Skilling key to increasing disability presence in the workplace, say experts
What are some of the barriers that disabled people face when it comes to getting hired?
How do you create an inclusive atmosphere at the workplace and ensure greater sensitization among staff members?
Why is it important to use sensitive appropriate terminologies when it comes to talking about people with disabilities?
These were some of the questions that were up for discussion at a Corporate Meet held in Mumbai this week.
There were 50 employers from over 38 companies present at the meet, which included companies like Future Group, Star Bazaar, and Axis Bank, to name a few.
The Department for International Development (DFID), Government of United Kingdom, Sector Skill Council for Persons with Disabilities (SCPwD), Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Youth4Jobs (Y4J), which is a one-stop-shop for any organizations looking to hire youth with disabilities across India, got together to hold the workshop.
"Skills development of people with disabilities is one of our primary initiatives over the next two to three years", said Anu Gupta, from DFID-UK. "Both India and the UK have joined hands to work together in job-linked skill development programs based on prevailing industry needs".
There are over 2.6 crore people with disabilities in India, and less than 1% find employment. The aim of such workshops is to change that by sensitizing employers about the potential of people with disabilities. Key to the exchange were the learnings shared by employers and companies which have already adopted inclusive practices at the workplace.
As Anil Kohli, who founded Chai Pe Charcha to provide employment to people with disabilities pointed out, "Disability is in your eyes. They are very motivated and can do anything. They just don't have opportunities".
Also present was Vineet Saraiwala, from Future Group, who is visually impaired.
Don't assume that people with disabilities can't do anything. Our services are for everyone. If I can shop, everyone can shop. Our fastest cashier is a person with a speech and hearing impairment. - Vineet Saraiwala, Future Group
What made the workshop meaningful was the presence of many disabled employees. Their personal stories brought forth the many strengths that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, like determination, willingness to learn, and to never back down.
Like Qasim, who did not let hearing disability act as a barrier when he joined Chai Pe Charcha. Today he is an Assistant Manager of a store.
"When I started off at the store, I worked across a range of departments. I did deliveries and I also worked on the computers. I would communicate with my colleagues and customers through sign and also in written form."
There was Gopal, a Star Bazaar employee, who is a wheelchair user and gets to work by train and bus. "I love going to work because every day I learn something new. My family is happy that I am working. "
Niharika Nigam, from the SCPwD, urged those present to make a commitment to create "avenues of employment for people with disabilities."
"We have a vision to create a workforce that is inclusive but we cannot do it alone and we need the industry to support us. If the industry were to take on the goal of training, that would help hasten the achievement of reaching the target of skilling 25 lakh disabled people by 2022."
Youth4Jobs had also organized a host of fun-filled activities were also organized to sensitize those present to the challenges faced by people with vision and hearing impairments.
"After listening to these inspirational stories let us all pledge to join the inclusion movement, where we will hire persons with disability and create an inclusive workplace for them", said Meera Shenoy, Founder, Youth4Jobs Foundation.
The organization, which has over 23 centres across India, has recently signed an MOU with the Mumbai University under which disabled students in their final year will be given the opportunity for skills training.