They are not productive. They will not show up to work. They will not integrate properly. They will be an obstacle for the companies… Even today there are many myths about persons with disabilities at work and such myths impair their right to work with dignity.
There are millions of persons with disabilities that still face several obstacles and challenges when they seek to enter into and contribute to the labor market. How many? Over 1 billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability in the world. This corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population. In most developed countries, the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities of an age to work is, at least, twice the employment rate of people with no disabilities. Meanwhile, in developing countries, from 80% to 90% of the persons with disabilities are estimated to be unemployed. However, their right to work is recognized in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by 177 countries.
According to the World Bank, as people with disabilities face higher unemployment rates, their risk of facing more economic and social obstacles increases: for instance, they are more likely to fall into poverty and to have less access to health services.
“The potential of these people to make their contributions in a job and within the society is diminished, not by their disability, but by the limitations the world sets around them,” affirms Business Disability International, an international non-profit social project which aims at helping companies and organizations to create solutions to achieve a more inclusive world.
Daniela Aza is a communicator; she has a degree (licenciatura) in Communication from Universidad de Buenos Aires and has arthrogryposis, a syndrome which is characterized by the contracture of the limbs. She works with her social networks to form a community that grows day-to-day and through that media she gives information and seeks to bring about a change on how the society understands and treats disability. “Persons with disabilities face a lot of challenges when trying to enter into the job world. Mainly because of the idea that persons with disabilities cannot, lack the skills to or are unable to work due to their condition instead of thinking about setting the conditions for that person to be able to develop, grow and become economically independent.”
What should we basically understand? Daniela explains that hiring persons with disabilities may be very beneficial for a company and not only from the economic point of view: “There are no doubts that persons with disabilities contribute to the job world; they contribute diversity, knowledge. You create work teams that are more diverse, open and respectful of that diversity. Both the person with a disability and the employer benefit from that relationship”. She further says: “I strongly believe that inclusion is contagious. If we are with a person with disabilities and we learn from her/him, then we will take that to a lot of places.”
However, integrating persons with disabilities in the job market not only means hiring them -. this is just the first step. Working on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the work environment entails generating the necessary conditions and adjustments to ensure they are not excluded. It further means understanding as a company or organization that we all are different and unique and that this enriches and benefits all of us.
On the other side of the Atlantic, there are Yolanda Alfaro and David De Juan Calvo. They are Spanish and work for Globant from Madrid. They both have multiple sclerosis and, as friends and co-workers, they have helped each other to overcome difficult and challenging times.
David explains that: “The first step is to be hired without any problem, that the employer is not afraid of doing that because you will not be a burden, but you have a contribution to make. The second step is to make this type of disease normal and visible,” referring to multiple sclerosis. “The everyday life is built with your co-workers, assuming this as normal, making this visible and accommodating to the individual needs.”
Yolanda, on her part, says: “In the end, I see this as a feature. It does not mean that because you will need a certain thing at a certain time to do your job as best as possible you will not have an excellent professional performance. Everyone has the right to work.”
After many years we have achieved as a society much progress regarding inclusion and accessibility of persons with disabilities. However, there is still much to do. It is important to keep on working to break down taboos and myths, to understand that it is important to ensure a space for everyone to develop professionally without barriers, and to build a society that understands and appreciates the individual contribution of each person.