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At India Business Disability Network launch, industry leaders champion workplace inclusion

What is the X factor that makes an organization take the leap towards inclusion?

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Industry champions of equal opportunity who have shown the way forward in workplace inclusion shared their learnings and experiences at a stimulating National Conference on Special Abilities organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi on Monday.

The topic was Mainstreaming Inclusivity & Accessibility - Enabling Industry and it was held on the sidelines of the launch of the Indian Business Disability Network (IBDN).

This is a national level network launched by the CII in partnership with the and the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) to create a one-stop

So, what does being in the IBDN mean for an organization? It offers opportunities to, among others:

  • Enhance and strengthen the capabilities of employer organizations.
  • Promote sharing and exchange of experiences.
  • Good practices and models that promote hiring.
  • Retention and professional development of people with disabilities.
  • Platform for companies to raise concerns & issues.
  • Connect with suitable service providers/NGOs /Disability organizations.
  • Facilitate inclusion - accessibility audits, employee training, capacity building, hiring disabled people.

The CII claims this will be "the first-of-its-kind National Business Disability Network that promotes and ensures an inclusive, accessible and a barrier-free workplace within the corporate sector."

Emphasizing the need for an overall attitude change, Kamlesh Kumar Pandey, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India said enabling inclusion must reflect a move from the charity to a rights-based approach.

An attitude change that, as Seema Arora, Deputy Director General, CII, mentioned is reflected on the ground. "We are witnessing many companies focusing on diversity towards including PwDs into the workforce and making workplaces barrier free."

Sharing some of the challenges that companies face was Michael Dias, Member-Executive Council, EFI who said "lack of awareness, non-availability of training opportunities, and lack of incentives on hiring" come in the way of inclusive workplace practices.

Industry leaders like Pankajam Sridevi, MD, ANZ Banking Group shared their best practices and urged everyone "to take an oath to not just enable inclusivity in their organisation but also influence others towards inclusion."

Over the last few years, the CII has undertaken a number of outreach activities like webinars and training program to push for workplace inclusion. A national network, believes P Rajashekharan Raja, Co-founder, v-shesh, will help push this further.

Right now, the companies that are practicing inclusion in India are doing so globally as well. This will set the tone for newer organizations to come on board and build greater awareness about the need to sensitize, emphasize best practices and motivate leaders and HR managers. Hopefully this tribe will now move beyond the top 15-20 companies that practice inclusion. - P Rajashekharan Raja, Co-founder, v-shesh

What the IBDN will also look to enable through greater collaboration between industry leaders are policy initiatives to address the changing nature of jobs and ways to open more avenues in the workplace for people with disabilities.

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