Working Beyond Barriers: The Philippine Business and Disability Network Advocates for Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces

More than one billion people, or 15% of the total world population, live with some form of disability.

Working Beyond Barriers – Disability Committee. Clockwise from top: Grant Javier, session moderator and executive director of the Project Inclusion Network (PBDN Technical Secretariat), Roilan Marlang, person with autism working in the commerce industry, Liza Sales, a person with an orthopedic disability working in a pharmaceutical company; and Sareena Calonzo, deaf person with BPO experience.

In the Philippines, the results of the National Disability Prevalence Survey showed that in 2016, about 12% of Filipinos aged 15 and above had severe disabilities. Yet, even until today, people with disabilities are still often stereotyped, stigmatized and discriminated against.

Persons with disabilities face a number of societal barriers, including lack of access to quality education and employment opportunities. In recent years, however, the positive movement towards inclusivity in the workplace has become more evident.

As part of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week, the Philippine Business and Disability Network (PBDN), together with its members, partners and sponsors, organized “Working Beyond Barriers” – a conference in two-day line from July 20 -21, 2022. The event highlighted the opportunities and challenges of disability inclusion in the workplace, and also addressed current and potential policies and practices that further promote the participation and representation of persons with disabilities.

As a national platform, PBDN is a group for and by business working towards more inclusive and barrier-free workplaces for people with disabilities. It is currently a 22-member network, led by its current steering committee, which includes JPMorgan Chase & Co., IBM, PayPal, Asurion and Citihub.

“We connect companies to the talents of people with disabilities; we empower companies to promote and create disability-inclusive workplaces; and we are working with different stakeholders to improve the participation of people with disabilities in the workforce,” said Pixie Javier-Gutierrez, representing JPMorgan Chase & Co., the current chair of the PBDN Steering Committee.

For many people with disabilities, finding and keeping a job is a challenge.

Jürgen Menze, Disability Inclusion Officer of the International Labor Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network (ILO GBDN), of which PBDN is a member as one of more than 30 national networks of People with Disabilities (NBDN) Worldwide, said that “business leaders are key to changing perceptions about people with disabilities in relation to employment because, too often, misconceptions about what a disabled person can and cannot do at work are still prevalent.

Members of the PBDN Steering Committee wave the hand sign for PBDN, which means ‘connect’.

Liza Sales, an orthopedic disabled person, recalls: “After university, I looked for a job related to my studies: computer design and programming. Every time I passed an exam and training, many companies refused to hire me because of their preconceived idea that I was not right for the job.

This discrimination has not stopped Liza, who became president of her barangay’s federation for six years, an active champion of people with disabilities and has even been cited for bravery. Now Liza works for a pharmaceutical company.

Susan Scott-Parker, founder of the Business Disability Forum UK, the world’s first NBDN, stressed that a reasonable fit is one of the keys to building a barrier-free community.

In the Philippines, there are laws and policies to protect the rights of people with disabilities, such as the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities and the Accessibility Act.

In addition to the laws mentioned, Krizelle Ramos, Chief of the Program Management Division of the National Council for Disabled Persons Affairs (NCDA), highlighted the importance of the equal employment opportunity provision under Law No. 10524, which strives to eliminate discrimination and increase opportunity. for people with disabilities.

“There is a tendency to change the word ‘encourage’, because currently only the government is mandated to assign 1% of plantilla positions to people with disabilities. For private companies, the term used by law is simply ‘encourage’, so hopefully that will be adopted,” Ramos said.

“We have a collective responsibility. Scaling workplace inclusivity for people with disabilities is a goal in the right direction,” added Karen Trayvilla, Director IV of DOLE – Office for Workers with Special Concerns.

Launched in January 2020, the PBDN aims to strengthen the group’s advocacy in the years to come.

“If we improve our businesses, we will also have a better society. If we improve our society, we improve our world. We start doing the right thing when we treat people with disabilities fairly,” said Grant Javier, executive director of the Project Inclusion Network.

The “Working Beyond Barriers” conference is one of the first steps in realizing PBDN’s mission to strengthen ties through networking and innovation.

Learn how to become a PBDN Corporate Member by emailing them at [email protected]

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