survey research approaches break down work role into its major component parts to determine the perceived degree of disability within each.
Typical survey research questions also leave it to the respondent to attribute not working to an underlying health condition. It may be that the individual answers that he or she cannot work, yet the person may not be given the opportunity to specify the circumstances under which this might be possible. A survey of working-age people with disability in the United States showed that over two-thirds wanted to work (Stoddard et al., 1988, p. 24). In the 1991 Canadian Health and Activity Limitation Survey, 64 percent of respondents with disabilities reported that they were not in the labor force, and over two-thirds of these said that they were completely prevented from working (Statistics Canada, 1993). However, all respondents were given the opportunity to answer questions about needed accommodations in the workplace. Despite reporting that they were prevented from working, 69 percent of these individuals reported needing a variety of workplace accommodations (such as job redesign or modified hours) and 76 percent reported needing adaptations (such has handrails, elevators, or modified workstations). Whether or not the provision of such accommodations or adaptations would facilitate workplace reintegration is unknown. However, the findings illustrate how changing the framing of a question sheds a different light on what it means to be unable to work. Individuals who were not in the labor force were also asked about barriers to employment. The most frequently mentioned barriers were losing some or all of their current income, feelings that their training was not adequate, no available jobs, and loss of additional supports (such as health benefits). Other less frequently mentioned reasons were family responsibilities, having being the victim of discrimination, and not having accessible transportation (Statistics Canada, 1993). In other words, most of the reasons were related not to the nature of the work, but to some of the other circumstances surrounding the issue of work disability.
Furthermore, some individuals will have a choice as to how they describe their working status. For example, a person with a disability who also has small children could variously describe him- or herself as a homemaker or not being in the labor force because of the disability. Or people leaving the workforce in their 50s may describe themselves as having taken an early retirement. Without extra information it may be difficult to tell whether this is indeed the situation or whether the alternative description was seen as a less stigmatizing alternative to describing themselves as having a work disability.
In a survey research situation, if a person is working, the typical approach is to assume that no work disability is present. Nevertheless, the person may be limited in the amount or kind of work done or both.