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Inclusive employment seminar focuses placing disability in CSR policy

Is it the lack of opportunity, the right skills, poor access to the workplace, or one's own unwillingness to venture out and chart a course in the outside world?

These are some of the issues that came up for discussion at a Seminar on Inclusive Employment organised by the NGO ADAPT in Mumbai. Formerly known as The Spastics Society of India, ADAPT has been working for decades to build and communicate inclusive models of education and employment.

How to bring India's forgotten millions into the workplace

At this seminar, the spotlight was firmly on bringing India's disabled population, the 'forgotten millions' into the workforce. ADAPT and Citibank are partnering on a research project to map the road ahead, called Deconstruction of Work Preparedness of Disabled Adults leading to Inclusive Employment.

"We are looking at all the blocks and barriers that come in the way of employing people with special needs", said Dr Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson, ADAPT. "We hope to put together and publish a code of practice so that the disabled and companies benefit."

"The idea is to position disability into the CSR policies of all companies, which at this moment is the biggest gap" - Dr Mithu Alur, ADAPT

Apart from parents and disabled employees, it was encouraging to see the presence of over 20 corporates at the seminar, like the Union Bank of India and Macquarie Bank. Hard data was quoted to show why people with disabilities have an edge at the workplace.

"We have research that shows that employees with disabilities have less absent days or sick days, as well as low attrition rates", said Dr Alur. "There is also increased transfer of skills between co-workers".

The most passionate advocates in the audience, needless to say, were disabled employees, who were present in large numbers from many fields.

"I work 10 hours a day, from 7.30 AM to 11 PM", said Krishna Morajkar, who is a senior executive. Morajkar was left disabled in a train accident when he was 17 years old.

"The potential of a handicapped person is enormous"- Krishna Morajkar, Executive

Jasmina Khanna, who is a systems engineer with Syntel, added that the onus lay with the disabled themselves to give their best. "If you get an opportunity, don't let time constraints or other issues come in your way. If you work hard, the company will recognise you".

Family support critical to disabled seeking employment

Interestingly, it emerged that one of the first blocks the disabled face is from family members. "My family said how will you manage outside the four walls of the house", said Morajkar. It was his father who finally relented and supported his decision to find a job.

"Remember they don't want to be home", said Dr Alur, who talked about her own experiences with her daughter, disability rights activist, Malini Chib. "They don't want to be home or nurtured once they are 22 years old. They want your support so parents have to undergo some transformation and change themselves".

Prabhat K Singh, CSR Head of Union Bank of India, who was among those in the audience, said that the seminar was useful is highlighting the perspectives and experiences of people with disabilities. "I liked the learning centre here at ADAPT and I feel we can adopt these lessons in such centres across the country".

The research paper prepared by ADAPT and Citibank will be put before a review board before it is published and hopefully used as a baseline for companies when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

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