Stigmatized + Disabled = Unemployed? | INCAE Master Programs

Stigmatized + Disabled = Unemployed?

03 de December 2014

Employing a person with a disability gives you and your organization the opportunity to access a lot of potential. 

“One day he came to apply for a job; a young man with a back problem which caused lot of difficulty walking.  The only stipulation he made was that he not be made to sit in a seat with wheels due to his condition.  He had been rejected from many other companies that could not acquiesce to this one requirement,” Assistant Director of Skills Management and head of the Costa Rican program “Somos Inclusivos” (We Are Inclusive) of BAC, San Jose. 

Did you know that today only 2 out of 10 persons with disabilities have a job in our country?

If employment gives us autonomy, contributes to our personal security and strengthens our self-worth, we should work on our own prejudices so that we might contribute to more opportunities for those stigmatized for disabilities or other prohibitive conditions; those who deserve a chance to offer their talents in the service of others. 

“Between us, there are more than 1 billion people who live with disabilities.  We should eliminate all of the barriers that hinder inclusion and participation of disabled people in society, which means, among other things, changing attitudes that promote stigma and institutionalized discrimination.” Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN.

Today, December 3rd, commemorates International Persons with Disabilities Day according to an initiative created by the UN. 

Based on facts recently published by the Ibero-American Social Security Organization (ISSO), in their “Study on measures to promote employment for people with disabilities,” only 23% of disabled people between 15 and 60 year of age are employed in our country. 

The obstacles that these people are faced with to access employment continue to be numerous: access to education, access to transportation, physical infrastructure and prejudices regarding the disabled, just to name a few.

There are also those that suffer hiring discrimination because they are stigmatized for their height, their physical appearance and their tone of voice without suffering a disability.  The term disabled, in accordance with the UN rights convention of 2006, includes those persons that have physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis as those with other deficiencies.

In our country, the Entrepreneurial Development Association (AED in Spanish), delivers training programs and supports awareness in member-companies that have an interest in the subject. This training provides technical support in the review, recruitment and selection of personnel, position manuals (and other other support) so that companies can hire people with special needs or disabilities.

Some companies that stand out for their hiring programs inclusivity, according to Ericka Linares from AED are: Grupo Roble, Grupo BAC, Impresora Delt, Constructora Meco, BLP Abogados and Pizza Hut. Here is a documentary about the initiatives of some of these companies. 


I spoke with Tania Vargas of BAC, San Jose. In 2010 BAC started the program "We are Inclusive" by hiring 6 deaf people and due to the success of this initiative today BAC has more than 30.  According to Tania, who is responsible for the project in Costa Rica, this hinged on the enthusiasm of their leaders starting with the CEO.

At BAC, deaf people are mostly employed in the treasury department, but these employees have affected the entire organization.  Recently, 200 employees graduated from a course to learn LESCO (Costa Rican Sign Language) and not all were from treasury.

Tania, who works in human resources, explains that the process of hiring a disabled person has to follow a traditional methodology with adaptation to the special characteristics of the person. "In a job interview with a deaf person, for example, you have to speak in front of them, slowly and clearly, and know that your partner will reply in writing."

“This experience has allowed me to hire people with disabilities who have completed their bachelors and who otherwise would not be working. These are people who generally are very committed, grateful, punctual and responsible, because they have been given an opportunity they sought so much."

She adds: "This project for me is special because it fills me with satisfaction in my work. If you thinks you helped change the life of another person, their family, but also you were sensitive to the employee and this affected the organizational culture."

When asking about reception among leader of BAC, Tania says, "As always, there are leaders who are open, enthusiastic and others are more reserved, but over time we have learned that including these people in our organization allows, (among all the above benefits) us to visualize business opportunities. Having them makes us think of our customers who have special needs and how we are addressing them and this is a benefit that we had not expected when we started."

And now I close with a real case that I hope has a good ending.

This professional is an Electrical Engineer. He is 40 years old and is trilingual in Spanish, English and French.  A nice and polite person who, due to their special characteristics, is called to interviews but has not been hired and really needs a job. If you are interested in this listing, please email me for further information.

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