Through a project called Forward Together, Humanity & Inclusion is addressing a challenge that young people with disabilities face every day: unemployment.
Forward Together is an inclusive employment and livelihood project led by Humanity & Inclusion in the Philippines and Indonesia. Throughout a successful three-year pilot phase, teams learned how to become more efficient, while supporting 380 young people with disabilities and more than 50 companies to be more inclusive of workers with disabilities. The project is now being relaunched in the Philippines and Indonesia, and will later arrive in Vietnam.
The project empowers people between the ages of 18 and 45 with disabilities, by increasing their access to decent employment.
The approach is two-fold: Forward Together engages companies who want to hire youth with disabilities, then supports young people with disabilities in accessing jobs. This is done through personalized coaching to ensure prospective workers develop the skills needed to enter the workforce or start their own business. Humanity & Inclusion teams also provide technical assistance to employers to prepare them to recruit, retain and provide professional development opportunities for employees with disabilities.
Fighting systemic exclusion
The systemic exclusion of persons with disabilities, especially in the workplace, is one of the forms of social prejudice that youth with disabilities experience regularly. This situation worsened during the Covid-19 period during which young people with disabilities became more marginalized than ever.
In the Philippines, for example, even with a formal degree, a person who is blind will generally not have access to training or a profession that matches their skill level. In fact, the only common profession available to people with visual disabilities is massage therapy.
‘Young people often have skills and commitment that could get them a good job or position,” says Twyla David, Humanity & Inclusion’s Forward Together coordinator, who helped launch the project in 2018. “At HI, we're working to ensure that they can access decent, productive employment."
Centering skills and passions
Young people participating in Forward Together can choose between self-employment or being hired by an employer. Humanity & Inclusion provides personalized support, including assistance devices such as special screens or glasses, mobility aids, coaching sessions, as well as allowances to support them financially until they receive their first paycheck. Even after landing a job, Humanity & Inclusion conducts home visits, provides ongoing job coaching and organizes peer support groups for project participants.
“They have to be of working age with basic literacy, a satisfactory level of autonomy and ability, and with adequate support from their families,” David explains. “We use the personalized social support approach; we try to bring their skills and passions to the forefront. We want to help them to work where they feel safe, productive and valued.”
She shares the story of Kyenna (pictured), a 26-year-old who is an advocate for the Deaf community.
“Kyenna has a hearing disability and communicates through sign language,” David says. “She specializes in video editing, special effects, digital illustration and layout. HI has been supporting Kyenna in the pursuit of her professional goals through coaching, training, and job preparation such as mock interviews.”
Now, Kyenna is pursuing a career in visual graphic design in Manila.
A community effort
While each participant is at the heart of the project, stakeholders are also important. Humanity & Inclusion works together with a pool of young jobseekers, companies of all sizes, public employment offices, technical schools and professional institutions.
David explains that the goal of the project is for the job market to become “disability-Inclusive, sustainable, and community-based.”
Humanity & Inclusion works alongside companies to strengthen their capacity to hire people with disabilities and protect their rights in the work place. Teams provide businesses with technical support and training sessions on disability awareness, inclusive hiring and talent acquisition. The project also supports companies in drafting inclusive business continuity plans and inclusive disaster risk management for their offices.
“It does not matter to us if the company has experience hiring persons with disabilities or not,” David says. “The most important is their readiness to do so. We help them with the most difficult step in achieving inclusive employment: getting started.”