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What Does Inclusive Hiring mean? Experts Share at CII India Business Disability Network (IBDN) National Conference for People with Disabilities (PwDs)

Published on: 19 May, 2022

Staring at my laptop screen at midnight, I wonder if my blog can effectively encapsulate the CII-IBDN National Conference for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) . 


The felicitation of 15 visually impaired girls with 'Enable the Capable' scholarship, the launch of Enabling Inclusive Make In India report on Best Practices in Disability Inclusion in Manufacturing Sector, and the multitude of informative and enlightening comments of industry stalwarts, disability awareness champions, and corporate leaders, every minute of the action-packed conference highlighted the need to make disability inclusion a priority.  


Felicitation of 15 visually impaired girls with 'Enable the Capable' Scholarship by CII-IBDN in collaboration with Rasna and NAB India Centre for Blind Women


As the Head of Corporate Partnerships at Atypical Advantage, India’s largest integrated platform working in the disability inclusion space, attending the conference was an enriching experience. It consisted of three segments, with each having a moderated panel discussion followed by a soul-stirring and inspiring story of a person with a disability. 


Take for instance, the case of Devyanshi Joshi, a woman with Down Syndrome. Her work at a retail outlet made her confident and empowered, and she won many awards and accolades, including the Helen Keller award.


Meanwhile, visually-impaired Asif Iqbal's infectious determination and commitment to complete a marathon while pursuing a successful career in PwC, was truly commendable.


Rajneesh Agarwal, an assistant programmer at the commercial tax department, Madhya Pradesh did not allow paraplegia due to childhood poliomyelitis deter him from pursuing his passion. His zealous efforts won him a silver medal in web programming in International Abilympics.


 Launch of ‘Enabling Inclusive #MakeinIndia – Best Practices in #Disability Inclusion in #Manufacturing Sector’ Report which shares the best practices of companies which have championed #Inclusion at the workplace.


To manage talented PwDs like Devyanshi, Asif, and Rajneesh, the CII and International Labour Organisation (ILO) panellists contemplated the efficacy of a sound policy ecosystem and strategies to make intellectual disabilities more inclusive. For instance, Mr Piruz Khambatta, Chairman CII-IBDN and Chairman & MD Rasna suggested that the industry should target hiring at least 1% of the workforce from PwDs as a starting point. The panel acknowledged that adopting such practices will lead to a more equitable and efficient labour market. 


One of the much-needed aspects that the industry stalwarts highlighted was eliminating myths and misconceptions by disseminating data backed information to fill the many gaps in the corporate and industry ecosystems. 


Representatives of Spark Minda, Michelin, World Trust, and Microsign Products dispelled many such myths by narrating multiple examples of efficiency and engaged employees in their respective manufacturing units. 


They discussed the multiple benefits of disability inclusion, such as lower attrition rates, punctuality, better job outcome and loyalty toward the organisation.


Simple Solutions To Make Companies More Inclusive


The foremost task should be to follow the latest trends on what the companies are doing to make workplaces more inclusive, added an expert. The IT, ITES, Hospitality, and Services sectors have been proactive in training, recruitment, and retention of talent with disabilities. However, the manufacturing and MSME sectors still lag in adopting disability inclusion. Here, the myths around the ability of people with disabilities to work on large machines for long hours and their difficulty navigating large areas are major roadblocks.


Another brilliant point deliberated at the conference was redefining the concept of 'Accessibility'.


Does the word only mean making infrastructural changes? An industry leader questioned (of course rhetorically) 


Most leaders concurred that accessibility has three dimensions, physical/ infrastructure accessibility, digital accessibility, which implies making apps and user interfaces more accessible and cultural accessibility, which involves regular sensitization, and training for mindset shift amongst the entire team of an organisation. They unanimously agreed that a top-down approach and leading by example would deliver maximum impact. Sanjay Dawar of Accenture suggested that it is time for businesses to aim for at least one PWD on board level positions

Mr Nisheeth Mehta of Microsign Products stressed the constant need for employer education via regular seminars on EPFO and ESIC benefits and other such incentives for disability hiring, which make a strong business case for disability inclusion. These seminars, he said, must be backed up with concrete examples of benefits to educate and motivate companies across sectors.


Meanwhile, Mr Ravindra Singh of SCPwD highlighted the pressing need for the entire ecosystem comprising government agencies and departments, businesses, training partners and NGOs to come together to ensure better work opportunities and pay scales for people with disabilities.


I walked out of the conference thinking that solutions should also apply to people with disabilities from non-academic backgrounds, like performing artists and visual artists. It brings me to my take on what accessibility and inclusion mean. 

 

My tired eyes browsed through the Google search engine to find answers. A few minutes later, I gave up. Instead, I turned to all the events I have organised in the past to promote equality, accessibility and inclusion.


And I realised that physical accessibility, creation of accessible technology and cultural accessibility go hand-in-hand. While there cannot be a uni-dimensional blueprint for all businesses to adhere to, they need to develop strategic frameworks unique to their sectors to become more inclusive and empathetic. They should provide opportunities to PwDs to showcase what they can do instead of abiding by preconceived notions about what they cannot do.


One key element for furthering disability inclusion is incorporating the entire ecosystem of an organisation's team, vendors and clients in accessibility and inclusion training.


Our Atypical team conducts regular seminars on team sensitisation, dispelling myths, biases and preconceived notions, and on providing an empowering, engaging, and enriching environment for people with disabilities. 


Atypical Advantage aspires to be the platform that seamlessly connects all these stakeholders to generate livelihood for people with disabilities.


We firmly believe that business policies with measurable goals like the percentage of employees with disabilities, equal remuneration, and equal opportunities for career growth are the bedrock for inclusive hiring. 


We have not figured it all out yet, but I want to assert that we are in the process of doing so. 


In conclusion, I would like to raise some thought provoking questions for every business to dwell upon.


Will businesses step up their game of disability inclusion irrespective of scale or sector? 


Will corporations and institutions appreciate the need to invest in inclusive artworks and events to help generate sustainable livelihood for those who cannot pursue mainstream jobs? 


Will we see the emergence of an empathetic and inclusive mindset across the board? Will we be able to gainfully employ the nearly one billion PwDs, globally by 2030? 


Hopefully, the answers to these questions will be an emphatic yes backed by actionable strategies that promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth by ensuring productive employment for all. 


About the Author


Richa Sahni, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Atypical Advantage, is an IT professional, a creative writer, a hospitality entrepreneur, and most importantly, a humanitarian. Her passion is to work in the development sector and contribute her bit to help create a more equitable world. Her experiences over more than two decades as a working mother have taught her that a truly fulfilling life is full of compassion, empathy, authenticity, and simplicity.


About CII IBDN


CII - For the past 125 years, The Confederation of Indian Industry has worked to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering with Industry, Government, and civil society by working closely with Government on policy issues, interfacing with thought leaders, and enhancing efficiency, competitiveness, and business opportunities for the industry. (Source - write up on CII in the book - Enabling Inclusive Make In India. Best Practices in Disability Inclusion in Manufacturing Sector)


IBDN - The India Business and Disability Network is a CII – EFI – ILO Initiative for Industry to Engage, Enable and Empower Persons with Disabilities. The objective of IBDN is to facilitate the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and workplace diversity in India by knowledge sharing, collaborative action, improving technical skills of member organisations, and facilitating and assisting companies in adopting products and services to create inclusive and accessible workplaces. (Source same as above)

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