Labor inclusion of persons with disabilities in Nicaragua

By: Bertha X. Ortega

With regard to the celebration this May 1st of the International Workers’ Day, I consider it very important to refer to the right to work of people with disabilities, their inclusion as workers in the workplace.

The issue of labor inclusion of persons with disabilities should be analyzed from four different but complementary pillars: the regulatory part, the enforcement authority, the companies or employers and the organizations of persons with disabilities.

In relation to the normative part, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly regulates the right to work with equal opportunities and without discrimination of persons with disabilities and clearly establishes the obligation of companies and employers to hire persons with disabilities according to the number of workers they have.

Small companies with less than 10 workers are not obliged to hire people with disabilities; if the company has 10 workers and less than 50 on the payroll, it is obliged to hire at least one disabled worker and if it has 50 or more, at least 2% of the number of workers on the payroll. The aforementioned law establishes minimum percentages for complying with the tutelary rule, a minimum that may be exceeded by the empathetic decision of the employers.

In relation to the enforcement authority, the Ministry of Labor, in its role of monitoring compliance with labor standards, has made an effort through ordinary inspections to require employers to comply with the obligation to hire people with disabilities.

The first two pillars to achieve inclusion, the regulations and the enforcement authority are aligned, the third pillar, the employers or companies, constitute the neuralgic point of this issue.

In many occasions, when faced with this obligation, companies use many arguments to support their material impossibility to comply with this obligation, among others, that their jobs are very technical and that they have to be performed by people with all their abilities, that they do not have vacancies, that they do not have resources to make adaptations in the physical facilities to hire people with disabilities, etc, etc and in the face of all these arguments, the percentage of people with disabilities who have achieved labor inclusion continues to be very low and there are always employers who are being fined by the MITRAB for not complying with the law.

Faced with this attitude, it is important to point out that the labor inclusion of people with disabilities should be for companies more than a legal obligation, an empathetic way to allow these excluded people to contribute their grain of sand in the economic development of society, giving them an opportunity has many effects, it complies with the law, it allows the person with a disability to feel useful in the midst of their particular situation and contributes to live in a more inclusive and balanced society. And they are in line with the constitutional provision that stipulates that private property must fulfill a social function.

It is not easy to change paradigms and here it is important to fight from within the organizations to change them, as we often say to think outside the box.

Thinking outside the box means to leave aside all the arguments that have prevented an effective inclusion of these people in the labor market and start thinking that opportunities are possible if we have as a guide the “right person in the right chair” because we are not talking about people with exclusionary disabilities, because these totally prevent people of working age from social inclusion. We are referring to partial disabilities and there is a range of disabilities of this type, just as there are jobs in a company, so there will always be the opportunity for someone to fit into one of them because of their abilities, not because of what they are unable to do.

Experience shows that people with disabilities are efficient and responsible workers and there are many cases in which they have become role models.

Finally, the fourth pillar: organizations of persons with disabilities must develop alliances with organizations that can help them to enforce the law, they must have a proactive attitude that contributes to their members being able to make what the law establishes a reality.