In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), the Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre took the initiative to implement a project to provide recommendations on Disability Accessibility and Capacity Building of Local Government Authorities in Sri Lanka.
The team from EFC led by Manique Gunaratne which included persons with diverse disabilities did disability accessibility checking to give recommendations at Madawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha, in Anuradhapura district, in North Central Province in November 2021 to give recommendations on how to make the Madawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha access for all.
Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to Madawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha and staff members (persons with non-disabilities) of the Pradeshiya Sabha on how to have an inclusive approach when providing services which already exist. People with disabilities are more likely than the general population to suffer anxiety, discomfort, and animosity. To a significant measure, such attitudes arise from a lack of understanding of disability and what it’s like to live in a world with individuals who do not share that experience. Therefore, this initiative greatly supported bringing a change to create an inclusive approach.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne spoke on “Promoting entrepreneurs with disabilities” at the UNESCAP conference in July 2021. The presentation focused on the Overview of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon with a focus on its work in supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities, including female entrepreneurs; good practices, challenges faced and lessons learned in developing and implementing programmes to support entrepreneurs.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, 385 J3 Old Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne and Mr. Yasal Samarajeewa spoke on “Microsoft Excel training for persons with #disability at a half an hour programme titled “Anduren Eliyata” produced by Mr. Sujeewa Manage at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in October 2021.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Board Member – Navajeevana Rehabilitation
People with disabilities are more likely than the general population to suffer anxiety, discomfort, and animosity. To a significant measure, such attitudes arise from a lack of understanding of disability and what it’s like to live in a world with individuals who do not share that experience. As a result, in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Specialised Training & #Disability Resource Centre took the initiative to implement a project to provide recommendations on Disability Accessibility and Capacity Building of Local Government Authorities in Sri Lanka. The team from EFC led by Manique Gunaratne which included persons with diverse disabilities did disability accessibility checking to give recommendations at Galinbindunuwewa Pradeshiya Sabha, in Anuradhapura district, in North Central Province in December 2021 to give recommendations on how to make the Galinbindunuwawa Pradeshiya Sabha access for all. Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to GalinbindunuwewaPradeshiya Sabha and staff members (persons with non-disabilities) of the Pradeshiya Sabha on how to have an inclusive approach when providing services which already exists.
The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre together with Manchester International conducted a Soft Skills Development training for women titled “Fem Train” from September to November 2021. The “Fem Train” programme included women with disabilities. Women with disabilities were trained in soft skills to develop their employability skills.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Steering Committee Member – International Labour Organisation Global Business Disability Network
Ms. Manique Gunaratne of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre and Ms. Janani Rathnayake spoke on “Mobilising women leaders with #disabilities on inclusive responses to gender-based violence during Covid-19 pandemic” for a half an hour radio programme titled “Anduren Eliyata” at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in October 2021.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Executive Committee Member – Asia Pacific Women with Disability United
The University of Colombo conducted a series of training on Disability Awareness and Sensitization under the Faculty of Arts – AHEAD grant and implemented in collaboration with the Centre for Disability Research Education and Practice (CEDREP) and the Staff Development Centre (SDC), the University of Colombo for the academic staff in January 2022. Ms. Manique Gunaratne conducted the sessions on how to provide:
disability – varied lived realities of persons with disabilities.
The role of
inclusive technology and assistive devices.
language and terminology.
Building a respectful and inclusive university community through interaction, assistance, disability accommodation and socialization.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Country Representative – World Disability and Rehabilitation Professionals’ Association (WDRPA)
Established in 1929, the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) is the national employers’ organisation in Sri Lanka. Over the years, we have committed ourselves to adapting to the requirements of a dynamic membership to promote productive employment and social harmony. The Employers Network on Disability was formed by the EFC with the objective of facilitating employment and training opportunities for persons with disabilities in the private sector. Officially launched in 1999, the initiative was supported by the International Labour Organisation. Since then the network is actively serving its purpose by strengthening the link between organisations dealing with disability-related issues, the business community and persons with disabilities.
The Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre was established in 2009 with the objective of training persons with diverse disabilities and developing their employability skills. We play a key role in advocacy and lobbying for the rights of persons with diverse disabilities and our aim is to promote inclusive economic development in all parts of the country thus creating long term sustainable employment and livelihoods for persons with disabilities.
Coats Thread Exports PLC, a member company of EFC provides employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Ms. Pramokshi Fernando with a physical disability was recruited making Coats Thread Exports PLC an inclusive workplace in 2021.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities
Companies spend a significant amount of money developing staff, whether it is on team-building days, attending conferences or enhancing technical skills such as coding languages. Part of the budget should go towards honing soft skills to nurture a positive culture among the workforce. While additional forms of training might involve presentations, role-plays, and task-based problem-solving, companies may not have considered basic sign language to complement the existing training provision. Yet, there are ample reasons to support implementing Basic Sign Language training as part of the staff’s ongoing professional development due to following reasons:
01. Your customers will thank you: There is a lot of buzz around the area of customer experience. While many Managers are busy mapping customer interactions and implementing email automation, some people will find it harder to access your perfectly designed customer journey. If your team embers can understand the barriers and communicate with a hard of hearing or deaf customer, that person will gain a positive experience of your company. You benefit from increased customer opportunities and accessing a new market by understanding how to make your promotions and offers more accessible, increasing sales.
02. Your workforce will be more inclusive: If someone joins the team who is hard of hearing or deaf and communicates in sign language, they will feel more included if staff members have some knowledge of sign language. The team will also feel more confident in approaching their deaf teammates.
03. Supporting each other: If you include sign language training as part of your workplace development programme, it could be fun to foster a “sign language only” the hour in the afternoon where those who need to speak to each other can sign. This will give hearing members of staff the chance to practice their new skills with each other and deaf colleagues the opportunity to offer support and be more fully involved in their team’s development.
04. A chance to develop empathy: One of the most important soft skills you can adopt in the workplace is empathy. Learning sign language or any other language is a fast track to becoming more empathic. As a language learner, the struggles that come with not being able to communicate fluently mean you experience a sense of humility. This means that, if someone joins the team whose first language is not English, co-workers will know to adapt their speech and gesturing to help the newcomer understand better.
05. Improving non-verbal communication skills: Important non-verbal signals can be frustrating. Being able to read another’s body language helps you know your next move in a business situation, so honing those skills is vital for a successful outcome. By learning sign language, your team will improve their ability to pick up on non-verbal cues and will therefore become a better asset in the boardroom or on the sales floor.
These are just a few great reasons to implement Basic Sign Language training among the staff members in the companies. The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre conducted training in Basic Sign Language from March to May 2021 for staff members of companies. Ms. Chammi Dias and Mr. Janaka Sampath were the Trainers for this certificate course.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Administrative Vice President – Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter