BSP: How diverse talents thrive in an inclusive workplace
An architect and a deputy communications director share how they are able to contribute and thrive in an inclusive workplace such as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
All professionals benefit when workplaces are supportive and respectful of their abilities, when colleagues are understanding, and when facilities are just as accommodating. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is one such workplace, particular about taking care of its employees, abled and Persons with Disability alike.
A casual glance around the BSP main complex will demonstrate just how much attention the agency pays towards inclusive design. There are spacious corridors and office areas, ramps and escalators, and multiple Person with Disability-accessible restrooms on every floor, going beyond simple compliance with the law.
At the forefront of the agency’s continuing push for a more accessible workplace is Connie Katigbak, an architect at the Project Management and Development Office (PDMO). Her office directly tackles accessibility as part of its mandate to continually develop the BSP’s facilities. Her personal situation plays a big part in fulfilling her role: she is a Person with Disability.
More able than ever
Connie suffered a spinal injury after an accident in 2013, well into her ongoing employment with the BSP. Though the accident left her almost unable to move around without her special scooter, she felt more able than ever to do her work.
“I didn’t feel like I was handicapped at all, because of the way they accepted me, parang ang saya-saya pa nila nung bumalik ako. That’s what’s so nice [here], whether you’re able or handicapped: you’re all the same. They don’t hesitate to ask me to do things, asking for help sa work nila, or more of my own tasks.”
Darwin Lauzon, a deputy director of the PDMO, shares, “She requires very minimal supervision. Her work requires her to move around the entire complex, and she does rounds on a daily basis. Whenever I ask about the status of a project, she can [often] give me updates that same day. We’ve never really encountered any difficulties.”
Darwin speaks warmly about Connie’s collaboration with the whole team. “The fact that she is differently abled, hindi napapansin e. We deal with her, we hold meetings and conferences, we plan, as if there’s nothing really different with her abilities.”
Letting the work speak for itself
The same spirit of warmth and respectful involvement can be found in other areas of the BSP as well. “When I came in, they knew I was disabled, but it never really stopped them from giving me assignments abroad,” explains Jay Amatong, Deputy Director of the BSP’s Corporate Affairs Office. Jay is an above-knee amputee.
“I never really felt that I was different from my team. I travel, I go up and down the stairs, I do regular things. I appreciate that they never really thought that I was disabled. I suppose that’s a testament to the things that I do, and the way I do things. In a way, that’s empowering, that I can do what most other regular people do. Here, nobody treats you differently.”
As one of the BSP’s foremost communicators since 2006, Jay is no stranger to frequent travel, lectures, and general interaction with people. “Some PWDs […] feel constrained to stay at a certain place, and that people don’t really expect much from them,” he says. “It helps to feel that you can do the job that any normal person can do, if not more. I think that’s one thing that PWDs need to understand: that it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can. You have to prove that you can do something. You are not a person with disability: you are a person with abilities.”
Looking past disability
The BSP fully supports employing Persons with Disability, based on the belief that they are as capable as anyone can be. “Having worked with Ms. Connie, [I have seen] that her physical challenges do not really play a significant role. It leads me to [believe] that if Connie can do it, anybody can do it,” Darwin says. “Basta andun yung experience, skills, and knowledge, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t hire people with different abilities.”
Jay agrees, “You shouldn’t limit your search to normally abled persons. PWDs have talents [and] abilities, and you’re losing out if you don’t look past the obvious disability. For employers, I think it’s incumbent upon you to find out kung ano yung kaya at hindi kaya. And it’s best to ask the person involved. Find out, and do not just go, ‘ah, PWD, hindi kaya.’”
Connie believes that inclusive employers play a significant role in bringing out the best in people. “Sometimes when you have a disability, you think na wala ka nang silbi sa mundo. But if you have an employer who is very accommodating sa mga handicapped, you’ll feel like, ah, may value pa ko. Even if you’re handicapped, you can still help. You’re still able in terms of the things you can do.”
This is the third in a series of special features on Persons with Disability in various workplaces, in the private and the public sectors. Stay tuned to the “May 1% Ka Ba?” campaign via https://www.facebook.com/ProjectInclusionPH/.
This 2018, the Australian Embassy and the Asia Foundation partnership in the Philippines, through Fully Abled Nation and Project Inclusion, shines the spotlight on workplace inclusion through “May 1% Ka Ba?”, an advocacy campaign promoting access to work opportunities for Persons with Disability.
Fully Abled Nation (FAN) was established in 2011 as a multi-sectoral coalition with constituents from various government agencies, civil society organizations, disabled peoples’ organizations, and the private sector. In the 2013 and 2016 elections, FAN partnered with COMELEC and made elections more accessible for PWDs. This year, under the Coalitions for Change (CfC) program of the Australian Embassy and The Asia Foundation Partnership in the Philippines, FAN focuses on inclusive education and inclusive employment.
Project Inclusion is a program of Unilab Foundation, Inc. that enables access to work opportunities for PWDs. Since its inception in 2013, the program has provided improved work access to over 600 PWDs, and over 200 of them are now employed in various industries. For more information on Project Inclusion, visit http://www.unilabfoundation.org/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.