Calling for barrier-free workplace for persons with disability

Published July 22, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The workplace is becoming a more challenging setting than ever before, especially now that a post-pandemic world is looming with more people going back to buildings, offices, and factories. With more people, there will be greater stress on our transportation system, with longer lines and inconvenience with regard to accessibility.

On the business side, there will be more competition among workers, as the present downturn in the economy caused by inflation, gas prices, and geopolitics has made it hard to find good jobs or be retained by a company. Amid these scenarios, the ones who will be most affected and challenged are persons with disability.

With the purpose to raise public awareness on issues surrounding persons with disability, the country is marking the 44th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week, which started last July 17, 2022 and will culminate tomorrow, July 23. A series of events are underway hosted by various government agencies anchored on the theme, “Government as partner to implement equal opportunities for education, employment, and livelihood — a way to empower persons with disability.”

Aside from making Filipinos aware, especially how challenging it is for persons with disability to live, work, and heal during the pandemic, the NDPR Week also calls on all of us to “participate in uplifting the economic and social conditions of persons with disability and further enhance their integration into mainstream society.” It is not enough to know; we also have to do something.

It is in this call of “doing something” that a group called Philippine Business and Disability Network (PBDN) was formed in January 2020. PBDN is managed by Project Inclusion Network (PIN), a nonprofit organization that aims to contribute toward building a society where persons with disability are able to realize their potential to actively participate in, and productively contribute to their communities. It is overseen by global multinational organizations such as JPMorgan Chase, IBM, PayPal, among others. The PBDN encourages all businesses to “work toward a more inclusive and barrier-free workplaces” by having its member companies set a good example.

To mark this week, the PBDN is hosting its first conference on disability inclusion in the workplace called “Working Beyond Barriers,” with a series of talks revolving around the theme, “Leadership and participation of businesses toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world with persons with disability.”

To make it easier for businesses to understand, the PBDN calls on them to remember the 3Cs — capacitate, connect, and collaborate. The first means to “capacitate workplaces to be disability-inclusive and promote awareness and encourage participation in various diversity and inclusion initiatives.” Second, connect means “connecting businesses and organizations to a community of persons with disability talent.” Last, collaborate calls on more “bilateral and multilateral levels to discuss and develop ways to improve workforce participation.”

It is quite ironic that the country only remembers the persons with disability in a week like this. They are, after all, contributing each day to lift the lives of their family members and doing their best to become productive members of society. To businesses big or small, this is just what they want to convey — they do not need your pity or charity; all they need is a helping hand, access to equal opportunities, and a barrier-free workplace where they are needed, empowered, and appreciated.