They came up with the remarks at a workshop on “Making Workplace Disability Inclusive: Developing Employers’ Network” held in the capital yesterday.
Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF) and the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP), a project of the ILO, jointly organised the programme.
The aim of the event is to hear from the employers how to advise organisations wishing to start making their workforce more disability inclusive.
Bangladesh Business and Disability Network (BBDN) is a voluntary group of representatives from business, non-governmental and physically challenged peoples’ organisations with its primary purpose to help those with impairments to find decent work and employers to recruit staff members with disabilities.
“In Bangladesh, the cost of disability, due to forgone income from lack of schooling and employment, both for people with disabilities, and their caregivers, is estimated at $1.2 billion annually, or 1.7% of GDP,” said Albert Mollah, an ILO consultant, in his keynote speech on Competitive Advantage of Hiring Person with Disability.
Currently, there are about 16 million persons with disability in the country while around 10% of the total world’s population or roughly 650 million people live with disability.
Talking on the barriers to employment of persons with disability, Mollah said 15% are facing impairment while 85% barriers. Attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers make disability more severe, he added.
“Soft barriers such as negative societal attitudes and hard barriers such as inaccessible infrastructure lead to marginalisation and exclusion of people with disabilities,” said Murteza Rafi Khan in his presentation on “Towards a disability inclusive workforce”.
“We cannot ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth of Bangladesh without building upon the abilities of 10% population with physical impairments, of which 40% are youth,” sad BEF president Salahuddin Kasem Khan.
“Staff members with disabilities bring skills and diversity to the workplace. Hiring them helps foster greater social inclusion and above all makes good business sense,” he added.
The Bangladesh Business and Disability Network will play an important role in facilitating companies to recruit and accommodate a more diverse workforce, he suggested.
“We have never considered disability a bar to working capability. They work here because their qualifications match, not because they are specially recruited,” said Beximco Fashion in a message.
“To us disability is a part of diversity, inclusion is not a Corporate Social Responsibility or a buyer obligation,” it added.
First place the persons with disability in workplaces, then think about the challenges, said Shafi, an official of Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed.
He said the organisation provides training and the training receivers are able to work with challenges.
Mahua Paul, a physically challenged female, urged the stakeholders to include persons with such impairments in the policy-making process.
She also called upon the employers to find out reasons behind their lay-off from their jobs.
Mahua also suggested arranging entertainment at workplace for them as they feel monotonous while some of their co-workers are reluctant to talk to them.