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BW Businessworld

Commemorating the inclusion of ‘Specially-Abled’

This World Disability Day, let’s join hands and pledge to celebrate the inclusivity of specially-abled at all levels.

Photo Credit :

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A video communication device in the form of an assistive technology. The video devices enable deaf and hard-of-hearing people to make calls via a monitor connected to a relay interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

In the context of a rapidly changing world, the Future of Work is an issue drawing the attention of many individuals and organizations. It is a global concern, posing important challenges that need to be addressed urgently. One such challenge is how to ensure that the future of work is inclusive, leaving no one behind, including the one billion persons with disabilities living on our planet. 

New research from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), reveals that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers. The number of people with disabilities entering the workforce is rising, proving a good news for the economy, for people with disabilities, and for employers.  Yet, the unemployment rate for neurodiverse individuals is staggering. Upwards of 80 percent of individuals who are on the spectrum do not have a job.

Inclusivity scenario at organisations

Despite articles on the advantages that people with disabilities can offer employers, too many companies hold themselves back when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. They see hiring (some) persons with disabilities as being “the right thing to do” but do not see it as part of a talent strategy that will benefit the company and outweigh what they see as the potential expenses and risk.

The PwD (people with disability) community in India is a highly talented workforce, who may not always have had the right opportunities for growth. They can achieve amazing results if offered right training, inclusive culture and necessary infrastructure both physical and digital. However, the situation is changing. Today, there is an increasing awareness among corporates for having a diverse and inclusive environment to leverage untapped talent. At the same time, there is a growing sense of responsibility and commitment to empower by creating meaningful opportunities for everyone who would want to contribute. COVID-19 has also helped in accelerating adoption of Work From Home, increasing opportunities for recruiting talented People with Disabilities who may not be able to commute to work.

Shilpa Sinha Harsh, SVP – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, Hinduja Global Solutions, “at Hinduja Global Solutions our focus is on peoples’ abilities rather than their disabilities. Our HGS India facilities are accessible with appropriate physical and digital infrastructure in place. PwD friendly restrooms, parking space, common areas, reasonable accommodation, support groups and regular connects are some of the key enablers ensuring that our people are able to perform at their best. We also celebrate important days of significance like Global Awareness Accessibility Day (GAAD) and International Day of People with Disability, etc. to deepen the sense of inclusiveness and spread further awareness. We provide an environment where everyone can achieve what they aspire for and grow with us.”

Individuals with ‘special-abilities’ is a combination of everyone’s unique skills, experiences, and abilities that creates a diverse culture which in turn contributes to innovation and creates out-of-the-box solutions in organizations. Corporates like Mindtree Ltd, Accenture and Wipro Ltd, among others, have inclusion drives to employ people with hearing, visual and speech impairments. But when it comes to intellectual disabilities such as autism, corporates have not scratched the surface

“At SAP Labs, we believe that every employee brings in fresh perspectives to support SAP’s strategic objectives. It is this belief that has led to us pioneering the ‘Autism at Work’ initiative in 2013 through which we focused on hiring people in the autism spectrum.  Encouraging neurodiversity makes companies more inclusive and innovative. At SAP, our commitment to diversity and inclusion is critical to our success,” believes Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP and MD, SAP labs India.

Tapping the ‘un-tapped’

Of the approximately 70 million people with disabilities in India, only about 0.1 million have successfully found employment in the corporate sector. This is an obviously untapped talent pool. The tech industry has the opportunity to be a powerful enabler of Disability Inclusion, and therefore also a force for equity, diversity and innovation. 

Sudhir Tiwari, Managing Director, ThoughtWorks believes that, “today’s acceptance for ‘work from anywhere,’ has opened up the job market for a diverse set of people – that includes people with disabilities. They are no longer limited by long commutes, conventional and inflexible working hours, inaccessible workspace design etc. The pandemic has truly proven that talent can literally be employed from anywhere and deliver remotely.” 

Accessibility indeed is a critical part of creating equity within the organization and many organisations have been focussing on upgrading their infrastructure and benefits, keeping in mind the diverse needs of the employees. “Some of the benefits include insurance covers for surgeries related to accidents and treatment for acquired disability, ergonomic workstations and necessary software to aid associates to work from home seamlessly. Equally important is to build a culture of inclusion, and we are conducting several programs and activations on this day to sensitize our larger workforce, reduce biases and empower people dealing with disabilities,” asserts Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President, People, Walmart Global Tech India.

On the other hand, “at Microsoft, accessibility is core to our mission of empowering every individual and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It is woven into the fabric of our company from how we hire and build products and extends to the culture of our workplace. It starts by inviting people with disabilities to join the organization and actively seeking their expertise to improve our processes, products, and culture. We believe that designing with and for people with disabilities will lead to greater innovations for everyone,” highlighted Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, India at Microsoft.

Road Ahead

Over a course of time, organisations have set up several programs and initiatives which are helping the ‘specially-abled’ employees grow at each step.

One such example is of Accenture India. Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead - Human Resources, Accenture in India, explains how a talent-led organization that is deeply committed to providing equal opportunities and building an inclusive culture, values the unique skills and talents of each of their employees.

We have deployed several programs and initiatives to hire, retain and grow the careers of persons with disabilities. Our six-month long Inclusive Internship Program provides on-the-job learning opportunities to help interns augment their work experience, hone work skills, develop career goals, and establish connections that can prove useful throughout their careers. 

Technology has been a significant enabler, which has helped us develop ‘Disability Adjustment Request’ platform that acts as a one-stop shop for all reasonable accommodation requirements of our people, providing them a very personalized experience. To help our people choose the right assistive technology and enablement devices, we also have an Accessibility Centre of Excellence which our people can visit to experience the technology or device before they decide to request for the same. An example of this is our in-house platform called Dhvani that enables voice to text and text to voice conversion, and supports communication for persons who have speech, hearing and language disabilities. Above all, each of our web and technology applications are built such that they are completely accessible for persons with disabilities.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the realization of human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework includes seven targets, which explicitly refer to persons with disabilities, and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities.