Vojtech Sedlácek

Organization: 
Agentura ProVás
Year founded: 
1996
Country: 
Czech Republic

The mission of Agentura ProVás is to create job and business opportunities in the Czech Republic for citizens with physical and mental disabilities.

Focus: Disabilities, Enterprise Development, Labour Conditions, Unemployment
Geographic Area of Impact: Czech Republic
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 100 (2010)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Czech Republic, 2007

Background
During the communist era, the disabled were viewed as imperfect and often kept out of sight. Unfortunately, this stigma and attitude has lingered in the post-communist era as the public and policymakers continue to push such issues aside. The desire to subsidize the disabled and hide them in institutions has created an unhealthy dependency within the disabled community.

Innovation and Activities
Vojtech Sedlácek created a venture to incubate projects and businesses that employ disabled individuals. It focuses on employing a percentage of these disabled in positions in highly public areas, such as the cloakroom in the Czech Senate or at the astronomical clock in the Old Town City Hall. This makes the public and policymakers aware of the need to address such issues and demonstrates how handicapped people can be productive members of society.

Not wanting to be dependent upon government grants or government contracts that require compromises in integrity, he ensures that all Agentura ProVás businesses are self-sustainable and profitable. For example, one employee founded his own company that specializes in supplying physical aids and equipment (like wheelchairs, crutches, special shoes and artificial limbs) for handicapped, disabled people and senior citizens. Today this company, Setrans, is one of the largest suppliers in Prague and employs more than 100 handicapped workers.

Agentura ProVás focuses on providing employment opportunities to the disabled while engaging the public in understanding the issues of the disabled community. Currently, the organization employs disabled individuals full-time in projects in Prague. In the museum of the city of Roztoky, future projects include a café, and plans are underway to open a honey and beekeeping shop in the Moravian town of Prerov.

The goal of Agentura ProVás is to provide employment and business opportunities for approximately 1,400 disabled people by 2015. The other goal is to shift the policy debate to be more considerate of the needs of the disabled throughout Czech society.

The Entrepreneur
Vojtech Sedlácek was inspired to create Agentura ProVás while working as an instructor at an institution for the disabled during the communist era in the Czech Republic. He would often engage his students in creative activities rather than the standard curriculum. He realized the empowering effect it had on the community, and became a dedicated, ethical crusader for the cause of the disabled.