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As a woman working in a mostly male-dominated field, I have always been an advocate of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. And as a mother of a child with Down syndrome, this advocacy of creating a barrier-free society hits really close to home.

Today, as the local Inclusion and Diversity lead for Accenture Operations in the Philippines, I have the chance to further advance my dream of seeking progressive hiring of people with disabilities, particularly people with Down syndrome and autism, in large corporations in the country.

I am very fortunate to be working in a company that puts a premium on diversity in the workplace. We have a very diverse workforce, with a 50-50 ratio of male-to-female employees in Accenture in the Philippines, and we’ve also supported various programs that advance the causes of members of the LGBT community and people with disabilities at work. While I am proud of these strides, I also recognize the need to create more programs to support more people with disabilities in the workplace and expand our reach further.

Why I care

For most people with disabilities, the greatest obstacle is awareness of society and lack of equal opportunity.

Before my current role, I was based in the United States working for a global bank. My motivating factor in accepting the foreign assignment was to provide better opportunities for my kids, especially my son. Abroad, education is more accessible and advanced, and society is generally more accepting of people with disabilities.

Me with my children, Edward and Alyssa

While we have schools in the Philippines that cater to people with disabilities, the awareness of their needs still needs to be improved. Not to mention, the high cost of tuition fees for special education schools needs to be addressed.

"Recruitment of people with disabilities is a big undertaking that needs a special and targeted strategy and approach."

Big corporations in the country can play a huge part in changing people’s perspectives about people with disabilities. If a company decides to hire people with disabilities, then it should make such hiring a deliberate policy and part of its overall agenda, and not just a corporate social responsibility activity or program. Recruitment of people with disabilities is a big undertaking that needs a special and targeted strategy and approach.

A key area that corporations should focus on when hiring people with disabilities is to find and identify functions and roles that match each individual’s strengths and skills. Next, they should thoroughly study and understand the struggles of people with disabilities and learn how to address these. Companies may begin by conducting training, workshops and even brown-bag sessions with the employees, together with the people with disabilities, and talk about the difficulties the latter face regularly.

All employees, people with disabilities or otherwise, also should be able to participate in, contribute to and ensure inclusion in the workplace. Inclusion can be improved by training all employees, especially top and middle management, and also support staff like security guards and maintenance people. This approach can help the entire workforce to be more sensitive to their colleagues who may need special attention or care.

How we can all benefit

Hiring people with disabilities and making them an integral part of their workforce can actually boost a company’s competitive edge. It widens a company’s untapped talent pool, broadens perspective and fosters more creative thinking, and, in general, boosts a company’s morale.

Lastly, opening more opportunities for people with disabilities will help them triumph over any personal adversities. By making sure that people with disabilities realize their dreams, are employed and become independent members of society, we play a role in creating an equal-opportunity and barrier-free work environment for everyone. At the end of the day, it is the ability to make an impact in the community that we operate in, and paying it forward, that’s the most satisfying and rewarding in pursuing these endeavors.