More job opportunities and a change in mindsets is helping differently-abled people find employment and dignity.
The employment of differently-abled takes a turn as new opportunities arise. A report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) indicates a dip in the unemployment rate by 26.6 percent between April 2020 and September 2021.
Lekha, Placement Program Head, Association of People with Disabilities (APD) said, “Hiring was at an all-time low in March and April 2021. Whereas, from July, the hiring rates have skyrocketed. This is mainly due to bulk hiring from e-commerce and retail organisations. Hospitality and tourism industries still remain a challenge as these industries were largely affected during the pandemic.”
APD is an NGO for differently-abled people. They provide programs that focus on empowerment such as education, livelihood, rehabilitation, etc.
“Companies have moved from face-to-face to virtual hiring. People are finding this difficult as they have technological challenges. There is a wage difference between the district and city offices. Moreover, people are not willing to come to Bangalore due to a fear of infection,” Lekha added.
Ganesh Hegde, Livelihood Department, APD said, “Employment is one part of the department. The pandemic has affected the employment rates of differently-abled people similar to others. Too many of them were laid off and had to return home. Post Covid-19, it is getting difficult to place these candidates. The candidates are also facing difficulty in getting back to work as some of them belong to rural areas.”
Rishi Dhussia, freelance photographer said, “Interacting is a very important part of the industry. Being speech impaired, used to be a roadblock at the start, but with an emphasis on differently-abled friendly environments, it is not a trouble anymore. The lockdown was disturbing as the offers dropped. Now, it is slowly picking up to pre-pandemic levels.”
Bangalore Urban is home to approximately 18,519 differently-abled people in the 18 – 45 year age group, according to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Empowerment of Differently-abled and Senior Citizens, 2021.
Public assistance in the case of unemployment is granted to the differently-abled under Article 41 of the Constitution. The Department for the Empowerment of Differently-abled and Senior Citizens offers Employment and Training opportunities for differently-abled people.
The Samarthanam Trust, a government-backed organisation, delivers training programmes focused on developing skill-sets suitable for hiring. Till now, a total of 21,000 People with Disabilities (PwD) were trained out of which 80 percent have been placed in various sectors. The trust has a workforce of 455 people out of which 26 percent are differently-abled.
Devaraju, in-charge for placements, Samarthanam Trust said, “It is often assumed that PwDs can’t meet an employer’s expectations. This usually comes from a mindset originating from a lack of awareness in terms of capability. The office infrastructure is also an issue as some companies lack in differently-abled friendly infrastructure.”
Organisations on the other hand introspect to be inclusive of differently-abled people. The Human Resource (HR) Department plays a vital role in building an environment that is differently-abled friendly.
Budaraju Sudhakar, ex-Joint President Group HR at Adani Group said, “We need to prepare the ecosystem in the organisation. We need to prepare the mindsets of leaders, managers and employees to accept them like any other employee. Like the way we nourish the seeds and protect them, we need to ensure the physical infrastructure is made differently-abled friendly and focus on integrating them into the organization in a mindful manner.
“The line managers and the Human Resource (HR) team members need to invest quality time to identify the right roles to match different types of ability and contextualise the same to their organisation. Once the organization is ready, mainstreaming is not an issue at all,” he added.
Shankar is a part of the billing team in a retail organisation. He said, “Billing is a crucial and hectic part of any shopping experience. Giving my 100 percent becomes a priority. A lack in knowledge with respect to sign language acts as a roadblock in my personal performance. The lockdown was harsh as I travelled back to my home-town, and returning to work has been tougher.”
Hari Priya Ramachandran, HR Manager, Bungalow 8 Tech said, “The Application Tracking System (ATS) does not provide a filter for differently-abled as we are a start-up. The organisation does look forward to employing differently-abled people for roles that are extremely niche and have the skill sets to perform well. The organisation is willing to go the extra mile to make the environment differently-abled friendly.”
A report by the Department of Economics and Social Affairs, United Nations states that 74 percent of differently-abled people are unemployed in India.
Arundhati Aage, economics professor, SP College said, “Differently-abled people need to have a choice of choosing what they want to do and where to do it. They should be provided opportunities of upscaling their skill sets to fit the roles in demand.”