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This untapped workforce could be a major powerhouse

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When I retired from corporate life in 2004, I decided to accept a long-standing invitation to join the board of trustees for a computer school for the blind in Manila. It blew me away to see how the blind, just using software, were able to effectively access the computer and the internet. But I then learned that hardly any of these blind graduates were employed.

I decided to work on finding a solution to this problem and began a recruitment company, hiring two blind graduates. As they began to work for my firm, it dawned on me that all their work could be done from home.

This was the "big bang" that started a virtual employment ecosystem at my company that employs those with disabilities. In its basic form, it is really nothing new.

Teleworking has been around since the 1990s. In 2010 the number of people who worked from home in the United States was 9.4 million. This was a huge surge from 2.5 million just two years before. Teleworking removes the two most significant barriers to employment of people with disabilities: commuting and an accessible workplace.

"It still amazes me what the human spirit can achieve given the right opportunities and circumstances."

After doing this for eight years, it still amazes me what the human spirit can achieve given the right opportunities and circumstances. This is significantly enhanced with the advancement of technology and accessible tools.

Today we have more than 50 people with various disabilities working for us in 10 countries on four continents.

Take, for instance, Raj, who lives in Kuala Lumpur. He is a telecommunications graduate who was heading a small engineering department in Motorola when he fell at a picnic and broke his spine, rendering him unable to move below the neck.

Over time he trained himself to use the computer purely with his voice. With his corporate experience, Raj is a tremendous asset for me. He started as process manager to improve and document all our processes. Fast-forward to today and he manages one of the major revenue streams in our company.

And then there is Jett. His legs did not develop, so he works sitting on the floor. He can only use the two little fingers on his right hand, which he uses to manage his mouse. His fingers on his left hand cannot straighten, so he types with his knuckles. He is one of our top technicians and can remotely train a blind person to use the software to access the computer.

Overcoming challenges

Some of our staff have gone on to positions at global companies like Accenture and Convergys. We call them Genashtim alumni, and we celebrate when that happens, as it proves that we can make the unemployable employable.

Having spent two and a half decades in the corporate world in Europe, Asia and Oceania working for multinational companies, I can well appreciate the challenges for the corporate world to employ people with disabilities.

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So how do we break out of this vicious circle?

The main challenges of hiring people with disabilities can be mitigated if there is a pool of such prospective employees with a proven, stable track record.

Companies can outsource work or buy services from companies that are disability inclusive. They can also reach out to nongovernmental organizations that are organized, resourceful and equipped to deal with people with disabilities. In addition, these business owners can outsource to or purchase services from people with disabilities.

It might take a bit more effort and time in identifying, training and developing this talent, but the end result is loyal and stable employees who are more prepared to go the extra mile.

By Thomas Ng, founder and CEO of Genashtim Innovative Learning and a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network

About YPO

CNBC and YPO have formed an exclusive editorial partnership consisting of regional "Chief Executive Networks" in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These Chief Executive Networks are made up of a sample of YPO's global network of 24,000 top executives from 120 countries who are on the front lines of the economy and run companies that collectively generate $6 trillion in annual revenue.

This story is part of NBCU's Share Kindness. Follow the series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #ShareKindness