Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
According to the National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, there are nearly 1.9 million people with disabilities in Thailand, constituting approximately 2.9 per cent of the population. The 2009 Survey by the National Statistics Office reveals that 65 per cent of persons with disabilities over the age of 15 were unemployed. Among those employed, a small percentage worked in professional occupations, while a majority worked in agriculture and fisheries.
To address this issue of unemployment, the government has adopted the 2007 Persons with Disabilities’ Quality of Life Promotion Act. Since 2010, both public and private organizations are mandated to hire persons with disabilities to any position in a ratio of 1 disabled person to every 100 regular employees instead of the previous ratio of 1:200. Tax exemption is granted as an incentive to private companies which hire more than 60 per cent of persons with disabilities. In case of failure to comply with the law, an employer is required to pay an annual contribution to the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Fund for an amount equal to the minimum wage for a quota of disabled workers. The Fund provides grants for skills training projects and entrepreneurship loans with no interest to assist people with disabilities in forming self-employment groups to do business in the community.
Unfortunately, a majority of people with disabilities are unaware of their rights and have not benefitted from these progressive laws. One reason is that people with disabilities lack critical skills required for the jobs in most companies, as only 39 per cent of people with disabilities have completed higher education, leading most companies to prefer pay the fine or the bribe, to get by. With the large amount of fund available, the Act has been abused by some public officers and organizations for people with disabilities. For example, identity cards of people with disabilities have been sold at a price lower than a minimum wage to claim for the compensation/funds provided by the Act, while the owners of the cards receive only a little amount and remain unemployed at home. Moreover, some officers receive commission fees from approving the capacity building projects which may not be truly useful for people with disabilities, without providing applicable or tangible skills that can be applied to the mainstream workforce. As these intended benefits fail to reach most people with disabilities, they are not integrated into the workforce and thus remain in the shadow of social exclusion.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In Thailand, where most people with disabilities are largely excluded from formal employment, Preeda is establishing an inclusive business environment to integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream workforce as competitive equals. Using innovative ICT tools that are both user-friendly for people with disabilities and profit-generating for employers, Preeda is building their professional competitiveness in technology-related fields of work, resulting in widened professional opportunities for people with disabilities. By building his training system around existing laws, Preeda is leveraging existing government funds and resources to benefit both people with disabilities and employers. Instead of isolating people with disabilities in separate employment programs, Preeda is setting up job training centers at leading universities and thus socially integrating them into a mainstream environment, while influencing the universities’ practices toward people with disabilities. Through Preeda’s work, people with disabilities are recognized for their potential to contribute fully and equally to the workforce, bringing mutual profit and pride to people with disabilities and their employers.