"I only ask for patience, I don't learn at first, but I do my job well"

Montse Hernández Baltanás is 42 years old and in the conversation with her the word “patience” appears several times. She says that “we are not all the same. I, for example, don't learn the first time and I have to concentrate a lot... But with determination and desire, everything is achieved. I am punctual, accomplished and do my job well. I perform like the others »she points out. She worked for eight years as a shop assistant in a nursery where she learned a lot about plants and people.

Today he works at the Fundació Onada's Special Employment Center (CET) in the gardening area. She admits that it is hard work, but she is an "all-rounder" and likes "a job well done". She says that with her salary "she does not live, she survives", but having her own income is key to being independent "that is being responsible".

Roc Sumoy (50 years old) is Montse's co-worker. He has had different jobs in the kitchen, warehouse, security... The one he likes now because it is a physically demanding job "and it works well for stress."

He has a bipolar disorder that he did not always communicate in the places where he worked, but here he feels "calm" because Yolanda, the center's psychologist, accompanies them and is available if they have any problems. She believes that people in his condition just need an opportunity "here we work as much or more than in an ordinary company," she says. Having a job, she says, gives her security, “you can pay your expenses without depending on anyone.

Montse and Roc are part of a minority among minorities. Dincat's Report on Intellectual Disability in Catalonia 2022 highlights that only one in five active people with disabilities has a job.

Although the majority of people with disabilities in Spain have never worked, as a recent report by Funcas points out. The majority (53.1% of women and 75.2% of men) allege their own disability in order not to work. Although, the analysis center acknowledges that the data does not speak of people who have given up looking for a job after trying repeatedly without success. In Catalonia, the activity rate of people with disabilities is 37.1% compared to 79.7% of the rate of the general population.

Marta Tutusaus, director of the Fundació Privada Onada, is well aware of this reality. An average of 600 people in the region attend the foundation each year with the same intention: to find a job. Depending on the capabilities and characteristics of each one, the path to follow is decided, including training to improve employment skills. Of course, she warns that in some cases what they detect is that they are people who do not have their needs covered "and we accompany them because what they need is to process a disability, for example."

The priority is employment in the ordinary company, although the job offer is still scarce. In CETs such as the one where Montse and Roc work, jobs are created for people with difficulty finding work, but the intention is that they continue training to be able to enter the ordinary company.

The sensitivity of companies to hire improves but the effects of the crisis are feared

The Fundació Onada is part of Fundalis that works in different municipalities of Camp de Tarragona. Through their centers they offer gardening, cleaning, painting and restoration services, among others. Thus, companies that do not employ 2% of people with disabilities in their workforce can adopt hiring the CET to comply with the law.

However, explains Tutusaus, things are changing and beyond offering their services they are working to detect the needs of companies and administrations. On the other hand, they also work to detect the skills of the people they accompany and the variety of positions they could hold: "we have people who know languages, creative people with artistic skills... We have people who can do many things."

In case they are hired, the foundation is in charge of training the person in the job and the colleagues. This is what is called supported work.

The sensitivity of companies is also increasing, although not in all cases equally; the big ones and the multinationals are ahead. In the case of the municipalities there are differences but "it costs them", he points out.

For full inclusion

Albert Blanch (33 years old) has Down Syndrome. Friendly and self-assured, he says that he worked for ten years in the reception of the Hotel de Entidades until it was closed. From school and throughout his training as an administrator, he experienced full inclusion, so he and his family aspire to the same when it comes to work.

Recently he was left at the gates in an opposition to work as a janitor in the Treasury. The tests were in Madrid and he came in second place out of more than 3,000 people. He now hopes that some places in the Tarragona City Council will be put out to tender.

Albert is part of the Agafa't al 21 Project of the Down Tarragona association. Cristian Fuentes is a benchmark for job placement at the entity and explains that “we want everything to be normalized, as has happened to all of us when we started working. They deserve to live normality.

They work with 24 people of different ages (from 16 years old) with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities and train them in specific aspects regarding their jobs, but, above all, the objective is that they can do the tasks in a autonomous. "Families hold back a bit because they think they are not trained, but with time and training these people do nothing but surprise us."

Regarding what they can contribute to companies, he explains that each person has their abilities, but in general “when you explain the task to them, they do it with precision, they pay attention to the details and they continue to do it over time.

At the Fundació Onada and at Down Tarragona they agree that the crisis has not yet affected them in terms of employment, but they recognize that, when companies make cutbacks, people with disabilities are the first to leave.

For now, Albert is waiting to see if an interview comes from a company that has shown interest in him. At least through the association he feels accompanied "when you write a resume on your own, they don't even answer you." And he sums up his wishes: "Having a job is healthy, it makes me feel good... And in the future I would like to buy my own house," he explains.

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