This DLSU Graduate School Professor Is An Advocate For PWDs In The Philippines
Armed with an optimistic, no-excuses attitude, Criselda Bisda doesn’t let retinitis pigmentosa get in the way of chasing her dreams and helping others. ?
“We [PWDs] can do what normal people can do,” shares Criselda “Krissy” Bisda. “We can do everything; we just do things differently.” While others may find this hard to believe, it is quite true for the graduate studies professor who is currently teaching Industrial Relations in De La Salle University (DLSU). Despite having an advanced case of retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that leads to blindness due to the deterioration of the retinas, Krissy keeps her eyes on her goals.
Driven to excel
After experiencing forms of discrimination in college—such as professors refusing to accommodate modifications that will help her in class (for instance, having student aids assist Krissy with reading test questions, so she can finish her exams on time)—Krissy became determined to raise awareness about Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and their fight for inclusivity.
This desire became even stronger when she graduated. “Discrimination is everywhere and with everyone especially when you are a job seeker with disability. Nobody believes you can perform excellently in a workplace,” recalls Krissy. She applied to hundreds of jobs only to get turned down. But instead of getting disheartened, Krissy opted to make good use of her time by improving her computer skills, learning the advance usage of a screen reading software called JAWS (Job Access With Speech), and volunteering in an organization for the blind.
Finally, after a year of job-hunting, Krissy landed a job as a recruitment associate in the HR department of a BPO company. Through the course of her career in the industry, she was entrusted with handling big BPO accounts for Barnes & Nobles, Best Buy, Dell, Logitech, Verizon, and JP Morgan.
After spending eight years in the BPO industry, she was able to land jobs that were closer to her heart. She became a researcher for the United Nations Population Fund initiative, “Qualitative Study on the Reproductive Rights and Protection from Violence for Women and Girls with Disabilities in the Philippines.” In addition, Krissy also worked on the “Quick Study and Rapid Assessment on the Conditions Faced by Women and Girls With Disability In the Context of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment,” a study commissioned by the Australian Agency for International Development as part of the World Bank 2012 Philippines’ Country Gender Assessment.
As Krissy’s career moved in an upward trajectory, she realized that there were limited work opportunities for PWDs in the Philippines. She also observed that the country generally isn’t PWD friendly. Aside from the lack of facilities for PWDs, such as walkways and functioning elevators, many organizations have a very low awareness of how to treat PWDs. These realizations prompted Krissy to help those like her.
Beyond higher learning
As an accomplished HR professional and researcher, Krissy thought of ways she can spur positive change in the workplace for PWDs. This led her to pursuing graduate studies.
Through the Commercial Law Department of DLSU, where she became the first PWD to earn a postgraduate diploma in Industrial Relations Management, she was able to get a scholarship grant for a joint program in the University of Newcastle in Australia.
Krissy stayed in Australia, lived there on her own, and was able to earn her master’s degree in Human Resource Management. This course is designed for HR practitioners who wish to manage people within an organization in order to be efficient and effective. “I’m grateful to my family and DLSU for being very supportive of me,” says Krissy. “I’m also glad that the university hired me when I returned to Manila. They were very receptive and helpful, too, all throughout the hiring process. While the process for PWDs can still be improved, they were very collaborative and helpful, which is much better than most workplaces in the country.”
Now that she has found a more stable footing in the country, the HR practitioner-turned-professor is determined to give back. Her passion in pushing for disability rights made her want to do even more. Aside from teaching HR best practices and sharing her knowledge with students, Krissy is tirelessly raising awareness about how to treat PWDs fairly, most especially in the workplace.
While the classroom serves as one of Krissy’s main platforms for sharing information about the fair treatment of PWDs in the workplace, she is now working with legislators. As an associate consultant for inclusion, her projects with them include drafting materials that will help workplaces properly deal with PWDs and also formulating policies that will improve how PWDs can better contribute and thrive in the workplace.
From what she’s seen while working, she was able to make another important realization that can help with changing ways PWDs are perceived in workplaces. “Disability awareness programs do not seem to work to totally make people understand that PWDs are capable of so many things, especially with employment. There must be a way to persuade people better, a technical way of making them understand.”
With this, Krissy sought for better and wider reach. Fortunately, she was tapped to be a resource person, speaker, or consultant for initiatives by various government agencies and institutions such as the Civil Service Commission, Asian Development Bank, and Microsoft. She also worked on the Jobstart program helmed by the Department of Labor and Employment and the Government of Canada. Krissy was also tapped for initiatives funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia and the United States Agency for International Development.
Krissy’s no-excuses and optimistic life philosophy, plus her heart for helping others and her relentless passion for work, has indeed led to many opportunities for her and those like her. She’s a positive force in fighting for inclusion for PWDs in the country.
Photography by Magsy Magbanua
Hair and makeup by Arfie Koc