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“Nothing about us without us”: Making the workplace inclusive for persons with disabilities

As a person with psychosocial disability, finding jobs was not easy for Voravee. Thanks to the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), Voravee was able to get training such as how to communicate with others as well as other basic skills. He now works at the cafeteria in the UN compound in Bangkok where his skills are complemented with on-the-job training, and he can meaningfully engage in society.

“My parents now understand that I can do anything like anyone else in society,” beamed Voravee. A disability advocate, Voravee has spoken up for not only himself but the communities he is a part of.

In Asia and the Pacific, some 690 million men, women and children live with some form of disability. This number is expected to rise over the next decades. Yet, persons with disabilities tend to be unseen, unheard and uncounted. They often struggle to obtain education, decent work, social protection services and legal support, and are subject to disproportionately high rates of poverty.

Available data suggests that persons with disabilities are almost half as likely to be employed as persons without disabilities.

In seeking to comprehend the employment status of persons with disabilities and to implement supportive policy measures, it is vital to acknowledge that they have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and physical, sensory, intellectual, and/or psychological impairments. Mistaken assumptions and stereotypes regarding the working capabilities of people with disabilities hinder their employment. The disparities underscore the need to develop a social-and human-rights-based understanding of disability and promote decent work for persons with disabilities.

In this regard, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has played a crucial role in advancing disability rights and disability-inclusive development, notably in the employment sector.

ESCAP and its member States have pioneered and advocated disability policies as well as promoted regionally specific innovations in disability inclusion and accessibility for over 30 years. In 2012, the Asia-Pacific region also set an example by adopting the world’s first set of disability-specific development goals in the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real.

Productive employment and decent work are essential for individuals with disabilities to participate completely and equally in society and to enjoy an adequate quality of life. The Incheon Strategy also marked a major shift from sheltered employment to supported employment in inclusive settings in its approach to promoting work and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

A recent report by ESCAP, Shaping of Disability-inclusive Employment in Asia and the Pacific, offers a regional lens into the employment status of persons with disabilities and recommends a variety of approaches and strategies for governments to take in collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities, communities and other stakeholders to further promote disability-inclusive employment.

We are at a watershed moment, the mantra “Nothing about us without us” shines a light on how far we have come toward a disability-inclusive society and how much further we need to go.

The Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, guided by the Strategy, serves to encourage countries in the region to meet their promise to leave no one behind and further advance disability rights, building an inclusive and sustainable society for all.

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Zhaoxin Lu
Intern, Communications and Knowledge Management Section
Kavita Sukanandan
Public Information Officer, Communications and Knowledge Management Section
Social Development +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]