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Although the issue of inclusion in Ukraine has been increasingly discussed recently, people with disabilities are still facing barriers, while looking for work or starting their own businesses. On November 20, social innovators, entrepreneurs, community activists and people with disabilities came together to discuss business inclusion and social entrepreneurship as one of the possible ways of realization.
“According to statistics, among Ukrainian citizens, 3 to 12 percent are people with disabilities. This is more than 5.5 million citizens we are supposed see in schools, at work, in restaurants, on the street. But, unfortunately, this is not happening yet”, said the moderator of the discussion Mykhaylo Melnyk, the founder of the Ukrainian Social Academy.

One of the reasons for this situation is the non-inclusiveness of public space, the insufficient representation of the interests of people with disabilities in the state authority, the unwillingness of employers to spend money on arranging special workplaces. But often entrepreneurs want to do something but they don’t know where to start. “The most important thing is not to do anything for people with disabilities without their participation. And when developing an inclusion program at an enterprise, first of all, it is important to find experts, the representatives of the organizations that have been dealing with this problem for many years ”, – Olya Boyko advises.

However, the problem is that Ukrainians usually distrust social initiatives: “Ukrainians do not trust the people who want to do something without personal gain,” Arenda Vasylenko shares her experience. Therefore, according to Arenda, public activists need to show by their own example how to deal with the problem. And a good way out can be the social entrepreneurship because Ukrainian laws allow public organizations to conduct business activities on condition that their profits will be spent on statutory activities. International experience and education can also be of use.

Despite the huge gap with the Ukrainian reality, the situation abroad is also far from absolute inclusion: “Europe still has more companies that are founded specifically for people with disabilities than truly inclusive businesses,” says Arenda Vasylenko. In addition, for example, in the Netherlands, the process of inclusive development took about 30 years. Ukraine started talking seriously about inclusion only about 5 years ago.

At the end of the discussion, the experts of the Ukrainian Social Academy agreed that, despite the obstacles, the situation is slowly improving. “At present time, more and more social enterprises appear in Ukraine and, no matter what, they do their job and help people with disabilities. I think if we unite and move on, then in the next 10-15 years we will see the changes”, said Vita Mykolayuk. Also, more and more companies are granting workplaces to people with disabilities, though, so far, they are mainly international corporations that have inherited this practice from their parent companies.

Therefore, as the participants summarized, the most important thing is to move forward, to set the right example and to learn how to conduct a dialogue. So let’s hope that in the near future we will see more cases to be inspired by, since the Ukrainian Social Academy is preparing “A social entrepreneurship accelerator for people with disabilities”. More information about  the start of the enrollment is on the Academy page on Facebook.