Research symposium: ‘Transforming our workforce-towards inclusive employment’

The Coordinating Centre for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) of the University of Kelaniy in collaboration with the Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) attached to the Department of Disability Studies, Faculty of Medicine and the Sub-Committee on Vocational and Technical Training focusing on Persons with Disabilities of the Policy Development Office of the Prime Minister’s Office organised a research symposium titled ‘Transforming our workforce-towards inclusive employment’ on the 21st of December 2017 at the Board Room of the Faculty of Medicine. The symposium forms part of the on-going work undertaken through the SEE Inclusion-SEE the Gaps project formulated by Ms. Ianthe Perera and Ms. Thilanka Wijesinghe of the Centre for Disability Studies of the Department of Disability Studies in 2016.

The aim of the symposium was to bring together diverse stakeholders in order to review, reconsider and reflect on our current evidence-base and on the lived experiences of persons with disabilities/ disadvantage in employment or seeking employment. It is hoped that the symposium would enable a deeper understanding of the ground-level realities in our particular socio-cultural-economic and political landscape, recognizing the influence of ‘disabling’ attitudes and inaccessible environments and encouraging a collaborative commitment to further research that can enable ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’ (Sustainable Development Goal 8) and ‘full and effective participation’ for all.

The programme consisted of a keynote address, plenary, a youth forum, panel discussions and scientific papers. The keynote address on ‘Towards inclusive employment: The journey so far’ was delivered by Mr. V. Subramanium, President of the Northern Province Consortium of Organization for Differently Abled (NPCODA) and Honorary President of the Organization for Rehabilitation of the Handicapped-Vavuniya (ORHAN). The research symposium was attended by Cadre Chair & Senior Prof. Nilanthi de Silva, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Disability Studies of the University of Kelaniya, Dr. Samanmali Sumanasena, Head of the Department of Disability Studies, Representatives from the Presidential Secretariat, the Policy Development Office of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Social Empowerment, Welfare and Kandyan Heritage and the Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Education, Department of Manpower & Employment, the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission, disability-rights and human-rights organizations comprising colleagues from the Central Federation of the Deaf, the Sri Lanka Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (SLFRD), NPCODA, Christoffel Blinden Mission, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), ORHAN and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), academic colleagues including Prof. Amala de Silva of the Department of Economics, University of Colombo, Ms. Dilini Walisundara, Senior Lecturer of the Department of English, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Ms. Mahishi Ranaweera, Senior Lecturer of the Department of English Language Teaching, graduates and undergraduate students and staff of the Universities of Sri Jayawardenapura, Colombo and Kelaniya and young adults with disabilities/disadvantage in employment or seeking employment and their parents.