There are scores of good and not-so-good examples of companies in India when it comes to employing people with disabilities. Here are five broad parameters with specific measures for developing a Company Index for being disabled-friendly
Ninad Jain, 27 years old was elated to finally get a job with a business process outsourcing (BPO) unit making him both financially independent, as well as, a proud son who could take care of his ageing parents like other youngsters. When Nitin was barely 12 years, doctors discovered tuberculosis (TB) in his spine, which had to be surgically treated. TB was cured but it resulted in a spinal cord injury, a permanent disability making it difficult for him to walk without support. After an arduous rehabilitation and adjusting to the new reality, he could study only up to 10th standard.
Thus, his chances of a good job eluded him due to his poor academic qualifications. Being a bright boy he self-learnt computer skills, applied for jobs and finally landed this plum one in a multi-national, multi-location BPO.
As a non-governmental organisation (NGO), we had supported him in his rehabilitation journey and he had joyously shared this good news with us. Therefore, it was a surprise to hear his feeble voice on the first day of his new job. He narrated that the distance from the elevator on his floor up to his desk was more than 300 yards and the washroom another 150 yards. He used crutches to walk. Due to high air conditioning, he frequently needed to go the washroom. But each trip was over slippery glazed tiles. He consulted us and we suggested that the company station a wheelchair on the floor for his use while in the office. The next day he called again stating that the human resources (HR) department had declined the suggestion and said if he needed a wheelchair he had to get his own, and the company would not provide it. We were stumped. A multi-million dollar company refusing to buy a Rs5,000 worth of wheelchair for the benefit of a disabled employee. Our NGO bought and gave the wheelchair to Ninad knowing how important this job was for his self-confidence and esteem!
There are scores of good and not-so-good examples of companies in India when it comes to employing people with disabilities. In 2015, India launched the ambitious ‘Accessible India Campaign’ and with it a hint of developing a Company Index for being Disabled-friendly. Having been closely connected with the disability sector for over 20 years I gave the above an immersive thought and here are my novel suggestions for the proposed index.
There could be five broad parameters with specific measures for the Index:
I. Recruitment, employment and diversity
II. Flexiwork, flexi timings and work from home options
VI. Training and Development
VII. Inclusive products and service
VIII. Stakeholders and suppliers
X. Number of PWD (People with disability) in the past 3 years, the 3% reservations notwithstanding
XI. Medical and leave options
XII. Ease of converting a new idea for the benefit of employee with disability
XIII. Policy for being disabled on the job
I. Accessible Buildings
II. Accessible offices & all facilities
III. Accessible Toilets
VII. Special parking
VIII. Wheelchairs on premises
IX. Accessible websites
X. Special software
XI. Sign language interpreters
XII. Trained staff on all aspects of disability and etiquette
XIII. Customisation as per specific needs
XIV. Company information in accessible formats (Braille Annual Reports etc.)
III. Promotions and transfers
IV. Investments for making it a disabled friendly company
V. CSR contribution for the disability sector
VI. Budgetary allocations
VII. Insurance for accidents and disability
4) Equal Opportunities for
I. Participating in National & International conferences, workshops & seminars
II. Growth & Promotions
V. Participation in all company core and extra-curricular activities like Yoga, dance, sports, festivals, outbound and more
I. Attendant and escort services
II. Celebrate with PWD NGOs and groups
IV. Motorised and manual wheelchairs on premises
V. Travel allowance
VI. Special allowances like diaper allowance
VII. Medicines, medical supplies, diagnostics, assistive technology and therapy allowances for good health
VIII. Scholarships for employees, family members with disability
IX. Awards received for being inclusive
X. New product developed for PWDs
There are some 'super' employees who put their health, family or social life aside to bring results and outcomes consistently at the workplace, overcoming several personal and organisational speed-bumps to excel in their jobs translating into higher profits, bigger contracts, saving a customer from defecting or upgrading the quality of output.
Similarly, there are 'super' companies, which think and act futuristically, adopting the parameters mentioned above and walking together for a wonderful tomorrow!
(Dr Ketna L Mehta is an educationist, editor, author and Founder Trustee of Nina Foundation that works for the rehabilitation of economically and socially disadvantaged people with spinal injuries. Her PhD Thesis was “Market Potential Study for a World Class Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Mumbai”. She is also Editor and Associate Dean Research, WeSchool. Dhaval Mehta is CMD, kreate & Young Advertising. He is also Trustee of Nina Foundation, responsible for the NGO's brand identity, creative communication and advertising campaigns. Email- [email protected], www.ninafoundation.org)