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Disability Discussion Focuses on Fostering Innovation, Awareness, Social Impact in ASEAN

4 April 2023

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Bangkok, 4 April 2023: Disseminating good practices, raising awareness, and fostering partnerships amongst key stakeholders in the sector comprising persons with disabilities were the focus of a hybrid event organised by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) in partnership with Impact46 and Sasin School of Management. The workshop on Disability: Fostering Innovation, Awareness, and Social Impact in the ASEAN Region, was participated in by social workers; students; academics; and representatives from corporations, government, non-governmental organisations, and social enterprises, embassies, and multilateral and bilateral agencies.

Persons with disabilities are seen as facing many barriers to accessing education, decent work, social protection services, and legal support. Whilst countries in the ASEAN region have notable differences of barriers and challenges, significant innovation has been observed to be emerging in terms of non-profit, private, and public sector actions as well as  new technological opportunities to foster inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Welcoming the participants were Prof Drew B. Mallory of the Sasin School of Management; Ms Giulia Ajmone Marsan, Director of Strategy and Partnership at ERIA; and Ms Mariam Diakite, First Secretary of the Australian Mission to ASEAN. They emphasised the commitment of their respective organisations to untap the potential of an overlooked workforce and put disability inclusion at the core of and in between connections in economic development. They all echoed the spirit of partnership to accelerate the diversity, equity, and inclusion journeys for persons with disabilities.

Mr Nicola Crosta, Founder and CEO of Impact46, shared key takeaways from three ERIA publications on disability and social inclusion. He said 15% of the world population, 690 million of which are in the Asia-Pacific alone, live with a visible or invisible disability. He added that this figure shows that disability inclusion is key for inclusive economic growth. He cited the development of physically and culturally inclusive workplaces as some of the solutions to the issue and that startups and entrepreneurs with sustainability and inclusion at the centre of their business models have an important role to play to promote inclusion.

During the panel discussion, Mr Max Simpson, Founder and CEO of Steps, highlighted the importance of networking, partnership, and collaboration from the perspective of social enterprises to leverage social inclusion for persons with disabilities. He also talked about the Neurodiversity at Work Research Centre, Southeast Asia’s first research centre dedicated to connecting workers with disabilities to meaningful employment. The centre was established by the Sasin School of Management with support from ERIA.

Mr Samart Ratanasakorn, former Senior Academic Officer at the Ministry of Education of Thailand, presented data and main challenges facing students with disabilities who want to enrol in basic education in Thailand. He mentioned attitude, lack of knowledge and skills, low expectations, and policy gap implementation as some of the barriers that hinder inclusive education for persons with disabilities in the country.

Mr Lars Svensson, Chief Executive at Sasin Sustainability and Entrepreneurship Center, former Sustainability and Communication Director at IKEA Southeast Asia and Mexico, and Global Head of Sustainability at Ikano Group, shared the several efforts by IKEA to include persons with disabilities in its business models. 

Dr Darren Chua, Inspirational Speaker and Empowerment Coach at Mindset Transformation Clinic, emphasised the importance of a good mindset to break the barriers and attitudes towards persons with different abilities.

Moderated by Ms Lina Maulidina Sabrina, ERIA’s Senior Programme Officer, the discussion also cited ERIA’s publications on inclusive education social enterprises and disability, and technology and disability.

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