International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Shaping an Inclusive World of Work in Sri Lanka

The Employers’ Disability Network, pioneered by the International Labour Organization and Employers Federation of Ceylon, has been lauded as a case study for mainstreaming disability into the world of work

Press release | 03 December 2018
Colombo (ILO News): The 2018 theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities focuses on empowering persons with disabilities, facilitating equitable and sustainable development. Often in developing countries, people with disabilities are excluded from equal access to health care, education and employment opportunities.

In the case of Sri Lanka, there is an increasing number of persons with disabilities in the aftermath of the recent conflict. The 2012 census by the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka reports that there are 1.5 million persons with disabilities over the age of 15 years. While legislative provisions and policy documents have laid the legal foundation towards an inclusive environment, real-world implementation remains inadequate.

A training session at the centre
In many cases, poverty is seen as a consequence of disability as access to education, health, transport and employment prove to be formidable barriers, exacerbating vulnerability and exclusion. Moreover, cultural, religious and traditional circumstances often focus more on making charitable provisions for persons with disabilities instead of creating an inclusive society. Therefore, access to employment and ensuring human and social rights are essential prerequisites to improving the socio-economic conditions faced by persons with disabilities.

The Employers’ Disability Network is the brainchild of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC), and was launched in 2000 to alleviate employment challenges faced by persons with disabilities. The Network acts as an intermediary between Sri Lanka’s business community and organizations dealing with disability issues, while simultaneously increasing the employability of persons with disabilities.

The Employers’ Disability Network has been hailed by global employers’ network as one of the best business cases in the region for mainstreaming disability within workplaces and is often invited to global fora to showcase the inclusive and innovative business best practices from Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the network has taken considerable strides in ICT, language and skills training, offering opportunities for economic empowerment to persons with disabilities. The network’s training arm – the ICT Training Centre – was launched in 2009 with the support of ILO Sri Lanka and collaborates with Curtin University of Technology in Australia and SLIIT (Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology) Malabe. The ICT Training Centre received CISCO Academy status in 2014 and also provides distance learning facilities for those unable to travel to Colombo.

“When we talk of sustainable enterprises, we need to ensure that no one in society is left behind. The Employers’ Network on Disability has worked to encourage its members to foster an inclusive world of work which is open to people with diverse disabilities. To date, the Network has secured employment for over 500 people in over 100 companies across various sectors commented Manique Gunaratne, Manager – Specialized Training & Disability Resource Centre.

“On this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, ILO reaffirms its commitment to working with its tripartite constituents to end discrimination and ensure inclusion of all. Let us recognize and celebrate the vital contribution of persons with disabilities and work to build an inclusive and open society for all,” noted Simrin Singh, Country Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

For more information please contact: Mr. Asitha Seneviratne, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives: asitha@ilo.org , Tel: + 94112592525