LABOR INCLUSION

Companies pool talent, not disabilities. Interview to Lina Rojas, Project Manager at Incluyeme.com

For Iberdrola México, inclusion needs to take multiple directions, especially when it comes to talent. During our first Diversity and Inclusion Week, we addressed the question of the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, hand in hand with Incluyeme.com, a company that has positioned itself as an expert on this important matter since 2013.

Lina Marcela Rojas Montoya, born in 1983 in Medellin, Colombia, is part of the organization and participated as a speaker during the Diversity and Inclusion Week. She has studied corporate digital transformation and communications, and has 14 years’ experience working in project management, digital content and media. Lina has a motor disability with diagnosed cerebral palsy due to premature birth.

There are segments of society that know very little about disability. So, what are disabilities?

Lina Rojas: Disabilities are conditions generated by various barriers in the environment that prevent people from participating on an equal footing in social, economic, family and personal life dynamics. These barriers can be architectural, communication-related, or involve access to basic services and healthcare, among other things.

There are several types of disabilities affecting people. The most prevalent worldwide are motor, visual and hearing disabilities.

And what are non-visible disabilities?

LR: Non-visible or non-apparent disabilities can be psychosocial, such as depression or anxiety, which have physical manifestations when the person enters a state of crisis. Another could be visceral disability, which involves deficient functioning of internal organs, such as the liver or heart. They are not perceptible to the human eye, so they are often not properly attended in the health system, as there is no early diagnosis.

What are the most common challenges regarding disabilities? Do we lack information on the matter as a society?

LR: In terms of the level of information we have access to as a society in Latin America, there are still many barriers for the general population, which is out of touch with the reality of disability, hindering inclusion in the different spheres of society.

People with disabilities are often excluded not because of a lack of will, bad intentions or absence of public policies, but because of a lack of qualified information. Many myths about disability still persist.

And is it because of these barriers preventing access to information that myths about disability arise? What are they?

LR: The assumption is that if it cannot be seen, it does not exist. But disability does exist and requires attention so that people can have an accessible environment and perform their tasks.

The important thing is to think that behind the disability – regardless of whether it is visible or not – there is a person who has expectations and needs, who wants to participate in the labor market and give the best they have got.

It is essential not to separate the disability from the person. We need to think that there is life beyond disability. There is life with disability, not in spite of it.

LABOR INCLUSION

What are the main challenges faced by the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market?

LR: One of the main labor-related challenges that still prevails in our cultures is the belief that people with disabilities are less productive, that they have high rates of absenteeism, when in fact this is not true because disability does not always imply extensive medical treatment. It is simply a matter of keeping the situation monitored.

What factors hinder the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market?

LR: It is a chain. The first barrier is that people with disabilities usually do not have access to quality education and, therefore, will not be able to perform in qualified, formal jobs, and this leads to exclusion.

Despite the fact that people with disabilities have been educated, many myths or fears persist on the part of organizations because disability is still seen as something unknown, alien or distant. The fact of the matter is that there are 1.2 billion people in the world who live with a disability.

We need to approach disability and understand that at some point it can come into our lives, because as people get older, they start to lose their abilities.

From what you tell us, there is still a long way to go. So how can we achieve true labor inclusion?

LR: The first challenge is to realize that disability is real. The second is to understand that organizations pool talent, not disabilities. It is not the disabilities that are going to work, it is the people. We have to think that each person needs an opportunity.

Fortunately, there is good news for companies: inclusion is possible. It is difficult, but it is feasible and there are tools to achieve it. So, the important thing is to open the door to the talents of many people with disabilities.

What are these tools?

LR: When it comes to designing a space or an event, the first thing to think about is that it has to be for everyone.

The second thing is communication, which must include everyone and ensure people with disabilities are visible and adequately represented in the work environment. By making this diversity visible, organizations grow, innovate and achieve greater impact in everything they do inside and outside the organization.

Another good practice is to provide training and bring company employees closer to the issues of inclusion and diversity in order to break down the unconscious bias that exists towards people with disabilities.

Lastly, think about accessibility for all people in any area and space of the work environment.

And how does Incluyeme.com help companies bring about this change of mindset?

LR: We believe that the inclusion of people with disabilities should go beyond hiring, by proposing a comprehensive model. We are committed to getting more organizations to add the qualified talents of people with disabilities. In the long term, our aim is to make the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities a standard practice.

MORE THAN MY CRUTCHES

Lina, what has been your main challenge in your personal life and professional career?

LR: My main challenge is to show that I can undergo complete professional development; it is not my crutches that go to work, it is me. I am the one who presents TV and radio shows, the one who worked in newspapers and did communication consulting, the one who presents projects to the BID President’s office, for example.

To do all these tasks, ideally the environment should be inclusive so that a person with a disability does not have to worry about how to deal with it.

With my experience I can show others that living with a disability is challenging, but possible. We need to strive to make the world sufficiently diverse, fair, open and able to discuss this subject without morbid curiosity, without pity, without unnecessary adjectives.

As long as the world continues to be exclusionary, denying access to opportunities, many people with disabilities will continue to see life as an eternal struggle.

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