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.”
Although all children have the right to an education, 32 million children with disabilities are not enrolled in school. HI has launched a #school4all campaign to ensure schools are accessible to everyone. This is a priority for HI, which works in 31 countries to help 144,000 children receive an education.
Every child, including children with disabilities, has the right to an education.
Many factors contribute to the exclusion of children with disabilities, including discrimination, inaccessible school buildings, a lack of accessible transportation, and a lack of trained teachers and special education resources. Exclusion from education further perpetuates the vicious cycle of disability and poverty.
Humanity & Inclusion works to change these perceptions and opens doors to schools for children and young people with disabilities through the promotion of inclusive education. In fact, in 2017, HI donors gave access to education to 144,604 children with disabilities.
HI has been working in the field of education since 1998, and in the inclusive education sector since 2004. Its work focuses particularly on children with disabilities—the most vulnerable and excluded young learners in the world, in low-income countries and in development and emergency contexts. HI aims to strengthen the enrollment of children and young adults with disabilities in school, as part of an inclusive approach.
The need for inclusive education has been given strong backing at an international level: one of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030 is to "ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning."
Projects in 31 countries
HI implements projects in West, Central, North and East Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The organization also implements regional actions covering nine countries in West Africa and three countries in the Maghreb.
Humanity & Inclusion aims to
- Increase the number of children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream schools or receiving home or community based schooling, who continue their education and successfully complete their schooling
- Improve their integration with other children and participation in social activities as part of their education
- Increase the number of teachers trained in inclusive education and strengthen their skills to meet the learning needs of children with disabilities
- Improve the mainstreaming of disability in national level education policies
Three activity areas: community, services (educational, social, etc.) and policies
- HI provides direct support to children with disabilities and their families by working with communities. In conjunction with local partners (disabled people's organizations, neighborhood associations, and so on), HI visits villages, identifies out-of-school children with disabilities, makes parents aware of the importance of educating their children, and how to support them.
- HI builds the capacities of staff in education, social and health services: the organization ensures that schools provide appropriate infrastructure (such as access ramps, adapted toilets and special adapted chairs for children with physical disabilities), teachers with disability training, and rehabilitation support for children with disabilities.
- HI helps ministries develop more inclusive national education policies that take into account disability issues.
In low and middle income countries, people with disabilities are often denied access to education, training opportunities, loans for microenterprise development and formal employment in the private sector making it impossible for them to earn a living. This condemns people with disabilities and their families to a perpetuating cycle of poverty.
Humanity & Inclusion promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in decent, income-generating employment to break the cycle of poverty, contribute to the overall development of a country, and boost the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. The organization and its partners take a variety of approaches to helping people with disabilities earn a living.
Humanity & Inclusion’s supports training programs that teach people with disabilities essential skills including technical skills, business skills, and core life skills.
The organization helps people with disabilities become entrepreneurs by providing market-aligned skills training and startup funds or supplies. We also develop partnerships with microfinance institutions to promote financial services that are accessible.
People with disabilities commonly encounter significant barriers, including discrimination and inaccessible workplaces, when trying to obtain waged employment. Humanity & Inclusion works to overcome these challenges by partnering with companies and job placement services and providing employees with disability the training needed to succeed on the job.
Economic Social Protection
People with disabilities are disproportionately represented amongst the extreme and ultra-poor. To end extreme and ultra-poverty for people with disabilities globally, HI works to build and strengthen safety nets for people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in low and middle income countries. Practical examples of this include helping people with disabilities access preexisting government social services and implementing cash transfer programs. HI also implements a specific type of social protection scheme called the disability inclusive graduation model. More information on this can be found
Humanity & Inclusion works to increase the participation of people with disabilities in local governance, and to encourage local authorities to take the rights of people with disabilities into consideration when planning and implementing development projects. The organization also empowers local disabled people’s organizations to advocate for their rights.
Strengthening local disabled people’s organizations is often the first step in inclusive governance. By teaching people with disabilities how to organize, understand their rights, and gain the acceptance of local authorities, they have the opportunity to successfully advocate for positive change.
Since its founding in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has worked to empower people with disabilities to assume a full, social role within their families and communities. With its very first project—providing rehabilitation and prosthetic limbs to Cambodia landmine victims—the organization facilitated the social inclusion of disabled landmine survivors through group sports and games in the refugee camps.
To encourage the personal and social development of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, Humanity & Inclusion works to re-establish, revitalize, and foster social ties, and to improve access to social services, as well as cultural activities and sports. Staff and volunteers work with family members, school administrators, community members, and local leaders to ensure they understand the importance of including people with disabilities in activities and decision making. We also work with local government officials, disabled people’s organizations, social clubs, and other groups to organize inclusive sports, games, and other leisure activities.
People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of society when natural disasters strike or conflict erupts. Yet, because of physical or mental limitations and their general isolation from others, they often do not receive the humanitarian aid and services they need. People with disabilities may face great difficulty in reaching food and aid distribution points, communicating their needs to others, and registering for services in refugee and displaced persons camps. In the past, and even today, humanitarian organizations have failed to take people with disabilities into consideration when planning emergency responses.
Humanity & Inclusion is dedicated to improving the inclusion of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups through its own emergency response programs, and by working with other humanitarian groups to include people with disabilities in their responses.
It's also vital to include people with disabilities as communities prepare for future disasters. Where there is a high risk of natural disasters, we help communities prepare as best they can for this eventuality.
By having people with disabilities participate in disaster preparedness committees, the community becomes both aware of their presence and their more specific needs. For instance, if we know there is a deaf person in the community, we might implement a system of colored flags, in addition to the warning sirens already in place, to ensure everyone knows what the threat is, and the appropriate evacuation orders.
Developed by the Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP), the inclusion standards will help organizations responding to crises to successfully identify and reach those most at risk, upholding the humanitarian principles by which they all must abide. Humanitarian organizations are committed to providing assistance and protection solely based on need and without discrimination. Yet older people and people with disabilities are routinely excluded from humanitarian responses, despite being among the most vulnerable. The Humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities provide guidance across all areas and at all stages of emergency response to ensure older people and people with disabilities are not left out. View the report here.
People with disabilities face a multitude of obstacles in their physical environment, particularly in developing countries. These barriers can prevent them from attending school, working, accessing services like healthcare, and participating in community activities.
Creating a barrier-free environment is key to including people with disabilities as equal members of society. When steps are taken to remove physical barriers, society as a whole—including children, older people, those with chronic diseases, or even parents pushing strollers—can benefit.
Humanity & Inclusion incorporates accessibility into all of its programs, and runs several projects wholly devoted to improving physical accessibility. In development settings, as well as during periods of post-crisis or -disaster reconstruction (in Haiti, for example) Humanity & Inclusion works with development stakeholders, local communities, and governments to reduce barriers for people with disabilities. This might entail making schools and health centers physically accessible, building accessible homes for people with disabilities following natural disasters, or developing physically accessible public transportation.