to societal understanding of the "burden" of disability. Thus, before continuing a discussion of the other work-related Tanzanian policies, I will first compare and contrast the quota and civil rights models through an examination of two countries, one that follows the quota model (Japan) and one that follows the civil rights model (United States). Although framing this discussion with examples from the African continent would be more useful, despite an extensive search, literature on this topic related to African countries remains extremely limited. I draw upon the experiences of Japan and the United States with the hope that this will provide a more in-depth understanding of the Tanzanian experience.

One problem with the quota system is that it assumes that, unless they are required to do so, employers will not hire people with disabilities and that people with disabilities are not able to compete for jobs and win them on their own merits. These assumptions can be disabling and patronizing for people with disabilities (Heyer, 2008) and can become systems of segregation that are antithetical to claims to equal opportunity and civil rights and, therefore, just another stigmatized form of special treatment for people with disabilities (Heyer, 2005). Moreover, the recognition of difference as found in the quota approach "comes at the expense of equal rights and integration as mandated by the United Nations" (Heyer, 1999, p. 107).

The United States has one of the more well-known civil rights laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination. The ADA also mandates that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. In a comparison of Japan's quota-based system and the United States' civil rights-based system, Tamako (2007) argues that although the United States,

…guarantees remedies against discrimination and allows for flexible responses to specific circumstances, it creates problems for employers attempting to predict what constitutes discrimination. Furthermore, at least at this time, it has not demonstrated positive effects with respect to the advancement of the employment for people with disabilities (p. 54).

Identifying categories of disability and an inadequate understanding of the operating definition of "otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities" have limited the effect of disability anti-discrimination law in the U.S. (Heyer, 2008). Other studies have shown that civil rights laws, although they have important effects, such as enabling access to services, may not be the most effective means of increasing employment rates of people with disabilities, as shown by research on the numbers of individuals hired once an anti-discrimination law has been enacted (Jones, 2008; Kim, 2011; Pope & Bambra, 2005; Tamako, 2007). There is also a contradiction inherent in the ADA's use of the courts as a remedy for discrimination: as Heyer (2008) argues,

In claiming disability discrimination, plaintiffs are asserting their fundamental equality with the able-bodied. They are applying a civil rights frame by claiming that they are just as qualified to perform a certain job and that they deserve an equal chance of competing for this job, or continuing to perform it. At the same time, however, the law demands that they emphasize their difference — their disability — for which they are being discriminated against in the first place (p. 255).

By contrast, Japan has adopted an employment quota approach. Tamako (2007) argues that, in comparison to the ADA, the Japanese system is better able to secure positive effects on employment of people with disabilities, but only within certain parameters because "it is characterized by an inadequate perspective on the equal treatment of people with disabilities and on prohibitions of their discrimination, and lacks a sense of association between disabilities and job performance" (p. 54). Further, large companies have found a way to comply with the quota by "establishing special 'barrier-free' subsidiary companies (tokurei kogaisha); these hire primarily people with disabilities who then count for the parent company's employment quota" (Heyer, 1999, p. 115). Other commentators have argued that the Japanese tax or penalty for not hiring people with disabilities is too low and that employers would prefer to just pay the fine rather than hire employees with disabilities (Wuellrich, 2010). Employers tend not to view the quota as a social responsibility but rather they "prefer to buy themselves out of their obligation and continue to employ a largely non-disabled workforce" (Heyer, 2008, p. 249). This system of compliance clearly has a stigmatizing and separating effect on people with disabilities, again rendering them as different and outside of mainstream employment; and, despite the workplace quotas, the Japanese workplace remains segregated (Heyer, 2008). Regardless of the criticisms, there have been increasing numbers of people with disabilities (especially people with severe disabilities) working in companies covered by the quota system over the past 16 years (Kudo, 2010).

Tamako (2007) argues for a merger of the civil rights and quota based approaches and for a law that strives both to remedy the problems involved in adopting the conception of equality (associated with the civil-rights approach) and to increase the efficacy of mandated employment quotas. The key issue of debate between civil rights laws and quota laws seems to be the issue of how to guarantee equity while still not denying the personal experience of disability. Evoking Minow's (1990) discussion on the dilemma of difference, Heyer (1999) argues that this is one key issue that arises in a discussion of equity and quotas:

Ignoring difference leaves in place a false sense of neutrality which may recognize that people with disabilities have similar motivations to work, study, commute, and raise families, but which does not take their different needs into account. At the same time, focusing on their difference risks repeating the stigma and limiting assumptions about disability. The difference dilemma has forced subordinated groups into a divided agenda, caught between providing their sameness, which becomes the basis of their equal treatment, and identifying their difference (p. 108).

Both the civil rights approach and the quota approach have challenges in adequately and appropriately providing equal employment of people with disabilities. The effectiveness of both seems to depend on "political/technical supports, administrative capacities, and organizational culture for work environments friendly to persons with disabilities" (Kim, 2011, p. 29). The question for this article is how well Tanzania is applying the law as it is presently written and not specifically whether Tanzania should have adopted either the civil rights or the quota based approach; it seems to have adopted both. The focus here is on implementation as a reconceptualization of the "burden" of disability.

Additional disability policy requirements

In addition to requiring workplace quotas, Article 31 of the Act further advances the employment of persons with disabilities in several other ways. It requires every employer to submit an annual report to the government on the employment status of persons with disabilities who are employed in his or her office or organization. It also requires equal treatment of people with disabilities (in terms of wages, salaries, leaves, or accommodation). Finally, it provides that people with disabilities should be welcomed to apply in public advertisements for disability positions (Tanzania, 2010).

Articles 32 and 33 relate to the continuation of employment of persons with disabilities and the antidiscrimination of persons with disabilities in the workplace. Article 34 addresses an adequate working environment for persons with disabilities, requiring employers to prevent work-related injuries, provide workplace accommodation if necessary, ensure the safety of employees with disabilities, protect employees with disabilities from harassment, permit employees with disabilities to have equal access to trade unions, and enable employees with disabilities to have access to continued training and career advancement (Tanzania, 2010). The Act also requires the responsible Minister (at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare) to ensure promotion of employment for persons with disabilities by applying affirmative action treatment, job retention and return to work for any employee who has obtained a disability in the workplace, and reasonable changes for persons with disabilities in the workplace (Tanzania, 2010).

By integrating both antidiscrimination and workplace quotas, Articles 31-34 reflect an integrated approach, which Kim (2011) argues is "more effective to promote the employment of people with disabilities in developing or emerging countries, because of the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches" (p. 29-30). Notwithstanding the Act's provisions for workplace quotas and mandatory employer reporting procedures, there continues to be adisconnect between policy on paper (the Act) and practice on the street. People with disabilities are still clearly underrepresented in the national workforce (Kweka, 2010).

Reality in the Field: The Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO) Study and Qualitative Interviews

In this section, I discuss the study conducted by a partnership of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that examined the integration of people with disabilities and employer understanding of the national disability employment laws in companies represented by one of the largest trade unions in Dar es Salaam. I also report the results of qualitative interviews of people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam that I conducted between May and August of 2011. Together, the study and the findings from my interviews provide a snapshot of the context, or the reality "on the ground", necessary for understanding and evaluating the impact of the Act's employment provisions.

The Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO) study

Motivated by a lack of national statistical data on the employment of people with disabilities and understanding the need for increased awareness of employers about people with disabilities, researchers from Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) Hospital, Radar Development, and Disability Aid Abroad conducted a 2010 study about employment of people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam. This study was conducted after the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010 was passed into law. It identified the number of persons with disabilities engaged in formal employment in companies affiliated with the Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO). TUICO is one of the leading commercial and industrial trade unions in Tanzania (Kweka, 2010), comprising over 50,000 members nationwide. The study used questionnaires, document reviews, and face-to-face interviews to collect data from 126 companies (93 local companies and 33 multi-national companies), with 252 respondents in total from those 126 companies. All of the respondents were human resource personnel, administrators, or managers. The types of companies surveyed were industries, commercial institutions, financial institutions, services, and consultancies from both the public and the private sector. Six of the companies had less than 20 employees and 120 companies had over 20 employees (Kweka, 2010). The questions addressed general company information, number of employees (in general, with disabilities, in managerial positions), the types of disabilities the employees had, the types of jobs they held, and employer knowledge of the law and policies overseeing disability issues at workplaces.

Because this survey of employment of people within TUICO in Dar es Salaam was conducted by NGOs, its intended final audience was not academics and thus the study methodology was not described in fine detail in the final survey report. As such, the data should be interpreted with caution and further studies will be required to draw more definitive conclusions. Nonetheless, it provides some data and is an important starting point for more rigorous studies. It is important to note also that readers should not extrapolate the findings of the TUICO study to other employers in Tanzania. As a snapshot of the disability employment reality in one large trade union in Dar es Salaam, the study, the first of its kind in Tanzania, has some but admittedly limited value.

The lead NGOs conducting the TUICO survey found that, of 126 companies with a combined total of 25,446 employees, only 186 (0.7%) of the employees were persons with disabilities (Kweka, 2010). Additionally, only seven companies had more than 3% employees with disabilities, in conformity with the Act's requirements. Employers cited several reasons for their failure to comply with the Act, including (a) inadequate information and advice; (b) additional financial burden; and (c) additional support required (some employers were worried that people with disabilities would not be as productive in the workplace or that they may need ongoing workplace support) (Kweka, 2010). In terms of inadequate information and advice, this study showed that many employers believed hiring people with disabilities was time consuming. Moreover, they did not know where to go to find suitable persons with disabilities for advertised posts. Employers believed that an additional financial burden would occur when they employed people with disabilities because employers would have to make physical adjustments to buildings and equipment in order to accommodate employees with disabilities. Finally, some employers worried that if they were to hire people with disabilities, those employees would not be as productive in the workplace as employees without disabilities. They also worried that, unlike nondisabled employees, employees with disabilities would need ongoing workplace supervision and support. Additionally, researchers found that although 33 percent of the companies were aware of the Disability Employment Act of 1982, only seven percent of the companies were aware of the Act of 2010.

The TUICO study clearly demonstrates that there is significant misalignment between numbers of people with disabilities who should be engaged in formal employment, as provided for by the 2010 Act, and actual numbers of people with disabilities engaged in formal employment in practice. There is, however, more evidence of the misalignment.

Qualitative Interviews

This evidence derives from qualitative interviews that I conducted in Dar es Salaam in 2011. The purpose of these interviews was not solely to understand employment in Dar es Salaam, but also to probe disability responses and needs in Dar es Salaam. A question about employment (and further follow-up questions) was included on interview protocol. Responses to this question helped to provide further context for understanding the policy/reality implementation gaps presented in the TUICO study.

Between May and August 2011, I visited six schools, two international NGOs, six national Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) and NGOs, and three hospitals and rehabilitation centers. I interviewed thirteen family members of people with disabilities, six teachers of students with disabilities, three people with physical disabilities, ten people with visual impairments, two people with intellectual disabilities, two doctors, and seven other disability service providers, for a total sample size of 43. I recruited participants primarily through various DPOs and NGOs; thus, most respondents were affiliated in some way with a disability advocacy organization.

Because this study was a precursor to future research, I did not recruit respondents based on any finite definition of disability. Rather, I included anyone who self-identified as a person with a disability or as a family member or service provider of a person with a disability. Because I relied on self-identification, some participants had a formal diagnosis of a disability whereas others did not. Generally, I would contact DPOs or NGOs with my general study aims and would request that they provide me with contact of people who were willing to be interviewed. This identification/selection of members to interview was typically based upon people who were active in the organization, willing to speak with me, a foreign interviewer, and who had ability to provide an interview on short notice.

I held interviews in locations that were comfortable and convenient to my respondents. These included participants' homes, coffee shops, work settings (e.g. a classroom, office, or clinic), the assisting DPO or NGO office, and in recesses of a conference one respondent was attending. Participants included both males and females; they ranged from 18 to 70 years of age. Although there were no specific interview questions requesting information on socioeconomic status, based upon observations of the homes visited and information volunteered by families, the participants represented a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, one home visited was a one-room mud structure on a piece of rented land on the outskirts of the city. In this home lived a grandmother, a single mother, and her three young children. This mother mentioned one of her greatest concerns was not having enough money to meet basic daily subsistence needs. We sat on a mat on the ground outside the home to conduct the interview. This home contrasts with another home, closer to the city center, occupied by a husband and wife and their son. Their home was built in more western-style, with a number of rooms and indoor bathrooms, a variety of furniture and electronics, and a car parked within the house's compound walls. I sat on a large, black, leather couch in the expansive sitting room of the home to conduct the interview. The majority of homes visited fell somewhere on the continuum between the two extremes described above. Most participants' homes consisted of a single room or a cluster of rooms in a rented structure with a communal compound (and often an outdoor lavatory and washing room) shared with a number of other resident families.

I conducted the interviews either in English or Kiswahili, with the assistance of a translator. The language was based upon interviewee's preference; approximately one quarter of the participants chose to respond in part or entirely in Kiswahili, but the majority of interviewees seemed to understand questions when posed in English and responded in Kiswahili even before the question was translated. It is important to note that, due to my initial sampling procedures that relied on the contacts and membership base of NGOs and DPOs, the sample is likely skewed toward (a) persons who are inclined toward self-advocacy and advocacy of the rights of persons with disabilities (in terms of education about rights/empowerment and/or the time and resources available for advocacy efforts and membership) and, (b) in some cases, persons who are educated enough to converse in English (at least to secondary level but often to university level).

The interviews lasted between 30 to 90 minutes. The questions focused upon general personal characteristics and experience (e.g., "Tell me about yourself and your experience with disability?"; "In your experience, what are some key issues for people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam?"), how the respondent began to associate with having a disability and/or being a disability advocate (e.g., "why did you decide to join/affiliate with [recruiting organization]?"), and what if any difficulties they have faced, lessons they have learned, or needs they have that are unmet (e.g., "if someone had a family member with a similar disability as [you, your family member, your clients] what would you like for them to know?"; "what are some of your greatest supports?"). Themes of education, employment, and parent involvement emerged and I began to probe specifically about these issues as well. The interview protocol also concluded with an opportunity for respondents to provide information on topics or issues I might have omitted in my interview questions but that they believed were important. For the purposes of this article, I discuss only those responses that provide insight into the employment situation of people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam.

Interview Findings

Respondents with disabilities perceived that employers still discriminated against them on the basis of their disabilities. For example, one teacher with a visual impairment told me: "There is a requirement in our country that a person must hold a diploma to become the head of a primary school. Our head retired, and a person without a diploma got the job over me [a person with a diploma]; I wasn't even asked." Respondents also admitted to withholding disability status until being granted a face-to-face interview; but, they said that as soon as the potential employer saw that they have a disability, the employer's demeanor completely changed. As one respondent with a visual impairment noted, "Even people who are qualified, they are not accepted for employment. You get an interview, but then they see you and they dismiss you." And as one lawyer (who was a disability advocate but not a person with a disability herself) argued:

There is a community attitude… even if they are lucky enough to get a job, they have challenges. For example, I know one woman who reported to four different schools when she got her job, but they [potential employers] all found ways to dismiss her when they saw she had a disability. Eventually she went all the way to the Minister, and now she has a job in a school. But she struggled very hard for this.

Many of the respondents said that even if a person with a disability is well-educated and well-qualified to do a job, employers will always favor non-disabled candidates and do not comply with the Act's antidiscrimination provisions:

Even the policies and laws are not followed. Employment is a big problem, even for those with an education; they have a hard time trying to get employment. People [with disabilities] hesitate to opt for certain professions these days, such as law, because they know they won't be employed after their training.

Additionally, some parents of children with disabilities expressed anxiety about their children reaching adulthood, fearing that their children would not be able to find gainful employment. For example, one mother of an adult with intellectual disabilities, when asked about her dreams for the future responded,

My son is 32. He is living with me and he is not married like his sister. We don't know how his life will be, we don't know. People with physical disabilities, they can be educated, but they also face challenges. Especially for employment. Two people with the same qualifications, the employer will always pick the non-disabled person.

These interviews reveal that people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam perceive that they are subjected to employment discrimination solely on the basis of their disabilities. Moreover, these data further demonstrated the common belief that once a child with a disability has completed his or her education, it will be difficult for him or her to find employment in adulthood. This difficulty is also reflected in the numbers of persons employed in the companies that participated in the TUICO study: the numbers of disabled employees does not even approach the estimated number of persons with disabilities in that city.

In sum, people with disabilities are not adequately represented in the workplace; they continue to experience what they believe to be discrimination in the workplace; and, a number of individuals not unjustifiably conclude that it is more difficult for a person with a disability to find and keep employment than it is for a person without a disability.

Why are accountability mechanisms not working?

There are several reasons why the employment regulations in the 2010 Act may not yet be yielding substantial improvement in the employment of people with disabilities. First, the Act itself is recent, and there is an understandable, if regrettable, lag time between enactment and compliance. Granted, it takes time to publicize and ensure implementation of new policy requirements and, further, that positive change takes time. That said, it is also important to note that how quickly a law is able to effect positive change will greatly depend on how effectively this law is implemented from the outset. These include: (a) negative or stereotypical attitudes, (b) lack of awareness of the Act and the requirements within, (c) missing enforcement mechanisms of the Act, and (d) no incentives for employers to adhere to the Act.

Negative Attitudes

The Tanzanian government might consider engaging in increased public sensitization, especially of Tanzanian employers but also of the general public and of people with disabilities themselves, to improve understanding of accommodations and adjustments that could be made to help ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Worldwide, it has been noted that, "stereotypes and urban myths surrounding absenteeism, productivity rates, learning ability, workplace injury rates, and the added costs of employing someone with a disability create false barriers to employment" (Edwards et al., 2010, p. 123). As the TUICO study and responses to the interview questions demonstrated, Tanzania is no exception to stereotypes and myths about people with disabilities in the workplace. This can be especially problematic because, if employers are not properly informed about disability, ignorance can create significant obstacles to eliminating discrimination in employment (Percy, 2001). To change the public's perception of people with disabilities in the workplace and to reduce employer-created barriers to employment, the Tanzanian government might consider undertaking social marketing campaigns targeting employers, wider society, and people with disabilities themselves.

Lack of Awareness

Additionally, as the TUICO study demonstrated, many employers were not even aware that they had a legal obligation to ensure that at least 3% of their employees are persons with disabilities. A first major step in ensuring that the Act's employment requirements could be to adopt a two-pronged strategy: ensure that employers are actually aware of their legal obligation to hire and accommodate people with disabilities and, that people with disabilities themselves become aware of the fact that they have rights and are entitled to demand them. Moreover, companies might advance the Act by adopting their own policies, allowing a flexible working environment for people with disabilities, and including "adequate adjustments and adaptations to workplace equipment as well as flexible working hours" (Kweka, 2010, p. 34). Employers could also be incentivized to adhere to the Act. For example, in order to ensure that Tanzanian employers search out and hire qualified persons with disabilities, the Tanzanian government could provide "incentives or special budget allocations for these employers to employ persons with disabilities" (Kweka, 2010, p. 34). By providing incentives to employers, the Tanzanian government may help to alleviate the (often unfounded) fears of employers that hiring or accommodating people with disabilities requires considerable investment in such things as building modifications, additional training, or greater human resource requirements.

Enforcement Mechanisms

Increased awareness and incentives may not ensure greater compliance. There is also a need to hold employers legally accountable to comply with the 2010 Act. Legal accountability may also be necessary. Employers could be held accountable at law through fines imposed by the appropriate Ministry or damages awarded in lawsuits brought by individuals with disabilities, for recruiting, accommodating, and maintaining the employment of people with disabilities. The government might also find a way to enable people with disabilities who find their rights violated to achieve justice without personal legal action. The government could consider the use of special appeals tribunals so that people with disabilities do not have to engage in long or costly court battles when they believe that their rights have been violated (Edwards et al., 2010). Or, as Kweka (2010) argues, specific companies, workplaces, and organizations, could create their own disability policies and regulations in order to limit exclusion of people with disabilities in Tanzanian workplaces, and might "include non-discrimination clauses or clauses that welcome diversity while recruiting" (p. 33).


A limitation of this work is that it is based upon data gathered in one major city of Tanzania and as result may not reflect conditions elsewhere in Tanzania. Although Dar es Salaam is the country's largest city, and thus is an area in which disability supports and services are most widespread. It is unlikely that data from one city can provide an accurate picture of the disabilities and work realities in the entire nation. It will be important to expand compliance research to other, more rural areas in Tanzania, in order to better understand the similarities and differences across a greater, more representative distribution of the nation's population.

Similarly, although this article has addressed the lack of persons with disabilities in formal employment in Tanzania, it has not integrated data on the prevalence of persons with disabilities in informal employment, a sector in which persons with disabilities are also engaged. Informal employment is a term that is typically used to describe insecure forms of economic activity in the developing world and can include such activities as self-employment, employment in micro-businesses or family-run activity, as well as "employment where the employer fails to provide appropriate access to social protection or formal registration of any contractual relationship" (Henley & Arabsheibani, 2009, p. 992). Informal employment is omitted in this analysis and discussion because formal employment is the first area in which concrete action can be taken to ensure legal accountability with the 2010 Act. Future studies should also examine prevalence of and experience of persons with disabilities in more informal sectors of employment.

Lastly, this article has not addressed the equally-important potential problem of a lack of qualified, employable persons with disabilities in Tanzania. As a consequence of lower rates of education for children with disabilities than for the general population of children (Mkumbo, 2008) and of inadequate or inappropriate education for children with disabilities even if they are provided access to education, people with disabilities may well be at a disadvantage in a competitive work environment. Although it is important to ensure that people with disabilities are hired in all types of jobs — both those requiring education and those that do not require education — it is of as much importance to ensure that children and youth with disabilities are provided with equal access and preparation in elementary school, high school, and universities in order to ensure an appropriate level of aptitude for employment as an adult.

Conclusion and Directions for Future Research

I have outlined Tanzania's Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010 and its employment mechanisms. Using limited quantitative and qualitative data, I have argued that although the Act demonstrates a greater commitment to accountability mechanisms, these new accountability mechanisms have yet to demonstrate a meaningful change in the lives of people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam. One limitation of this critique may be that there simply has not been enough time for this policy document to demonstrate the gains in practice. Thus, it will be important to conduct long-term studies of disability inclusion in the workplace over time in order to better evaluate if there are meaningful improvements in the employment situation of people with disabilities.

Another area for future research will be to examine the impact of various ongoing public awareness campaigns of Radar Development and others to evaluate if these campaigns have made a positive impact of the broader community's perspective about people with disabilities in general and the hiring of people with disabilities in specific. Additionally, it will be important to examine and take lessons learned from other successful de-stigmatizing campaigns with other populations (e.g. women, people with HIV/AIDS) in Tanzania. It will also be helpful to consider other examples of policy enforcement in Tanzanian history (e.g. gender policy), which was based on the protection of individuals whose traits (gender and disability) subjected them to unwarranted discrimination.

With the advent of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006, national policies on disability are being enacted with greater frequency, complying with the requirements of the international document. Tanzania's People with Disabilities Act of 2010 has combined both a quota approach and a civil rights approach to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Tanzania is just one of many African nations with a national policy on disability. It will be useful for future studies to explore Tanzanian experience as it relates to other African nations, as well as to other nations worldwide, in this way to reconceptualize the "burden" of disability through inclusion of people with disabilities in meaningful work.


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Copyright (c) 2012 Heather Aldersey

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