Project Inclusion

TOWARDS JUSTICE - Emmeline Aglipay-Villar - The Philippine Star

What does having a disability inclusive workplace mean to us? To some it may mean simply following the provisions in the law that require the employer to modify their physical facilities to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled persons – that it would be enough to install and incorporate in their office building or establishment structural features that would enhance the mobility of disabled persons, such as sidewalks, ramps and railings. These efforts certainly make the workplace more inclusive to people with physical disabilities; however, there is more to workplace inclusion than this.

An inclusive workplace is supportive and welcoming of people with all kinds of differences – whether neurodivergent or with physical disabilities. It accepts these differences and provides an environment where each one’s abilities are recognized. A disability inclusive workplace is one that gives equal opportunities to both people with disabilities and those without – where those with disability are not discriminated against but instead they are given opportunities to realize their full potential.

How can employers create a workplace that supports people with disability (PWD)? It starts with truly being open to hire people with disability, which would support their economic empowerment. There are numerous employers who want to employ people with disability; but why is it that even with the thousands of people with disability who are looking for employment in the Philippines, employers are still unable to hire PWDs? Sometimes there is difficulty hiring PWDs because there is still a need for the persons with disability to learn some skills that they need for employment – whether it be technical, social or life skills. And sometimes it is the employer that needs the training and capacity-building in order to hire persons with disability. The work has to be done on both ends but there is a lack of guidance and support to both the PWDs and employers to get that work done. It was a good thing that organizations, such as Project Inclusion Network (PIN), came along to do exactly that.

PIN is a non-profit organization in the Philippines that helps employers, people with disability and stakeholders build a disability inclusive workplace. It started as a project under the Unilab Foundation in 2013 and it was conceptualized based on a study conducted by De La Salle University on the employability of persons with autism. I have been working with the Project Inclusion Network since it was still a program under the Unilab Foundation – more than a decade ago. I was first their partner in the legislature by pushing for legislation that empowered persons with disability and provided them with more rights and benefits; then later on, as a member of the board of the organization itself and now, just as a friend of the organization.

PIN is committed to building a society where persons with disability are able to realize their potential to actively participate in and productively contribute to their communities. Persons with disability are not able to fully access their rights and live productive lives because of the difficulty of accessing training and education, difficulty in accessing public transportation and public places; the lack of representation in government and insufficient data to direct programs and policies that would be able to help them. This is the reason why the Project Inclusion Network empowers PWD jobseekers, enables and capacitates employers to employ PWDs and works with the different sectors of society and stakeholders to be able to support workplace inclusion.

To empower PWD jobseekers, the PIN assists the PWDs by providing them with scholarships to a bachelor’s degree as well as scholarships to technical and vocation courses in their chosen careers. The PIN also provides the PWDs with training sessions that help the PWD to acquire certain skills that they lack to be employed – such as teaching them to write their resumés, improving their social and communication skills as well as work and life skills. But apart from empowering persons with disability, the PIN also helps PWD-led local enterprises and small businesses by finding ways to improve their business development capacity and market access.

To enable disability inclusion in the workplace, the PIN also helps businesses who are willing to train, hire and support persons with disability by building organizational awareness and acceptance on disability, by providing disability sensitivity training to the employees, officers and management of the corporation and by supporting communities for PWDs in the workplace.

Through the Philippine Business and Disability Network (PBDN), the PIN is able to provide a local platform for learning, collaboration and support for disability inclusion advocates from the private sector. The PBDN is the local chapter of the Global Business and Disability Network which is supported by the International Labor Organization. As of today, there are 52 companies under the PBDN. It is led and overseen by five corporations composed of the JP Morgan Chase & Co., IBM, PayPal, Citihub and Asurion, that creates and drives the network strategy forward.

The PIN also engages with different sectors of society and has gathered like-minded organizations that work together to further advocate for PWDs. Working with other civil society organizations and government agencies is necessary to improve education, employment and participation outcomes of persons with disability. This is why last Aug. 19, the PIN invited friends from the public and private sectors as well as the media for a brunch event to raise awareness and gather support for the cause of disability inclusion. During the event, Secretary Rex Gatchalian emphasized the essence of genuine inclusion, stating, “True inclusion transcends mere charitable giving; it hinges on society’s authentic acceptance of individuals with disabilities.’ It is seeing the individual’s different abilities and not the disabilities.

Since its establishment, the Project Inclusion Network has been able to help around 3,000 persons with disability by improving their access to employment opportunities and it is looking at being able to help thousands and thousands more. We invite businesses, organizations and agencies to partner with the Project Inclusion Network. To know more about PIN, please visit http://projectinclusion.ph and to support disability inclusion you may contact PIN at [email protected].

Please join us in building a more inclusive and barrier-free Philippines.

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