MANILA – Over a billion people around the world are Persons with Disability, and they represent a sizeable potential workforce. Thanks to inclusive workspaces that make use of their skills, Persons with Disability have become the essential advantage of any business looking to have an edge in their industry.

“At IBM we recognize people as central to business success,” explains Christian Bonnafont, Vice-President of Software for IBM France, in a testimonial to the International Labour Organization. “By maximizing the previously untapped potential that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, we walk the talk of embracing people of all different abilities.”

How has hiring Persons with Disability benefited their employers? Tangible proof can be found right here in the Philippines. Project Inclusion is a Unilab Foundation initiative focused on improving access-to-work opportunities for Persons with Disability in the Philippines. The program collaborates with nearly two dozen inclusive Filipino employers. Four of those employers talks about their successes with Persons with Disability.

Persons with Disability exceed expectations

When their skills are appropriately matched with available jobs, Persons with Disability can deliver results exceeding even those of regularly abled individuals.

“We have one person with autism, and he’s a very playful, jolly person, so he would normally get distracted a lot,” shares Christine Pambuan, the training manager of Southstar Drug, a subsidiary of Robinsons Retail. “We gave him a task in the filing room, so that he wouldn’t get distracted. Backlogs were at half a year, around five to six months. Natapos niya in less than a month. So now, nag-iisip kami nung manager, what else can we make him do? Kasi he does things so fast!”

Southstar Drug has another Person with Disability employee, and his fascination with time has been appreciated and emulated by his officemates, especially with regards to attendance and deadlines. Another Person with Disability employee is characterized by his rapid-fire creativity, which allows him to contribute significantly to the marketing team’s efforts. In every instance, colleagues and superiors acknowledge their awe and admiration at how Persons with Disability surpass the limitations of the workplace, every single day.

Persons with Disability have exacting standards

Persons with Disability can turn in volumes of output that their counterparts would be hard-pressed to match. In the same vein, they also have an unrelenting commitment to doing their job perfectly.

“We have one person with autism who works in our cashiering department,” shares Lissa Ramos, the assistant manager for human resources of Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company (UNAHCO), Inc. “Wala siyang margin of error. Ang galing niya sa numbers. He makes sure na tama yung numbers, kasi the department inputs things into a system that’s critical for our operations. Never did I hear his supervisor say na meron siyang mali, ever.” Ramos cites his jolly disposition and overall warmth to everyone in the office as a plus to the exemplary professional performance that he turns in.

Just as Southstar Drug’s extensive backlog was speedily completed, UNAHCO has also observed the remarkable ability of the persons with autism in their employ to handle large volumes of work with no setbacks or mishaps whatsoever.

Persons with Disability foster a sense of community

While integrating Persons with Disability into a workplace may require an initial adjustment period, that starting investment can yield dividends beyond the financial.

Citihub is a social enterprise that provides affordable housing and living spaces for low-income workers in Metro Manila. Citihub has employed deaf and amputee Persons with Disability in their residential locations since 2016, as both managerial and housekeeping staff.

Panya Boonsirithum, CEO of Citihub, asserts that having Persons with Disability has created a mutually beneficial vibe with the residents. “Our tenants, the people staying in our dorms, actually appreciate it,” he explains. “Our dorms have a capacity of 400 residents. And we only have three deaf persons housekeeping looking after those 400. But because they’re so comfortable and understanding, the tenants help out. They’re very orderly, they throw trash properly in trash cans, they don’t loiter. So, it’s easier for our housekeeping staff to do their job. It gets to be a nice partnership. There’s definitely a different, better culture in our dorms because of the Persons with Disability.”

Persons with Disability inspire customers and colleagues alike

“There are a lot of great things about working with Persons with Disability,” explains Francis Reyes, CEO of Caravan Food Group, Inc. “They really take care of wherever you assign them, as if it’s their own place, their own home. Our Persons with Disability are frontliners at our establishments, and that makes people [realize] that just because they’re deaf, it doesn’t mean they can’t do things just as well [as their counterparts].” The company receives many reports of excellent customer service, and Reyes credits that to the Persons with Disability; their restaurant branches are almost entirely staffed by the Persons with Disability.

The Caravan Food Group employs both deaf Persons with Disability and persons with autism through their restaurants Elait! and Overdoughs, and the other employees have gone beyond accepting of the inclusive work environment. They have also happily developed their skills to keep pace.

“A lot of our abled employees started out with no background in sign language,” says Reyes, “and now they’re better than me! It’s a different kind of experience for them, and they really support the idea of working with Persons with Disability.” He also emphasizes that productivity has never been an issue at the Caravan Food Group, thanks to their mindset of mutual support.

Leverage the power of Persons with Disability through Project Inclusion

Through Project Inclusion, Unilab Foundation improves work access for Persons with Disability. It aims to build more inclusive workplaces, and to change the narrative of Person with Disability employment from a charity case to a business case. Since its inception in 2013, the program has provided over 700 Persons with Disability with improved access to work opportunities. To learn more about Project Inclusion and how employers can broaden their horizons, visit http://www.unilabfoundation.org/, or email projectinclusion@unilabfoundation.org.