A conference on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labor market, organized by the Croatian Employers Association (CEA) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), was held on April 17th, 2018 on the premises of CEA. The aim of the conference was to inform and encourage employers to include people with disabilities in the labor market and to show that both employers and people with disabilities can prosper from joint cooperation.
Milka Kosanović, director of the CEA membership affirmation, during the opening remarks, emphasized: "The CEA is continuously working to raise awareness among employers of the importance of involving people with disabilities in the labor market, but this process is not simple and requires the long-term systematic action of all stakeholders in society. Entry into the labor market, figuratively speaking, does not start with a job application, but in the education system and the preparation of any person, even persons with disabilities, to work in those professions and those competencies that employers are actually in need of. No employer will hire a worker which is not needed, not even a person with a disability. In addition, it is much more necessary to work on breaking prejudices about people with disabilities and their capabilities. In that part, CEA, together with civil society partner organizations, promotes the awareness of the value of people with disabilities in the world of business, based on the experiences of their members, and they are extremely positive. These are workers who, without exception, justify the trust of employers once they get it."
"In Croatia, awareness of the inclusion of people with disabilities on the labor market is still underdeveloped despite the efforts of the European Union to change the employers' approach through legislative frameworks. There are numerous opportunities for hiring disabled people and our goal through this conference is to encourage employers to think about these opportunities, to share their experiences and to point out the obstacles they are facing", said Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Director for Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Hungary. On that occasion, she presented the voluntary initiative of the EBRD staff in Zagreb to raise funds for the purchase of specialized IT and telecommunication equipment for blind and partially sighted people.
The conference participants discussed current topics in the area of employment of persons with disabilities, the relevant legal framework and the available incentives for the employment of persons with disabilities. As part of the conference, good practice examples were presented, among which the Association of Blind Zagreb is an exceptional example. As part of its activities, with the aim of achieving better integration of blind and partially sighted persons into society and the labor market, the Association established a small social company "Sfera Visia", which produces and sells soaps under the name "Soaps with dots''. An additional valuable example was the company Spin Valis, which in 2016 provided permanent employment for 14 people with disabilities.
The conference was concluded with a brief presentation of the initiative which was started by employees of the EBRD's office in Zagreb with the aim of collecting funds for the purchase of specialized information and telecommunication equipment for blind and partially sighted people. The initiative is currently on crowdfunding platforms Indiegogo and Youcaring, and all the funds raised will be doubled by a socially aware institution EBRD, as part of its social initiative program.
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