In Spain workers with disabilities can be up front about their disability when they work for Ilunion. Backed by the EU bank, 42% of Ilunion workers are disabled, including Manuel Delgado.

  He conseguido un trabajo: Manuel encuentra una «puerta abierta» en España para los trabajadores con discapacidad

Manuel Delgado spent two hours every night for months job-hunting. Few potential employers responded, and when he did get an interview he felt he had to keep a secret—he was disabled.

Until, Ilunion called him up.

“When I interviewed for other jobs, I tried to hide the fact that I had a disability,” says Manuel, who has a misaligned spine. “At Ilunion, it was the first question they asked. And they didn’t care. There aren't many skilled jobs for people with disabilities. Ilunion is opening the door and providing opportunities.”

Ilunion is Spain’s largest employer of people with disabilities, at 42% of its workforce disabled. The diverse group of companies operates a chain of hotels, an industrial laundry service, a telephone support line and a research and development department. It’s all geared towards the company’s goal of delivering accessibility to Spain’s disabled.

The European Investment Bank is backing Ilunion with a €35 million loan to create jobs for people with disabilities—and investing in improved energy efficiency at the company’s facilities. The project will create 200 new permanent jobs, plus a further 725 during the implementation phase.

‘If they didn’t ask, I wouldn’t tell’

Manuel grew up in Badajoz. His family worked in construction and he was planning to follow in their footsteps. “If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I was in elementary school, I would have told you I wanted to study as little as possible and go straight to work,” Manuel says.

 “When I was a 13 years old, doctors realised I had a misaligned spine,” Manuel remembers. He got a back brace, which only prevented his condition from getting worse. It didn’t correct his spine. Realising that he wasn’t going to be able to do physically demanding jobs, Manuel focused on his studies. “As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.”

Manuel earned his degree in civil engineering from the University of Extremadura and started looking for jobs. “As a result of my condition, I cannot sit or stand for longer stretches of time, which puts me at a disadvantage, especially when companies expect you to sit at a desk eight hours a day,” Manuel says.

Interviewing for jobs, he wouldn’t mention his disability. “I'm not ashamed, but if they didn’t ask, I wouldn’t tell. It’s hard to find a job no matter what. The process is even tougher if you have a disability.”

Manuel had to go through rigorous interviews and tests to get his job at Ilunion. “When they picked me, I couldn't believe it. It was exactly what I was looking for,” he says.

Now he works on replacing old equipment with modern, energy-efficient alternatives to make Ilunion’s industrial equipment more sustainable and less polluting. His work will contribute to Ilunion saving up to 60 Gigawatt hours of electricity each year.

Manuel's job is one of millions created and supported by the European Investment Bank, the EU bank.  By 2021, investments signed by the EIB Group in 2017 alone are expected to have raised EU GDP by 1.1% and to have created 1.2 million jobs.  Even in 2036, there will still be a 0.7% increase in EU GDP as a result of the EIB's 2017 investments, as well as 650 000 extra jobs.

 “I am so grateful for this job. It made me feel more optimistic,” he says. “Often it isn't just about the money. It's about fulfilment, about feeling useful and being a person like any other.”