A recent report by the United Nations (UN) reveals that India has population of more than 100 million disabled citizens. However, due to lack of sensitivity and opportunities only 100,000 of them are successful in obtaining employment. To uplift the specially-abled people, the government has introduced the Persons with Disability Act, 1995 mandating 3 per cent reservation for specially-abled in government jobs. However, the government is still unable to fulfill the 3 percent reserved jobs for disabled people. The main reasons behind this is the lack of education, lack of facilities for specially-abled at work stations and continuous discrimination faced by them at home and work.
Even, many private sector companies are ignorant about their responsibility towards the inclusion and development of specially-abled people. They are under the wrong impression that it is a cumbersome and expensive task to hire specially-abled people. This issue is further aggravated by the fact that they lack support from their parents and society. Hence, they develop low self-esteem and never flourish in the society, even if they are extremely talented. Additionally, the infrastructure in India is not well-equipped to cater the special work requirements of specially-abled people. For instance, the standard size of the workstations may be too high or too low for people with wheelchairs and crutches. Other challenges include difficulty in using stairs in the workplace which lack escalators and the availability of adequate and friendly transportation facilities for differently- abled employees.
But, some companies have decided to bring the change and Fiinovation applauds the move of these companies which have pioneered the initiatives by identifying the need to tap the specially-abled population in creating a special pool of specially-abled employees; despite the challenges being involved. One such example is created by the leading coffee chain, Costa Coffee. The Green Park, New Delhi outlet of Costa Coffee is entirely led and managed by the speech and hearing impaired employees. The menu is also designed keeping in view the needs of specially-abled employees.
Srishti Kataria, a student of the Amity University, Noida shares her experience by saying, “It is just like playing dumb charades. Placing my order in different ways is fun. What I feel when I am here is something I cannot explain in words. The vibes are so positive and the staff always smiles at you with warmth.”
Fiinovation reviews that not only Costa, but even other coffee houses, restaurants, retail outlets, and other companies like Lifestyle, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Hyper City, Max, Dominos, Tata Steel, Bharat Matrimony and Reliance retail among others, are increasingly employing them as executives, cashiers, attendants, store administrators and merchandisers.
In another inspiring example, The MphasiS utilizes its CSR funds focused around three areas of education, employability and entrepreneurship development. The company shares its experience stating that it has faced lot of challenges when it decided to invest its CSR funds for hiring the professionally sound persons with disabilities. There was lack of skilled manpower for joining the organization at suitable positions. So apart from recruiting the specially-abled people, the company also ensured to provide financial assistance to the students with milder disabilities in getting admission in the professional fields of engineering and management.
Recently, at the Rio Paralympics, Indian parathletes have raised the Indian flag high by winning four medals in different sports categories, including two gold medals. Athelete Deepa Malik has become an icon for Indian youth through her exemplary win at Paralympic and several other sports competition. She has also been awarded with Arjuna award for her stupendous performance in Sports.
Fiinovation salutes the extraordinary talent and capabilities of specially-abled people and urges the nation that instead of showing sympathy, we should explore their talents and align then with the mainstream society.
Although, the government has launched various initiatives and awareness campaigns but, the issue is so big that it cannot be solved overnight. With the majority of specially-abled population residing in rural areas, it becomes difficult to develop adequate infrastructure addressing their concerns. Hence, Fiinovation urges the corporations to come forward and invest their CSR spends for the development and upliftment of specially-abled individuals thereby promoting inclusive development.
For the companies, who have been associated with the cause of uplifting specially-abled for a long time now, it can be highlighted that with the initiatives to ameliorate the situation of the specially-abled population, things are changing for better, gradually.
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