AXSChat Podcast

AXSChat with David Pérez, CFO at Ruh Global IMPACT

March 14, 2023 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with David Pérez
AXSChat with David Pérez, CFO at Ruh Global IMPACT
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AXSChat Podcast
AXSChat with David Pérez, CFO at Ruh Global IMPACT
Mar 14, 2023
Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with David Pérez

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David Pérez is a distinguished organizational leader with an MBA and a deep commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. He possesses extensive expertise in digital transformation, team leadership, and communication, which he has honed over the course of his career. David has a proven track record of developing effective communication strategies and organizing events that promote cultural diversity, and he is dedicated to creating inclusive environments that drive positive change.

Key to his mission to promote disability inclusion in the Latin American Region is his passion for advancing disability inclusion has earned him a reputation as a leader in his field, and he continues to work tirelessly to create a more equitable society for all.

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

David Pérez is a distinguished organizational leader with an MBA and a deep commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. He possesses extensive expertise in digital transformation, team leadership, and communication, which he has honed over the course of his career. David has a proven track record of developing effective communication strategies and organizing events that promote cultural diversity, and he is dedicated to creating inclusive environments that drive positive change.

Key to his mission to promote disability inclusion in the Latin American Region is his passion for advancing disability inclusion has earned him a reputation as a leader in his field, and he continues to work tirelessly to create a more equitable society for all.

Support the Show.

Follow axschat on social media
Twitter:

https://twitter.com/axschat
https://twitter.com/AkwyZ
https://twitter.com/neilmilliken
https://twitter.com/debraruh

LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/antoniovieirasantos/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/axschat/

Vimeo
https://vimeo.com/akwyz




This is a draft transcript produced live at the event and corrected for spelling and basic errors. It is not a commercial transcript. AXSCHAT David Pérez

DEBRA:

Hello everyone, today on Axschat, we have a guest that we have had before, David Pérez, who is the CFO of my company. He's my business partner and David is in Costa Rica. And so he has been on before and we are very excited to have him back on. And Antonio, of course, is here and you know Antonio is one of the hosts but he's going to play a dual role because I'm going to make him be a guest and a host with David. And then Neil is just, I don't know, no he didn't, he's in Thailand taking care of things with his wife. So, unfortunately he does not join today. But he was very excited about the topic. So, welcome. Welcome everyone. David, welcome back to the show. I'm going to start by being such an American and saying I'm a mature white woman with purple and white and grey hair and I've got on turquoise today and glasses. And I've got some blingy stuff happening with my glasses. I only say that because guests that might not be able to see this or maybe they are listening as a Podcast. So, let me turn it over to you David and maybe you could just tell us a little bit about who David is. Because I can do it but you probably want to do it.

DAVID:

Sure. I'll start with my description of how I look, I guess. I'm white a male, 31 years old. I'm wearing glasses, apparently my appearance changes a lot. I've a beard and I have dark hair. And now, going from there to who I am, I am a political scientist and I also have a masters in diplomacy and a masters business administration and I've been working with disenfranchised populations my whole career, that has been my work. And I've seen the discrimination that happens, especially of course here in Latin America and I also try to put up some solutions and put in a building blocks to what can be a better world for those populations. Yeah, that is me. Antonio or Debra?

ANTONIO:

I think I can go, I think what distinguishes me from David, we are both wearing glasses, is that I've a white bird beard. So, I think that makes things a little bit clear and creates some distance between us. So, David, something I'm very interested in, is when you are looking for references and examples in the spaces of inclusion and accessibility. What are your pointers? What do you see as the examples that you are looking at as references? Also considering that the nature of Costa Rica and the nature of some countries in Central and South America, require completely different approach considering the nature the countries, considering the state of development. And even sometimes the political situation of each country that is very different. So, what are what references can you tell us about?

DAVID:

So, and that's part of our conversation, it's been part of our conversation for years. I actually wrote an article that's published on the Ruh Global website, in 2017. I've to update it of course, it's called disabilities in Latin America and basically what has happened across Latin America, in terms of legislation and how it is a great opportunity to build upon that because most countries in Latin America have signed the CRPD. So, they were included in those conversations around the '90s and all of that. But being who I am and working with the company I work with; I've seen a lot of things that are happening in the Europe and in the United States and basically across borders that we are seeing that are not necessarily including the Latin American population in those conversations and the problem is that Latin America itself is very diverse. We have 33 different countries in Latin America. And if you look at those 33 different countries, most people immediately think, they all speak Spanish. Of course, they don't. There's at least five main languages, including English, French, Dutch and Portuguese. And if you keep going further, there is actually 448 recognised languages in Latin America. So, it's not just a matter of making things available in Spanish. It's a matter of making that information that's going on out there available in the language of the people that are actually doing the work and making sure that the people that are actually doing the work are included. So, Latin America is a very complex place and in terms of politics, it's even more complex because there's of course, everyone knows the stories about authoritative governments and the coups that happen and all of that. It does happen. But that doesn't mean that people stop living and that's something that we usually forget when we think about countries. Like, people in Ukraine are still living under the situation that they are going through and whatever happens with the country and its political landscape doesn't really change the fact that discrimination is happening and that the statistics that we are getting. Now, that we are getting statistics for disability inclusion and accessibility are horrible. Like honestly they are horrible, less than 33% and that's on the high end of people with disability, have access to primary education.

DEBRA:

Wow, David and this is probably to you and Antonio. I do not have, I am not Latin American, but at the same time, I had no idea. I didn't realise there were 33 different countries, I knew there was a lot of countries. But can we sort of talk a little bit more about the complexity because I think sometimes, as an American, we are and Antonio said this when we went on Air and he's right, Americans are really bad about putting people in boxes right now. By the way we should never put people in boxes but at the same time, I think part of the reason why we are doing that is we are trying to being more deliberate about who are we really as individuals. So, I'm not saying we are getting it right but I'm just saying, that I am thinking that almost we have to walk these ridiculous paths to say, I am a woman, I identify as a woman, I identify as a mature woman, not an old woman. I identify as a person with ADHD. So, all of these identities, it's fascinating, I hear names like Latin Americans, Hispanic, we are only talking about Central America, well no, South America. Wait a minute, North America has that country Mexico in it. Wait a minute Antonio, are we talking about Europe or Portugal or Spain, are we talking about colonisation here. Wow, it is a huge issue and I just want to say that somebody who is not Latin American, but I really, really it's a very dark community to me. What I've seen, I also want to mention that David also worked with UNESCO, which is how I met him when he actually invited me and other international speakers, experts to come to Central American and try and help the seven countries that are all Spanish speaking. If I'm right David, of course there is an eighth country, Belize, which is French speaking. But this was more about Spanish, because just because at the same time, sometimes people speak different languages. So, I just wanted to give you and Antonio, just a chance to talk about the complexity a little bit more. But also one thing I noticed and I don't know if this is true, what I've noticed with the work I've done all over the countries, the work I've done with countries, with you David is that people from Latin America or I should say Latino's or Hispanics. They seem to be very, very, very family focused, which I just appreciate that. They are going to take care of family. But I've also seen lots of issues where in taking care of family, you're not really allowing the individuals with disabilities to be as empowered as they could because the families don't have the same resources of our government. And one more comment, I know there's a lot of misinformation, I remember during the UNESCO conference David that you'd invited me to hearing that when Panama went and started to do a census and was trying to figure out the dynamics of the people and all that stuff, people in the Panama villages, they were afraid the government was going to take their children away from them, with disabilities. So, they actually hid them. So, just a little tiny complication, which I don't know why this is, which is why we have these two experts on. So, I'm sure you two know all the answers, so go David and then Antonio you tell us.

DAVID:

There's a lot of things you mentioned. So, Hispanics are refers to the countries that actually have a Spanish or a Spanish speaking language as a base. So, you can basically start making that assumption and whose countries belong to the Hispanic community. And that of course, includes Spain which is not in America. So, it does not come into the Latin American Hispanic countries. But Latin America is everything that is below the United States. We include Mexico and we include everything except for the Caribbean. The Caribbean is its own like area and they actually have a lot of countries and a very different cultural background and that why it is very separated from Latin America. It shouldn't be. It is part of the links we need to make and the progress that we need to actually start making is including the Caribbean into these conversations. But Latin America is like the continental part of the Americas and there, you can find the 33 countries that I was mentioning before. In terms of --

DEBRA:

David, can I just ask one more complicated stupid question. But here if I look at our beautiful little United States here, English is the first language but Spanish is the second. We have a huge Latino population in the States. So, what you were talking about just then doesn't necessarily account for the Spanish speakers. Yes, just to complicate it a little bit more.

DAVID:

It does not and that's, it's not necessarily more complicated, it's just that Latinos in the United States, usually have a background there. They have their own country, where they know that they belong at least in spirit to. So, you have the Dominicans, you have the Mexicans and you have the Brazilians and they know that they belong to their community, but of course they are at Latino community in the United States or the Latin X community, as they have decided to refer to themselves. But when we think about Latin America, we think about the territories and then we think about the people that belong to those territories and they can be wherever they are in the world, it doesn't really matter.

DEBRA:

Wow. Antonio, do you want to come in here. Thank you David. And this is one reason we wanted to have David on because he's just so brilliant. So, Antonio, over to you?

ANTONIO:

And usually language like Portuguese and Spanish, they are usually the language that are the main ones when people go to school. But then you have different communities, different ethnic groups that they have, who have their own language and that is very strongly associated with their identities. So, you have all the people, that live deep in the Amazons, who have their own identity, who are completely separate from people live in big cities like in Rio or San Paulo. So, it's almost like this type of diversity is very rich but also turns everything very complex. And there are so many nuances in language let's say. Like if someone, I can just give you an example, if someone from Galicia in the north of Spain goes to a market in the south of Spain, in Seville and he goes to buy vegetables, the person, they might not understand each other. And you know and this will apply if someone from, a Spanish speaker living in South America, if he goes to that same market they might not understand each other because they have different vocabulary. So, the basis is Spanish, but then the diversity that relates to immigration, that relates to the mix with local communities that were the natives of those regions of the world, changes the language. And by changing the language it changes how people express themselves, the way how people express themselves in terms of their own feelings. And this has a huge impact. I think we need to embrace the complexity as something very rich that brings a lot of values for these communities and I think it is one of those cases, we need to be curious and try to do even, to know more about each individual countries. So, it is not enough to look at Central and South America and look at them as a unit. So, if someone, if you want to look at the difference. How people with disabilities, about how they work, how they live, how they experience life, everyday life. We need to go deep into that nature and to the specificities of each country.

DAVID:

That's a very good point and I'm going to go back to that. But I do want to mention that the complexity that Antonio was referring to, in terms of the different languages and cultures that inhabit every single country in Latin America. It also has, it's what makes us Latin America. It what makes us rich. But it also has a very negative effect in terms of intersectionality and that's like the different layers of discrimination that happen because it's very different being a person with a disability that lives in the centre of Costa Rica, for example, to being a person with a disability that lives in one of the coasts, either the Pacific or the Caribbean. But it's also very different if you live in the coast and you are also black, right? Discrimination that you suffer is lot more. And if you are a woman, it is compounded and this is not something that I'm making up. This is actually in a report from the World Bank that they did in 2021 because one thing that we didn't have before and that is why I say that I need to revamp my article from 2017, we didn't have data. What happened is that we were able through the SDG's and through all the effort that was happening globally to make sure that countries started gathering the data and when we gathered the data we found out that yes, it's bad, it's as bad as we thought it was. Even worse sometimes. But like, we don't have like good indicators in healthcare, employment, like anything. So, look at this number, for example, one out of every five families that live in poverty have a person with a disability in their family and that's across the board in Latin America. But 7 out of 10 families that have people with disabilities in their home are extremely likely to fall into poverty, if they are not poor yet.

DEBRA:

Right.

DAVID:

And that's because of the lack of support that Debra was talking about. That the fact that in order to take care of people with disabilities, as we are Latins and we love our families, what happens is that someone stays with the person with the disability and that someone loses absolute productivity. But they cannot work because they have a job which is taking care of someone else and that job is not remunerated and so, they are not getting anything from that. And as life gets more expensive and countries are like, inflation, everything, everything starts happening. Well, it's more likely that you're going to fall into poverty because there is no way that you can work. And we are not doing our best to recognise those efforts from especially women who stay at home and take care of people with disabilities. There are some countries doing some things, like we actually, one of our friends and one of the guests in Debra's show, Alexander Cherry, he actually wrote the policy for long term care in Costa Rica and it is a great step forward. But the problem is that we keep making laws and not applying them in Latin America. So, there is a lot of legal frameworks that we are not applying.

ANTONIO:

And these type of people are, you know, who are taking care of others are actually helping society. So, they are taking on the job to take care of people and somehow they end up being almost like a silent group within the job statistics because in fact they have a job, the job is not being paid. They are taking care of one and then in the statistics they are basically end up being hidden from in the overall. And I know that some countries have been trying to make effort to recognise the role of the carers, but they still, it's still in a kind of a very early stage to have that type of work recognised or even rewarded.

DEBRA:

I agree. And I also, I mean even worse is that we look down at people that do this. Oh, you're just staying at home. No, I am taking care of another human being. Let's talk about what is a more important job, were you programming technology or taking care of an actual human being. I'm going to argue with you there, I think the human being is more important than the programmes and I'm a programmer. But we have really got this wrong because like you said Antonio, we force people like you said as well David and then we don't in anyway allow them to really make a living so that they can take care of their families. So, we are forcing families that have people with disability to stay in poverty and below poverty. We are. And that is definitely a problem. But I know we have talked a lot of the moving parts here. I was really excited to hear, we just came from The Zero Project, that we are going to have a zero project in Latin America and that got me a little stoked because I really love the people of these countries. And, I remember Antonio, you were talking to me about it and you were like, well where is it and I'm like, you know. I don't think that's been decided, but I know the organisers are from Chile, you reminded me of that today. But we know that we are making some progress. Is there something can we be hopeful about this? Do we need to have more conferences like Zero Project in Latin America where the people are talking to each other and saying, who is doing what? Are there already conferences that are happening there? I don't see as many. But, am I just not you know tracking it.

ANTONIO:

I think conferences are important, but this needs to be kind of an ongoing relationship. It's not just okay, this year we go to South America. Okay. Next year we go to another place and so on.

DEBRA:

Right and I agree with that.

ANTONIO:

Yes, yeah.

DEBRA:

You come together and you really talk about these issues and you're right, Antonio. We don't need any of those ridiculous conferences where we are all running around. We need to have conferences where the people are really talking and sharing and that's why I was excited that it was Zero Project.

ANTONIO:

But times when we organise events in these locations, you need, you need if you are coming from outside, you need to make sure that the event itself happens in the language where the local people can express themselves. It is not the other way round around. It's oh, we are going to organise an event in South America, we are going to do it in English. And then, the people that are there, they need to adjust, and they need to, no, we need someone to translate for them. It should be the other way around.

DEBRA:

That's the Zero Project.

ANTONIO:

Because otherwise people are not able to fully express themselves and you are already creating a barrier there.

DEBRA:

I agree with you. I would never recommend anybody do that, even though I know people do it. Daivid you go ahead, sorry.

DAVID:

Debra, you and me actually met at the conference and if you remember that conference was not built like other conferences. It actually was meant to provide a road map and it was about accessibility and assistive technology for the Central American countries. We created a road map and that's why we brought experts from the US and other countries because we wanted them to have input into what we were creating into the organisations that we brought in from the region. We brought governments and we brought social or civil societies. Our organisations and we brought representees from the communities of people all together into one room to create a plan. That was fantastic. What happens next not as fantastic.

DEBRA:

No, no.

DAVID:

Because there was no follow up. And that's what Antonio was mentioning. It has become something that keeps ongoing. Like the conference is a great place to start because you need to bring the people together and Antonio said and I said I'm going to go back to that, there is a lot of great things happening in each one of the countries but each one of the countries need to be able to share their experiences and what has gone right and what has no gone so good and be able to exchange that information in order for us to grow at a faster rate because if not, it's going to take all of us another 30 to 40 years, to be able to say, we are actually including people with disabilities. And that of course, is not acceptable. It is acceptable with all of the advances we are seeing with artificial intelligence and everything keeps changing and changing and what hasn't changed is we keep excluding people with disabilities from conversations, we keep excluding them from employment, we keep excluding them from health care. That needs to change. The problem is, and I actual did research on this last year, I was doing some research on international cooperation and how it can help communities, specifically people with disabilities and when I was doing that research, I interviewed the government and asked them, how do you include people with disabilities in the planning and implementation of public policy. Their answer was, it's never as a specific group. They are part of what we all vulnerable groups and, is disability not big enough to be its own group and have its own targeted policies? Isn't disability the only minority group which anyone can join at any point in their life? Shouldn't it have like a different set of rules. And a different set of conversations? Isn't it also true that disability is our oldest like minority group and we can't seem to figure out a way to solve it. It's self-exclusion. So, the problem starts from there. There is a stigma associated with disability. People know that disability exists and they know that something needs to be done about it but the action taking that to actual focused action on disability inclusion is not happening and maybe through conferences like Zero Project, there is the possibility of bringing other solutions and opening people's eyes in terms of what can happen with disability inclusion and also, the benefits that we can get. Did you know that a country in Latin America, again from that Report from the world bank, is losing at least 25% of their GDP by not including people with disabilities? 25% of the GDP of a country would solve a lot of problems.

DEBRA:

Yeah, wow. And I would just in the background I did a little search on, I was just curious on Latin America conferences about people with disability and inclusion and accessibility. Pretty much nothing came up. I got something from the World Bank. I got, I found the one you invited me to a hundred years ago, David. Not really. But I mean, I found that. But just saying that I am, maybe I'm looking in the wrong place.

ANTONIO:

I know that the Jose Foundation from Spain interacts quite frequently with entities in the region. I do not know how frequent. But I know that they are connections with the Jose foundation. And some initiatives taking place in central and South America.

DEBRA:

But not much. Not much at all. Not much at all.

DAVID:

That's also part of the research I was doing last year, trying to figure out specifically in Costa Rica, where had the funds gone and we found like, we analysed it from 1996, to all the way to 2021. All the projects that were available, all the information that was available and we found that it was around 25 projects, in that span of time, that had to do with disability and whenever we found the project and we analysed it deeper into that project. It was for a specific community and its goal was to reach 15 people?

DEBRA:

Wow. Oh well.

DAVID:

And we have 85 million people with disabilities in Latin America?

DEBRA:

So, not scratching the surface at all.

DAVID:

Definitely not.

DEBRA:

Right. So, David you know, where do we go from here? I mean, I know we can't solve this and you know this but what can we do? What can we do to help? I mean, we can have conversations like this. We can invite people to conversations. We can applaud and join Zero Project as they do their efforts. But what can we do? How can we help? How can we help these communities that aren't being included?

DAVID:

There has got to be a lot of ongoing support. As Antonio was saying, it's not something that we can do in one conference. It's definitely not something we can do in one Axschat. But what we can do it through a conference or through Axschat, is start raising the voice and make sure this doesn't die down. Like, we don't let it go silent again. We keep doing that. We bring it up, like let's take about Latin America and disability inclusion and then we let it go and we forget that there is people out there trying to do the work. But they need support. Like there is a lot of civil society organisations across the continent trying to do great things but they either don't have the resources or they don't really know how to do it. They cannot connect with the government, we need to sort of provide those bridges for people to connect and allow them to exchange ideas and in that exchange of ideas, to also start creating better solution for the community of people with disabilities around them and make it sustainable. The only way that we are going to do that is by including the government. Even if they are as slow as they are and they have all the problems that they have. The government needs to be involved because, we need their support in order to actually make an impact.

ANTONIO:

And people with disability, who have the responsibility sometimes could be a Minister or Secretary of State. Someone who has a political role in government, in many countries, in Latin America. They also need help because their counterparts might look, oh, that guy over there or that are person is just taking care of people with disabilities. They don't have the cloud or the recognition, as other ministers might have. So, politicians also need help in order to be more recognised about what efforts that they are trying to make because their peers might not recognise them as peers because they are just the ones taking care of a community that they don't really pay much attention to.

DEBRA:

Yes, so true. And I know this is just the start but we really want to help these conversations. We are very committed to that at Axschat and Billion Strong and everything we are doing at Ruh Global. So, David thank you for being on today to start this conversation again because, we just can't, like you said, we do it and then we sort of forget about those 85 million people. So, we have to keep doing it. I also want to thank MyClearText for being a long, long, long time supporter of Axschat for keeping us captioned and accessible and also our newest sponsor, Amazon which we were so grateful when Amazon wanted to support what we are doing here. But thank you Antonio and thanks to Neil and David we just really appreciate everything you do. I know when I met you, you stood out and then, when were engaged you actually were really trying to support and I'm going to let you use the term in case I use it wrong but a lot of people when they see Costa Ricans they see Costa Ricans that look like David. But definitely there were very, very dark and black brown and black people with you know dark skinned in Costa Rica that were sort of wiped out during the colonisation. So, I think that was something that David was really committed to bringing, making sure the world can find that part of the history.

DAVID:

Yeah. Well, Costa Rica is as diverse as any other country in Latin America. Even if we don't show it as much, I guess. It's not necessarily that there is not anymore people from African descent or indigenous decent. It's just that, as it has happened everywhere else, they are marginalised and they don't have the same opportunities that everyone has and what we used to do was promote the culture of the Africans specifically and those were slaves that came to Costa Rica to work and they stayed here and they travelled from the islands to Costa Rica and they are they have an incredible culture and it's part of who we are. And we just seem to forget.

DEBRA:

Right.

DAVID:

So, that's part of -- that's one of my passions actually to be able to understand that we are diverse in who we are and that diversity means that we need to include everyone. It doesn't matter who you are or why. It doesn't mean. There is not really a reason why you need to include people. You just need to include them. Make sure that everyone has a fighting chance.

DEBRA:

Right. Well, said. Thank you David. Thank you Antonio. And we'll see you at Axschat next time. Bye everyone.