Filipino Workplaces Should Open More Opportunities for PWD Youth
“Go forth and be human,” the video announces. The short clip from the District of Columbia’s office talks about how to stop being awkward around people with disabilities, a lighthearted skit with funny quips and cheery music.
It sounds easy to do in principle; it’s a maxim that people return to, in one form or another, whispering it under their breath to remind themselves to treat others how they’d like to be treated.
Creating spaces where people can go forth and be human, however, is a little trickier. Inclusivity in the workplace requires a lot of necessary groundwork that’s constantly being fueled by the desire to do better. Forward Together, FWD Insurance’s partnership with Humanity & Inclusion (formerly known as Handicap International), centers around the need for the private sector to practice what they preach, as it were, and make their workplaces more inclusive.
While inclusivity has often been framed around racial/ethnic diversity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, Forward Together focuses on helping Filipino youth with disabilities secure sustainable employment. “Helping people with disabilities has always been an advocacy of ours, even before this partnership,” says Roche Vandenberghe, FWD Insurance’s Head of Marketing, adding that the company partnered with the Philippine Special Olympics before their Forward Together launch.
Humanity & Inclusion was an obvious choice for who to partner with next. The organization was the co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, championing people with disabilities across the globe.
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 15 of the world's population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning. Of those who are employable, only a small percentage go on to land jobs. Young people, in particular, are overlooked when it comes to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, Humanity & Inclusion regional head Bryan Marsalis said in a press release.
How should companies move forward when it comes to hiring PWDs? “We look at the person’s abilities,” says Roche. “We need IT people for example, so if there’s someone with those skills, we try to integrate them...In fact, one of our senior executives is a person with disability”.
The picture she paints of of creating a PWD-inclusive workplace is comprehensive. There are several sessions of disability sensitivity training that the company holds, offering them frequently to be able to reach as many employees as possible. The sessions are capped at 20 people, to ensure intimacy and the freedom to ask questions.
She also says that the company will soon undergo a physical inspection to make sure that the actual office space is ready, which opens up a whole slew of considerations: are the doors wheelchair friendly? Are the signs also in Braille?
As FWD Insurance hopes to integrate youth with disabilities into their company, they also encourage other businesses to do the same. The initiative is slated to launch in FWD offices in Indonesia after having been implemented here in the Philippines, where they will be working alongside the local Humanity & Inclusion team.