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Program by DFID-UK, SCPwD & National Star College-UK equips trainers with strategies to promote workplace inclusion

Making a workplace accessible to people with disabilities involves many things. Providing accessible technologies is a vital aspect; even more important is to make a person with disability feel included in the larger office culture. This is a facet something many organizations tend to overlook.

This is a challenge specific not just to India but even in countries where the culture of workplace inclusion is well entrenched. Research among organizations in the United Kingdom (UK) has shown that while people with disabilities get jobs, many don't stay on because they feel lonely and excluded at work.

Sensitizing employers and organizations to these various challenges is key and is the focus of a series of workshops conducted by the National Star College, UK in partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID)-UK and Skill Council for Persons with Disability (SCPwD).

Active approach

Called Top-Up Training of Trainers (ToTs), the most recent one in Delhi dealt with visual disability. The focus was on assistive technologies and the many online and offline tools that exist. Participants included various training providers, employers and practitioners from states like Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh, apart from Delhi.

A similar training session was done for master trainers as well called Training of Master Trainers (ToMT).

"The aim is to create an eco-system", says Dr Niharika Nigam, Head Quality & Standards, SCPwD, which is conducting many such programs towards empowering people with disabilities in the workforce. "An ecosystem that will bring together companies, employers, disabled employees and NGOs working in the space of skilling disabled people, with the aim of creating awareness and sensitization".

This is the second phase of a pilot project launched in November last year. The project aims at delivering inclusive training approaches for trainers working with people with disabilities, with each program focusing on a specific disability. The last one in Hyderabad looked at pan disabilities.

The training is such that it is delivered in an active way.

We are training master trainers who will eventually train the trainers by giving them inputs on different disabilities. We look at imparting training delivery techniques as well as styles. We give them the content and do inclusive activities so they conduct the training in a participatory way, rather than purely focus on lectures or watching PPTs. - Jane Finch, Head of Teacher Education, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion National Star College

The main challenge, says Finch, is sensitizing employers to the disability. "Like for a visually impaired person, they need to recognize how to work with them so they feel included", says Finch. "It's also to do with the larger perception within the organization, to raise awareness that a person with disability can do a whole range of jobs and to enable them to do it.".

The Delhi program will be followed by a similar training program in Kolkata, this time relating to intellectual disabilities.

Focusing on accessible technologies and infrastructure at the workplace is a major step forward, but looking at that alone is a myopic approach. The challenges faced by people with disabilities when it comes to being a part of the workforce are many. They start at the home front with many families and parents unwilling or scared to let them go out into the world. There is also the matter of unrealistic expectation at work.

Challenges that trainers can be prepared for with the right strategies in place, something training programs like these can help equip them with.

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