In 2020, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Enabler Program to focus on improving workplace inclusivity as well as the employability of persons with disabilities (PWDs) across the Asia Pacific region.
The program started as a pilot in five markets, with six nonprofit organizations, 14 employer partners, and a simple premise: collaborate with these nonprofit organizations to train PWDs in cloud and technical skills, then connect these organizations to businesses hiring talent with cloud skills.
Today, the program covers nine countries across the region, 14 nonprofits, and 28 partner organizations.
In the Philippines, the Microsoft Enabler Program has helped over 350 PWDs through the support of local partner organizations. Non-profit, for-impact organization Virtualahan plays a key role in the Microsoft Enabler Program’s success in the Philippines through its inclusivity training to the local commercial partners and pools potential candidates for vacancies within the organizations.
For the past three years, the Microsoft Enabler Program has successfully provided employment opportunities at eight partner organizations: Cognizant Technology Solutions, Crayon, ePLDT, HCL Technologies, Lumify Group, Nexus Tech, NTT Data, and Wipro.
Jeff Cortez, one of the program graduates, joined HCL Technologies at the start of 2021 as an Accessibility Engineer. Hard of hearing, Jeff has always advocated for disability inclusivity through his work as a professional sign language interpreter and a facilitator for sensitivity training.
Now approaching his second year with HCL Technologies, he is involved in making sure their applications and solutions are accessible and inclusive to PWDs. Jeff is also an active participant in reviewing the accessibility of Microsoft programs, focusing on closed captions and sign language interpretation.
“The first step towards disability diversity companies need to take is to raise awareness within their own organization. From there, awareness will turn to openness and understanding, then to action,” explained Jeff. “It is also important to have a support group within the company. When we are appreciated, respected, and heard, we not only boost productivity and morale, but loyalty to the company as well.”
Microsoft aims to continuously grow the Microsoft Enabler Program and its collection of commercial partners and non-profit organizations in order to bring inclusive opportunities and digital skills to more Filipino PwDs.