By M Ahmad
In recent decades, the economies have undergone massive and continuing changes around the globe. Technological innovation, globalization and similar trends have improved the quality and standard of living for millions of people and there is a growing recognition and acknowledgement of the rights of the people with disabilities. There are several legislative provisions that provide protection of rights and equal opportunities for people with disabilities but there is a wide gap between the employment rate of people with and without disabilities in the country. The unemployment rate cannot be achieved without addressing the employment issues of people with disabilities, who constitute about 5-6% of the population. The average employment rate of people with disabilities is 0.28 percent in the private sector and 0.54 percent in the public sector. A recent WHO report showed that 87 percent of persons with disabilities in India worked in the informal sector. People with disabilities constitute 2.2% of the country’s total population, translating to 2.6 crore people, just 15% of India’s disabled are employed in regular jobs
People with disabilities even face difficulties in obtaining start-up capital for their businesses. Microfinance institutions are reluctant to work with people with disabilities, as they perceive them as clients with a high risk of not paying back a loan. On the other hand, youngsters with disabilities, especially those in rural areas, may lack access to appropriate information that would enable them to make use of mainstream services or join savings groups.
The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) reported that the average percentage of employment of persons with disabilities in India is 0.54% in the public sector, 0.28% in the private sector, and 0.05% in multinational companies
There is a silver lining also. Some initiatives in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR) focus on supporting PwDs. A handful Indian Corporations including the Tata group and the ITC and multinational corporations such as IBM and Kentucky Fried Chicken are training and hiring PwDs for various job roles.
Another encouraging example is Mirakle Couriers. This for-profit company is based in Mumbai and trains and employs only hearing and speech impaired persons in its messenger services. Revive Enterprises in Mumbai similarly employs only visually impaired persons, both as frontline and backend staff.
But all examples mentioned here do not account for even one pe cent of India’s persons with disabilities. The human-resource departments of most corporations have not been convinced of employing PwDs yet. They neither invest in training nor modifying workplaces in a way that would suit persons with special needs, even though the Government has approved the Scheme of providing incentives to the employers in the expanding private sector, to promote employment of persons with disabilities.
It would require proactive initiative on the part of all concerned to ensure that disability is included in the employment programmes of the Government and the private sector. Providing gainful employment and allowing disabled people to be financially independent is commendable in any organization. These opportunities help the challenged people to be productive members of the society and the organization. It instils in them a sense of self-worth and confidence which might open the doors to creativity and innovation that will benefit the organization.
“Unemployment and underemployment for people with disabilities remain incredibly high, and that is a call to action for all of us. Our charge is to seek out and find creative solutions to these old challenges.The productivity and talent that people with disabilities can contribute is only limited by our own perceptions of what is possible.”
The writer isPrincipal (I/C), Abhedananda Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Rambagh, Srinagar. email: [email protected])