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  • Vanessa Vianca Lorica

Limits: It’s Just Human Nature

We can only be confined by our own fears and insecurities. If we want change then we have to initiate change.

Who are they?

In the vast ocean of people around us, there is a specific group walking among us, yet apart from us. They are Persons with Disability (PWDs), people who strive hard to keep up with the rest of the populace.

Many people are surprised to know that PWDs can contribute to society in their own way. And sometimes, when people see those PWD badges – proudly worn by the exceptional employees, they act as if PWDs are something to ogle at in a museum.

May ganun po pala (There is such a thing)?” said one customer, when told that there is a PWD working in South Star Drug in Cubao. He shared that it depends on the employee’s performance, if he is of value to the workplace.

Merong pwede, merong hindi diba? Okay din magtrabaho sila, kung kaya talaga (There are some who can, and some who can’t, right? So it’s okay to work as long as they can do it),” said a mother of three, after being asked if she thinks PWDs should be allowed to work.

It comes as a shock to the customers when they learn that PWD are work in South Star Drug. But based on their responses, it seems they are open to the idea of PWDs getting employed, as long as the PWDs can carry out their tasks.

Charlene Roxas, a Journalism student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, shared her thoughts about PWDs in the workplace. “I think [the idea of] PWDs working is nothing new in our country. For some years, they have already proven their capabilities. Yet I'm still impressed with what they can do, considering their disabilities. I think this is a way of empowering them, and boosting their confidence as individuals.” She has never encountered a PWD in the workplace, but she has seen them on television and on social media.

PWDs, especially those with neurodevelopmental disabilities, have a harder time finding work. This is because people and companies are wary of the limits of PWDs’ capabilities. I think that, for most people, those with neurodevelopmental disabilities are like ticking time bombs: one moment they are fine, and the next moment they are throwing tantrums. This can be quite difficult, especially for the people who have no idea how to handle them.

Christianne Casipit has autism, and he is an employee in the Cubao branch of South Star Drug.

I asked if he had difficulty finding a job. He replied, “Hindi naman. Sumipag lang ako. Nagsipag lang (Not really. I just worked really hard. I persevered).”

Christianne’s main responsibility is helping put price tags on items, and putting the items on their proper shelves. Some people with autism have a knack for keeping things in order.

What do people see?

Many people have become more open-minded when it comes to PWDs in the workplace. They have become more accepting, agreeing that everyone deserves an equal chance in getting hired.

We asked some customers what they thought about PWDs in the workplace.

“Giving chance to PWDs na makapag-work, despite na may karamdaman sila (Giving chance to PWDs to be able to work despite their disabilities),” shared Anthony, a call center agent going home from work.

Maganda kasi disabled siya pero pwede siya, tinanggap siya rito, na okay lang na makapag trabaho siya (It’s good because he is disabled but he can work and he got hired here, and it’s okay for him to work),” shared Jaymar, who also had a little difficulty in looking for a job since he has not finished college.

May advantages saka may disadvantages, pero malaking tulong para sa kanya yun, kasi may handicap siya diba? Pero kung kasi ang tao ngayon masyadong ma-criticize eh, diba? Depende na lang yun sa tao, kung gaano kababa yung loob niya para maawa dun sa tao (There are advantages and disadvantages but in a sense it is a great help for him since he is handicapped, right? But people nowadays are too critical, right? It depends on the person, if he is kind-hearted enough to feel sympathy for others.),” Marissa, who is now providing for her mother and father, shared before mounting her motorcycle to go home.

In a society that has become more critical, there are some who have learned to see beyond the limits of PWDs, and instead appreciating their strengths and harnessing those abilities in the workplace.

“Advantage kasi yan, yung mga mas aggressive mag trabaho. Magpapa-impress yan because gusto niya maging perfect. Pagkatatamad-tamad pa siya, wala siyang chance tumagal o matanggap, diba? (That is an advantage because he is more likely to work more aggressively. He will aim to impress because he wants to be perfect. If he is lazy, he has no chance to stay in the job or even get hired at all),” Marissa explained further. Perhaps what she is trying to say is that because PWDs know how difficult it is to get hired, they rise to the challenge. They put their best efforts into the things they can do best, to prove to people that having a disability cannot hinder them from their tasks.

“They put more value into their work, for the simple reason that employment opportunities don’t come to them very often,” shares Grant Javier, Program Manager of Project Inclusion.

It seems that people are now more accepting of the idea of PWDs working, regardless of an actual encounter or not. Many people now have an understanding that people with disabilities should have an equal chance at getting hired.

One PWD at a Time

Since Unilab Foundation started Project Inclusion, companies have been taught that PWDs are not liabilities, that they can be hard-working and responsible assets. They can also be a source of positivity and inspiration in the workplace.

Project Inclusion matches the jobseekers with companies looking for applicants.

“After naming makuha yung resumé, ang ginagawa naming kino-contact namin siya to schedule an initial assessment slash practice interview (After we receive the resumé, we contact them to schedule an initial assessment slash practice interview),”said Jim Nemeño, program officer for Project Inclusion.

The Project Inclusion team determines the skills, preferred working conditions, and the motivation of the applicant in looking for a job. They also provide insights on how to improve the applicant’s resumé, and tips on how to perform during a job interview.

“After the skills assessment we create a jobseeker's profile. From that profile we are able to determine the skills and the job that matches the skills of the jobseeker. So based on the skills of the jobseeker, we refer [the applicant] to the opportunities available,” Jim explained further.

There are now more people and companies taking the initiative to give PWDs a bigger role in society. I think this society needs to be more open-minded, and kinder. Discrimination tears a society apart, and it is through kindness that people see the good in others.

Vanessa Vianca Lorica is an intern from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She is a Journalism student with a passion for writing, a mildly tone-deaf music lover and a reader who also exists in the multiverse.

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