India is home to 2.7 crore people with disability, be it physical or mental, according to the 2011 Census.
While people with disabilities battle multiple challenges with regard to people’s attitudes, acceptance and inclusion, lack of access to good quality education and employment keep many from being financially independent.
The Central government had, in 1995, mandated 3 percent reservation in all public sector jobs for the differently abled. Despite that, a 2007 World Bank Report titled ‘People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes’ said employment rate of the differently-abled had fallen to 37.6 percent in 2002 from 42.7 percent in 1991.
The private sector in India is also doing its bit to include people with disabilities in the workforce. Below are some efforts:
In 2014, Accenture set up its India Accessibility Council comprising senior business leaders to ensure the company was an ideal workplace for persons with disabilities.
As a step in achieving this, the company’s new joinee orientation process is accommodative – the office is wheelchair friendly, all videos are subtitled, and sign language interpreters are available.
Says Rohit Thakur, Managing Director and Lead, Human Resources, Accenture, India,
At a physical infrastructure level, in addition to accessible restrooms, workplaces and parking, to support people with visual impairment, we are starting to use braille stickers in lifts and changing visual signs to have more high contrast colours.
“We are also re-designing busy areas such as our cafeterias for barrier free movement. Recently we ran a sign language training for all our people,” he adds.
Today, the company has over 80 assistive technology devices available for its employees. In addition to the Persons with Disabilities Recruitment Programme, the company is actively recruiting people with disabilities in the marketing, sourcing, assessment, and on-boarding departments.
Bengaluru-based software solutions provider Mindtree not only employs the differently-abled, but, has initiated several welfare programmes. The Mindtree Foundation states helping people with disabilities as its most important charter.
Forty people with disabilities are employed with the organisation, and the Mindtree Foundation engages with providing education, medical aid and vocational training. Further, the company has also developed assistive technologies to help them with their daily chores.
Prashanth Kamath, who has cerebral palsy, has been working with the company for over a decade.
When I joined Mindtree, they couldn’t figure out where to put me. I was put in human resources but I did not like it too much. Even now, I like doing technical work. For about two years, I continued with HR, and then I got a chance to work with Subroto Bagchi. I proof-read one of his books.
The online travel website not only employs the differently-abled, but invests in their development as well. It offers transportation to work, reconfigured workstations, and made restrooms, entrances, and cafeterias disability friendly.
Sidharth Taneja, who has 85 percent cerebral palsy, does all his work with his toes.Employed with MakeMyTrip for three years now, he says,
I take great pride that I am a part of MakeMyTrip’s Mobile team. Despite my physical limitations, I am an IT resource working on several important projects, growing professionally as the organisation grows.
He is currently working on an Android application.
MakeMyTrip has also partnered with non-government organisations that train people with disabilities, and employs over 40 people with disabilities in various roles, including programming, legal, and customer care.
In keeping with the International Labour Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network Charter, L’Oreal India has been employing people with disabilities. In 2017, the organisation hired two employees, and took in six individuals for an internship programme.
While employees with disabilities have limited exposure to management and administration roles, the company claims it believes in equal opportunities for all talents, “including talent with disabilities.”
In India we are focusing on accessibility, awareness, recruitment and integration. All our offices are accessible, and we have recently conducted external accessibility audit. We are working on the recommendations like automatic doors, contrasted signages, slope elevations, parking etc, says Roshni Wadhwa, HR Director, L’Oreal India.
Today, the company has six people with disabilities as permanent employees, engaged in sales, marketing, finance and operations. The company aims that by 2020, people with disabilities make up 2 percent of its workforce.