The international community celebrated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3, to spread awareness about disability issues. The theme of this year’s Disability Day was inclusive Sustainable Development Goals, that is, fulfillment of SDGs for persons with disabilities. Promoting inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment, and allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market is an often quoted SDG. Yet, people with disabilities continue to face many barriers to employment and work.
According to official estimates, more than 60% of people with disabilities are unemployed in India, with only 26% of people with disabilities being employed for more than 6 months in a year. These numbers are considered to be incomplete and the actual gap in employment of disabled and non-disabled population is expected to be much wider.
World over, people with disabilities face various barriers to get equal opportunity to work. Unemployment rate of persons with disabilities is twice that of people without disabilities in developed countries. Situation is worse in developing countries with around 80 to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age being unemployed.
A person with disabilities is far more likely to be unemployed even after completing training and acquiring skills. Institutional and attitudinal barriers such as mistaken believes about abilities of persons with disabilities to work, lack of accessible infrastructure, information gap, lack of access to education and many other such barriers stand in the way of decent work and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
2016 is also the year marking 10 Years of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that includes promotion of employment of persons with disabilities in private sector. Private institutions have a unique role to play in overcoming the barriers to gainful employment of persons with disabilities. We need to encourage and inculcate an environment that applauds and promotes inclusion in workplaces. IDIA has been working to make legal ecosystem inclusive through policy changes, and training students with disabilities for legal education and legal profession. We have encouraged students with disabilities to pursue their dream of becoming lawyers. We work towards promoting an inclusive legal profession. We are extremely proud of each of our scholars, many of who have disabilities and have overcome many barriers to become promising young lawyers.
In order to promote equal opportunities for all and inclusion in employment, it is important to recognise efforts for making institutions inclusive. Some of these laudable efforts were recently recognised by the Nipman Foundation through their Equal Opportunity Awards 2016. Understanding the importance of removing barriers to give equal employment opportunities to all, the Nipman Foundation started the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards in 2014 to award and recognise companies and institutions that promote employment of people with disabilities.
About Nipman Foundation
Nipman Foundation was founded in 2012 when Nipun Malhotra, who was born with a rare congenital disorder that requires him to use wheelchair for mobility, asked his mother about other children with disabilities who do not have a mother like he does. Priyanka Malhotra, a trained psychologist, founded the Nipman Foundation to provide health and education facilities to people with disabilities and the underprivileged.
The winners of Equal Opportunities 2016 awards show that inclusion in possible and achievable. They provide important case studies for promoting equal employment opportunities. Here is a look at them.
ANZ Bengaluru Hub (Karnataka) with 7000 strong workforce is committed to equal opportunity for everyone. More that 2% of the total staff at the hub are persons with disabilities, with around 80% of them being promoted at least once. ANZ Bengaluru has employed persons across disabilities such as hearing and speech impairment, visual impairment, orthopedic disability, autism, paralytics and cerebral palsy. ANZ Bengaluru Hub’s initiatives for inclusive environment also led to it winning the NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Awards for 2016. On the occasion, Ms Sridevi, the Managing Director of the Technology Services vertical of the ANZ Bengaluru told Times of India- “It is our job to create an equal opportunity for everyone, including the disabled”.
IBM Pvt ltd India (Bangalore) is the second winner of the Nipman Equal Opportunities Award 2016. Dilpreet Singh, VP HR & HR Head, IBM India / South Asia said “IBM is committed to create a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. Very few companies can boast of an inclusive culture like ours. IBM has over a 100 year heritage of commitment to equal opportunity and to bring technology to aid/support people with disabilities. IBM’s Policy for People with Disabilities (PwD) has since revolved around 3As – accommodation, accessibility and attitude. Our approach to equal opportunity has steadily evolved to appreciate and respect differences between diverse groups and the workplace issues they face. At IBM, it is not just about hiring a candidate; it is also ensuring the right-fit-for-the-right-job, providing career opportunities, mutual respect and making PwD IBMers feel on par with their colleagues.“
The third winner, Sunrise Candles (Maharashtra) is a Mahabaleshwar based candle making company founded by a visually impaired entrepreneur, Mr. Bhavesh Bhatia. Sunrise Candles is 100% run by visually impaired individuals, which includes over 2280 persons. They have created a wax museum that has impressive wax statues. You can read more about this wonderful organisation here.
Two applicants were given ‘Commendations’ at the awards – (i) Interglobe Aviation Ltd – IndiGO Airlines (Haryana) for their all round inclusive environment for PwD, including for staff and passengers; and (ii) Squaremeal Food Pvt Ltd (Maharashtra)
for being an upcoming inclusive brand.
The jury of the award included reputed people from diverse fields – Dr Rajiv Kumar, Former Secretary General, FCCI & Economist; George Abraham, Founder, Score Foundation; Jawaharlal Kottur, Director, CII; Karuna Nandy, Lawyer & Human Rights Activist; Mahima Kaul, Public Policy Head, Twitter; and (Late) Sanjeev Sachdeva, Disability Rights Activist.
The advisory panel for the awards included Deepa Narsimhan, leading diversity practioner; Iti Dhamija, Consultant Korn Ferry; Jai Dehadrai, Managing partner, Dehadrai & Co; Madhumita Venkataraman, diversity and inclusion expert; Sarika Bhattacharya, Co-Founder, Biz Divas Foundation & Altavis Consulting; Mary Therese Kurkalang, art and communications consultant; Parul Ghosh, disability rights Consultant; and Yeshwant Holkar, CEO, Umoja.
While announcing the winners, Nipun Malhotra said “We believe that there is nothing more dignified than a person working and earning her/his own livelihood.”
This is an important message to remember. We need to ensure that all barriers to employment whether institutional or attitudinal are removed. Greater inclusion and diversity are useful for organisations as they promote innovation, customer loyalty and loyal workforce
We would love to hear about similar efforts that highlight inclusion and equal opportunity. Do comment below if you know of any such efforts that should be highlighted.
The information about the awards is based on press release by Nipman Foundation.
Read the story of Nagababu Arepalli, IDIA scholar with visual impairment who faced a barrier in becoming a judge and fought it here.
 Census 2011.