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  • Mary Alice Sucaldito

On the Spectrum, In the Workplace

As a person on the autism spectrum, Chester struggles to find himself. A shy boy who cannot express himself well through words, Chester made change happen, showing that he can contribute his strength to the society.

A day in the life of Chester

Fran Chester Capellan is an eager worker and an early riser. He balances school and work, rendering four hours a day for each of these tasks and going through the cycle every weekday. At home, Chester is an 18-year-old boy who likes to sleep, play games on his gadgets, and post on Facebook. But in the workplace, he plays the role of a merchandiser, and is very good at it. He is tasked to replenish and arrange stocks. He is a hired employee at South Star Drug, Project Inclusion’s partner in

Si Chester, magaling mag-ayos yan ng display. Hindi siya nagrereklamo at sobrang precise talaga, even sa time (Chester is really great at fixing the products on display. He never complains and is very precise, even with time),” says Charmaine Valdez, pharmacist at South Star Drug and Chester’s supervisor. “Minsan pinag-i-input ko din siya sa computer, fast learner din siya. Kahit anong ituro mo, na-ge-gets niya agad (Sometimes, I let him do inputs on the computer; he’s a fast learner. Anything you teach him, he learns quickly).”

When he started on January 4, Chester was never treated any differently from a neurotypical employee. His colleagues became his friends, and he mingled with them as if they were long-time buddies. When asked who is closest to him, Chester pointed to Mark.

Mark is also a merchandiser in South Star Drug, and has been working there for eight months. “Mabait ‘yan si Chester. Wala naman nagbago nung nagtrabaho siya dito, natural lang. Nakikipagusap naman ‘yan, minsan nga hyper pa (Chester is kind. Nothing changed when he started working here; it’s very natural. He initiates conversation, and sometimes he’s very hyper),” Mark shared.

As he tackles his everyday schedule, Chester manages to divide it his time between work and school. He works at South Star Drug from 8:00 in the morning until noon. From noon to 1:00 PM, he travels to his school, his ten-minute commute followed by lunch.

Chester never imagined working at his young age. With his autism, it seemed almost impossible. But when he discovered, he had faith and had the courage to grab the opportunity in front of him., a chance for a change

Independent Living Learning Center (ILLC), like many intervention centers, helps Persons with Disability (PWDs) get the education they need and deserve. They give skills enhancements and job preparation trainings.. ILLC also helps PWDs progress from student to employee. This is where Chester is currently studying ILLC is responsible for introducing him to is a job-matching portal centered on PWDs. Developed by Unilab Foundation’s Project Inclusion, the site aims to match a PWD’s abilities with work opportunities. Under the right conditions, in the right atmosphere, PWDs can bring their unique colors for the betterment of themselves, their colleagues and the workplace. It is the first job-matching website for PWDs in the Philippines, and the first PWD-centric job-matching website in the world, enabling self-advocacy among PWD jobseekers.

As a partner of Project Inclusion, ILLC provided Chester access to, helping make his employment a reality. Arielle, a teacher at ILLC and also Chester’s mentor, shared on how he got hired.

“[We are] one of the partners of Unilab Foundation, [kaya] nagpunta si Chester and doon tinuruan sila on how to create their resumé and nagkaroon din ng mock interview. Meron na din naman resumé si Chester before siya nagpasa sa kasi may class din sila dito sa school about that, nagkaroon lang ng slight changes (Since we are one of the partners of Unilab Foundation, Chester went there, and they were taught on how to create their resumé. They also underwent mock interviews. Chester already had a resumé before he posted it on, because they also have a class here at school about that. They only made some revisions).”

Teacher Arielle was referring to the launch last July 15, where Chester was one of the first 60 jobseekers who attended the launch and signed up to job portal.

“Isa si Chester sa mga maaasahan mo dito sa school. (Chester is one of the students you can rely on.) He’s already at the top level of the learning program. He does filing, delivering letters, usually office work. And he’s very good with dates,” Arielle added.

By building his skills-based resumé builder on, Chester was able to highlight his talents during the application – skills that his colleagues eventually maximized and appreciated in the workplace.

The website enables persons with different kinds of disabilities to access the site easily; with features like text-to-speech for the blind, a magnifying glass function for the visually-impaired, and a resumé builder that is made both text and photo-based for the ease of access of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. The skills-based resumé builder makes a match out of a PWD’s skills rather than matching educational attainment and qualifications with job positions.

Project Inclusion believes that hiring a PWD is beneficial for both the PWD and the employer. It is an invitation to companies to embrace the possibility of new employment approaches and strategies, adjusting to enable PWDs to showcase their potential. This bayanihan creates an inclusive workplace.

Currently, there are 403 PWD jobseekers registered on Out of this pool, Project Inclusion has been able to place 104 PWDs. Of the 104 PWDs placed, 25 were matched through

A positive outlook for positive change

Chester says he’s very happy with his work.

Chester struggled in his early days. Tardiness was one of his weak points. Because of his love for sleep, he often overslept. But his colleagues gave him advice and pushed him to do his best, and so he eagerly made work as one of his top priorities. Work pushed him to do his best in whatever he does.

At home and in school, Chester does his best in all his daily tasks. He is now more obedient, and does house chores diligently. In school, he is now more active, by doing his assignments well and being more sociable with his classmates.

Napansin din namin sa bahay na nagbago si Chester. Masipag na siya dati pa, lalo na sa gawaing bahay, pero ngayon makikita mo na mas motivated siya. Sinasabi niya na ayaw niya na magtrabaho, pero kabaliktaran talaga. Nahihiya lang ‘yon (We also noticed the changes in Chester. He was diligent in the first place especially with house chores, but now you can see that he’s more motivated. He says that he doesn’t want to work anymore, but it’s the opposite. He’s just being shy),” says Virginia Valerio, Chester’s aunt.

Helping PWDs benefits the whole nation

Lagi lang akong best dapat sa work. Masaya ako kasi may work na ako at magkakaroon ako ng sweldo para mai-treat ko parents ko (I should always be in my best in work. I’m happy because I have work and I will get my salary, which I can use to treat my parents to something nice),” Chester says. He is proud of finding employment through “Minsan nahihiya pa din ako, pero mas alam ko na kung paano mag-greet sa customers. Hindi na ako masyado nahihiya (Sometimes, I still feel shy. But, now I know how to greet customers. I’m not that shy anymore),” he adds. Now, Chester is a sociable person. He knows how to lend a hand to customers in need, and to say ’thank you’ and ’goodbye‘ with a smile.

PWDs deserve a chance to showcase their skills. Project Inclusion aims to help PWDs to share their skills, and to show the world that they can contribute to the workplace. Through, Chester and other PWDs can get their chance to shine.

Mary Alice Sucaldito is a graduating Journalism student from St. Paul University Manila. She likes to binge watch Kdramas, grind through dungeons and read books which take her to other worlds.

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