INCLUSION WORKS: How companies win from disability inclusive employment

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Most societies have a charity approach concerning persons with disabilities – passive recipients of aids. This stigma translates to companies focusing on persons with disabilities’ impairments rather than their abilities, seeing them as unfit to work. This misbelief should be addressed.

This is why Handicap International conducted “Inclusion Works”, an inclusive employment dialogue in Manila to break this stigma. With more than 30 years of experience working alongside with persons with disabilities in the Philippines, experience proves that persons with disabilities can work and they want to work.

“When I was young, I would sit on the swing, close my eyes and imagined myself flying,” shared Jessica Cox, the main speaker of the event. Jessica is a Filipina-American, a Psychology graduate, a professional motivational speaker and Handicap International’s goodwill ambassador. She was born without arms.

Jessica Cox is Handicap International’s goodwill ambassador and is the first woman to fly an airplane with her feet.

She did not let her physical condition limit her from pursuing her dreams and shared the importance of support she constantly receives from her family. In 2008, she received her Sports Pilot certificate after successfully flying a light-sport aircraft all by herself, and at the same time, set the Guinness World Record as the first woman to fly an airplane with her feet.

“Sometimes people just need others to open opportunities for them,” Jessica emphasized. In her personal case, her mom was her first motivator. She also cited the passing and implementation of American with Disabilities Act as an instrument that opened multitude of opportunities for her.

A handful of companies in the Philippines have been hiring persons with disabilities and Handicap International invited three of them to share their experiences and best practices in order to encourage the participants of the dialogue to initiate inclusive employment in their companies.

“Hiring persons with disabilities is not easy [but] if we set up the right conditions and if we give persons with disabilities proper support, they can make valuable contributions in the workplace,” shared Grant Javier, program manager of Project Inclusion – the employment program of Unilab Foundation for persons with disabilities.

One of the speakers during the dialogue is Grant Javier, program manager of Unilab Foundation’s Project Inclusion.

Through Project Inclusion, Unilab Foundation was able to document and publish success stories; create tools that equip willing employers and match potential employees to appropriate positions; and collaborate with various companies, organizations and agencies to advocate for inclusive employment.

Gina Villariza, Talent and Culture Shared Services head of ANZ Global Services & Operations, Inc. (Manila) and Renen Diwa, Global Intercompany manager of Henkel Philippines also shared their companies’ best practices, challenges and solutions in employing persons with disabilities. They are united in agreeing that making businesses disability inclusive is a challenging venture, but definitely worth it.

Raphael “Ralph” Torralba of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is the Human Resource Management officer assistant in charge of writing memos and other communications, among other tasks. He has hearing impairment but has created solutions to overcome the challenges he face at work. He also taught his officemates basic sign language and disability etiquette to make the environment in their office persons with disabilities-friendly.

Victor “Vico” Franchesco Cham is the administrative and graphic assistant of Unilab Foundation’s Project Inclusion. He is also a well-known painter and his works have been exhibited in the Philippines and abroad. His creativity helps him in his tasks at the office. Vico is a person with autism.

Vico is Project Inclusion’s Employee Number 1.

“In the office, I gain friends. My officemates became my extend circle of family who accepted and loved me for what I am…they make me feel that I belong and valued,” said Vico.