Open minds and workplaces to those with disabilities - Hindustan Times
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Open minds and workplaces to those with disabilities

ByHindustan Times
Nov 30, 2022 02:06 PM IST

The article has been authored by Syamala Gidugu, executive director, AADI, an NGO whose initiatives include Jeevika, an employability programme focusing on work skills for people with disabilities and inclusive work environments.

Kumar is a manager in a reputed bank. He has cerebral palsy. But he has not let his health condition come in the way of his achieving his lifelong dream to be economically independent. It has not been an easy journey for him. Getting the requisite educational qualifications was the relatively easier part. Finding a job proved to be the real challenge. He encountered rejection in as many as 24 job interviews. But that did not deter him. His efforts paid off eventually and he joined the bank where he now works. Within a few months of joining, he was promoted as a manager. There has been no looking back since then.

 In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that December 3 would be annually observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The day is celebrated to increase awareness on the rights and well- being of people with disabilities.
In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that December 3 would be annually observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The day is celebrated to increase awareness on the rights and well- being of people with disabilities.

Kumar never loses an opportunity to share the story of his life with anyone who cares to ask or listen. He believes that anyone with disability can succeed if she perseveres and the personal and environmental factors that she encounters are conducive and not limiting. As an alumnus of an NGO that works in this area, Kumar recently joined a closed group discussion with people with disabilities and their families to share his insights. The group is part of the NGO’s efforts in facilitating livelihood for people with disabilities.

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The livelihood programme at the NGO works with prospective employers, employees with disabilities and their families, to support the process of training, induction and retention within various jobs. Identifying options to work, conducting job analysis, creating opportunities for skill building, overcoming barriers, supporting internship programmes, collaborating with employers and employees with disabilities are some of the key strategies that have resulted in successful placements and retention. They work with establishments across different sectors – hospitality, retail, manufacturing, finance /banking, and IT/ITES.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that December 3 would be annually observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The day is celebrated to increase awareness on the rights and well- being of people with disabilities. Disability has been described by the World Health Organisation as referring to the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g., cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g., negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports). It is a human rights issue as well as a development priority because there is a higher prevalence of it in the poorer nations of the world, like India, and disability and poverty are said to reinforce and perpetuate one another.

There is an untapped potential workforce amongst people with disabilities. It is imperative that innovative methods and creative linkages are developed to bring positive change in the situation. Education and skill development have a huge role to play in improving job prospects. The need of the hour is to create skills suitable for the times. Digital literacy, communication, financial literacy, emotional resilience, relationship building, and leadership are some of the key skills that need to be integrated in the curriculum of various educational and training programmes.

People with disabilities have been advocating work from home for a very long time and it has taken the pandemic to realise the feasibility and productivity of work from home, when implemented effectively. Hybrid models will further open up avenues and increase employment rates for people with disabilities.

But more important than anything else is the need to change the mindset of potential employers so that they are open to hiring and retaining in employment those with disabilities. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD Act) 2016 has provisions that promote non-discrimination in employment, vocational training and self-employment, Equal Opportunity policy in every establishment, appointment of grievance redressal officer in every establishment, 4% reservation of the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength in each group of posts, and identification of suitable posts.

India is a signatory to the Sustainable developmental Goals of the UN. One of the targets under Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) is: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.

To be able to achieve this target there has to be a concerted effort by all stakeholders –policy makers, employers, training Institutes, HR heads and professionals , civil society organisations , people with disabilities, families and communities at large.

The UN has declared the theme of IDPD 2022 as “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: The role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.” The post-pandemic transition for people with disabilities will definitely benefit from the focus on ‘innovation’, ‘inclusive development’, and ‘an accessible and equitable world’.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022, let us re-dedicate ourselves to review Diversity and Inclusion with a disability lens and open up employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They are willing to be in gainful employment. Let us open our minds and our workplaces to them.

The article has been authored by Syamala Gidugu, executive director, AADI, an NGO whose initiatives include Jeevika, an employability programme focusing on work skills for people with disabilities and inclusive work environments.

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