Promoting inclusion for individuals with disabilities in the workplace

David Pino, from Madrid, Spain, highlights the need for collaborative efforts for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace, from his perspective as a CKD patient and a human resources professional.

To explain my situation, I must go back a few years when, as a young technology company employee, I suddenly started feeling very unwell. Without warning, I started vomiting in the street while taking a walk. I was experiencing acute kidney failure. In the coming days, I would need surgery to insert a catheter and start peritoneal dialysis. Due to my condition, the doctors declared me unfit to work, so I stayed at home for the next few years until a transplant became available.

The CKD diagnosis came as a shock to my everyday life. I went from having a “normal” life without limitations to having to live with dialysis that had me tied to a machine and medicines. Even if I am a very optimistic person, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. I saw how everything I had built around me was crumbling. But I was wrong. I learned to live with dialysis and to take advantage of the new approach to life that this situation was giving me and ultimately I moved on.

I was legally recognized as having a disability, which, among other benefits, helps with labor integration. The legal framework established in Spain tried to overcome the existing discrimination towards disabled people.

When I returned to the labor market, I discovered that the profiles required for people with disabilities were always low-skilled. In many cases, they did not even consider the person’s expertise or training, but merely the fact of holding a handicap certificate. This happened to me when I was given a job as a gardener, which had nothing to do with my training and background. They had not even read my CV; only the certificate mattered.

One possible explanation is that the Spanish legal framework requires companies with more than 50 employees, to hire 2% of people with disabilities, or take other alternative measures. In practice, the great majority of businesses and companies fail to meet this requirement.

Going back to the gardener offer, which had been a setback for me and my mental health, I began to question if my condition was limiting and affecting my ability to work to that extent. But I eventually realized that the problem was not myself or my abilities, but a society with a very strong bias towards disability.

Throughout the years, I have met wonderful people who, unlike me, did not have the opportunity to receive training or gain professional experience because they were hospitalized three days a week from an early age. I met people who never got the opportunity to excel academically because they were coping with a sick body.

People with disabilities do not compete on an equal level with others, but that does not mean that they should be pitied and given jobs that are below their capabilities and talents.
We have to change that mentality, not only for the sake of these people but also because as a society we define ourselves by how we manage situations like this.

This is something that we can all change together: as customers, by demanding greater social responsibility from companies towards people with disabilities; as companies, by raising awareness and developing actions that allow not only the non-discrimination against people with disabilities towards low-skilled positions but also by providing educational opportunities and broader career options for students with disabilities, allowing them to close the current gap in employment; and finally, as employees, we must value ourselves and keep showing that diversity benefits both businesses and society.