Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Business as
Customers and Workforce

Women and men with disabilities can and want be productive members of society. In both developed and developing countries, promoting more inclusive societies and employment opportunities for people with disabilities requires improved access to basic education, vocational training relevant to labour market needs and jobs suited to their skills interests and abilities with adaptation as needed. Many societies are also recognizing the need to dismantle other barriers – making the physical environment more accessible, providing information in a variety of formats, and challenging attitude and mistaken assumptions about people with disabilities.

Productive and decent work enables people with disabilities to realize their aspirations, improve their living conditions and participate more actively in society. Ensuring a disability perspective in all aspects of policy and labour legislation, effective implementation and enforcement of existing disability laws and policies and providing for equal employment opportunities and training are among the factors that contribute to the reduction of poverty and to the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities in Thailand.

Current Situation
“There are 650 million people with disabilities in the world, about 10% of the world population” says Mr. Monthian Buntan, member of the APCD Executive Board. Then, he remarks, “If your business includes persons with disabilities as customers and workforce, 650 million people can be the target of your business. All business looks for talented, capable and knowledgeable people. There are more than 600 million people to be chosen since they have had unique experiences which can be the entry point of new ideas. Business should be open its door to attract potential market opportunities and talented workforce with disabilities.”

According to United Nations ESCAP survey 2009, there are about 1.9 million people with disabilities in Thailand, about 2.9% of the total population. Among this percentage, about 71.5% of people with disabilities are unemployed, and 67.82% of school-age people are provided education.

Results from an outlook conducted by Mahidol University published a few years ago indicate that more than half of school-age people with disabilities in Thailand are males (62.1%), and more than half are those in age group of 18-25 years (57.50 %). Most of them had been disabled since birth (63.6%). Considering types of disability, it was found that the highest is among intellectual or learning disability (35.8%), hearing or communication disability (15.6%), visual disability (8.1%) and mental or behavioral disability (6.9%). The largest group of people with disabilities in Thailand (43.1%) became disabled when they were 60 or older, followed by people of working age, between 25 and 59 years, with 31.3%. Only 12.8% were disabled from birth or in their first year; and around 240,000 disabled persons are faced with severe difficulties in taking care of themselves.

Price of Exclusion (Global GDP Loss of US$1.37 Trillion to $1.94 Trillion*)

No. of Persons with Disabilities (Millions)

China 82.96
Thailand 1.87

Vietnam N/A

Workforce (Millions)
China 34.93
Thailand 0.91

Vietnam 7

Employed Persons with Disabilities (Millions)

China 17.08
Thailand 0.64

Vietnam 4

Economic Losses (Million US$)

China 32,062
Thailand 1,417

Vietnam 1,821

-Disabling Environment (Million US$)

China 12,092

Thailand 264

Vietnam 1,179

-Exclusion from the Labour Market (Million US$)

China 19,970

Thailand 1,154

Vietnam 642

Unique expertise and experiences of persons with disabilities
The inclusion of persons with disabilities allows the business sector to capture a share of the market even in a tough and competitive situation. Persons with disabilities are also a significant potential market, especially for certain products and services. Persons with disabilities are customers with special needs and demands that can create new business opportunities in an innovative way. This is the driving force for many products and services.

By focusing on disability as an asset, the business sector can gain unique expertise and experiences which can help provide products and services with special values. The more persons with disabilities are included in the market and workforce, the more your business can take advantage of market opportunities and high performance.

As an emerging trend, “Inclusive Business” is, in other words, “Business for All”. To be pioneers in a competitive market, any business needs to have an innovative business strategy. Since the world is moving toward an inclusive market, society should include everyone as customers and workforce. You can generate more income in the market and provide better business performance if it is accessible and available. This includes the physical environment, information and an attitude for all including elderly persons, pregnant women, children, and persons with disabilities since they are potential customers and a workforce like everyone else in our society. Do we consider their purchasing power as potential customers? Do we recognize their talents as potential employees?

Are persons with disabilities your customers and workforce?
Inclusive Business is a new business strategy. It drives the expansion of the market and business opportunities by including all potential customers in the market. Inclusive Business can benefit human resource development by including all the potential talented workforce. Success stories have proved that Inclusive Business can capture and create economic growth and business opportunities. By making your business more accessible to products,
services and job placements, your business can add more customers as well as more a varied workforce that can make your business more proactive. Businesses that open their doors to persons with disabilities can take advantage of being pioneers.

Start now, otherwise you will be too late
Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability and the United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) organized the Senior Officials’ Meeting on South-to-South Cooperation on Disability at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand from 19 – 20 August 2010. Representatives from the business sector and media were invited to participate and present their success stories. They included SM Supermalls, shopping malls in the Philippines and Air Asia, a low-cost airline in Malaysia as well as a business roundtable discussion on “Inclusive Business: How to Go Beyond CSR?”. The participants had an intensive discussion on how to include persons with disabilities as customers and workforce in an innovative way.

Results of the Roundtable Discussion were summarized in an “Inclusive Business” Brochure.

For further details, please contact:
Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability
(APCD Foundation)
APCD Bldg., 255 Rajvithi Rd., Rajthevi, Bangkok 10400 Thailand
Tel: 66-(0)-2354-7505-8 | Fax: 66-(0)-2354-7507
Website: | Email:
Note: *Evidenced-based Documentation (Story-based Knowledge Management approach) on Success Stories of SM Supermalls from the Philippines and Air Asia from Malaysia, and Inclusive Business Brochures are available on request free of charge.

APCD Background
“Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability” (APCD) is a regional center on disability and development established in Bangkok, Thailand as a legacy of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002, under joint collaboration of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Royal Thai Government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Government of Japan.

In collaboration with more than 30 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, APCD is currently managed by the APCD Foundation under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

APCD has been endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as a regional center for its Biwako Millennium Framework for Action towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2003-2012.

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