Correo del Orinoco Ewan Robertson
The Venezuelan government is organizing a series of employment fairs to increase the number of disabled people in formal employment, as part of efforts to guarantee the disabled their full rights as citizens.
The employment fairs seek to connect public and private companies with disabled people looking for work, and to help companies meet the legal requirement for 5% of employees to be people with disabilities. The requirement is part of the Law for Disabled People, passed in 2006, which aims to ensure that disabled people enjoy the “full and autonomous exercise of his or her capacities”.
The first disabled people’s employment fair was opened last Monday in Caracas with the presence of around 40 public and private companies. Similar events will be held around the country.
One of those who turned up at the fair looking for a job was Luis Sanchez, 28, who has a motor disability as the result of a bullet wound he suffered five years ago. He used to work as a carpenter and bricklayer, and with the recent death of his father, feels he has a responsibility to support his younger siblings.
“I feel capable of doing [construction] work, but I can also work in an office, because I’m good with computers. Any dignified job would be excellent for me,” he said to public news agency AVN.
According to the National Disabled Peoples Council (Conapdis), it is hoped that the first round of employment fairs will result in the insertion of 1,500 disabled people in the labor market. Currently, just under 20% of disabled people registered with the government health programs are in full employment.
The ultimate aim, said Conapdis president Alejandro Zamora, is that all disabled people who want to work are able to find a job.
“We are making commitments with a great number of big companies…to make article 28 [the legal requirement for disabled people to form 5% of the workforce] a reality. It’s important for people with disabilities to have a dignified job where they can develop themselves and feel part of society. One of disabled people’s demands is that they want to feel productive,” he said.
Zamora added that despite the advances made in disabled people’s rights, this group still does not form 5% of the workforce in many companies.
“We note with concern that article 28 hasn’t been respected as it should be. Due to this, we call on public and private companies to respond not only in terms of accessibility…but also job insertion,” the Conapdis president explained.
The Venezuelan government has also implemented health programs focused on disabled people’s needs, and has widened access to education for this group of the population.
According to the university education minister, Jehyson Guzman, 1,305 places in public universities have been awarded to prospective students with disabilities for the coming academic year.
“The direct inclusion of 1,350 [disabled people] in different parts of the country demonstrates that their disability isn’t an obstacle to enter university, to be educated, and to contribute to the country; this fact couldn’t be observed before the [Bolivarian] revolution,” the minister declared to Venezuelan National Radio (RNV) on Monday.
The rights and guarantees enjoyed by disabled people in Venezuela are laid out in the National Constitution and the Law for Disabled People.
While activists welcome the improvements made to disabled people’s inclusion into society in recent years, they argue that more still needs to be done in areas such as employment and political participation.