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‘PwD do not seek charity but acceptance’ – Says Dr. Ajay Kela to Economic Times

D Ngmatuling is a shift manager at one of Costa Coffee’s outlets in Bengaluru Nagma, as he is called, has a hearing and speaking disability But that hasn’t deterred him from moving up from a customer sales associate to a barista mae stro and then to the role of shift manager. What’s more, he is so talented a barista that many cus tomers specifically ask for coffee made by Nagma.

Nagma and many more like him, who are differently-abled and battle disability , are no lon ger relegated to the quiet corners in the corporate setup.

In fact, more and more differ ently-abled persons are part of the mainstream workforce in retail, IT, IT-enabled and services industries.

Accenture started the Jobability portal in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD), the latter being an industry interface between Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and prospective employers. “Currently , there is no online job portal exclusively for PwD, which makes ours a unique platform in India. It is also the need of the hour,“ said Parag Pande, MD, human resources.

Costa Coffee first employed the hearing impaired in 2007.Currently, around 11% of its store employees are differentlyabled and its Green Park store is run almost entirely by them.Says Ashish Chanana, chief operating officer: “Traditionally , many organisations which demand a high level of customer interface had reservations about hiring people with disabilities. But, such opportunities allow them to be in a cus tomer-facing function, thereby raising their confidence.“

Venkataramana B, president, group HR , Landmark Group, which includes PwD in their workforce through their Swabhimaan programme, says, “It is necessary to have a training plan with a good mix of classroom and on-the-job training. We’ve noticed that their ability to grasp concepts through observation is far superior and we’ve been able to train these employees better through dummy transactions.“

Concept managers at the stores that have hearing-impaired employees are able to communicate to them through a sign language.

Aniruddha Banerjee, senior director HR at VMware, points out that thought and design was incorporated to help their differently-abled team members in their new Bengaluru facility.“We also have preferential parking closer to elevators, as well as preferential seating to help them with ingress and egress,“ he said.

Dr Ajay Kela, president and CEO, Wadhwani Foundation, believes it makes business sense to employ the educated disabled in corporate jobs, “PwDs are not seeking charity but acceptance into corporate India. Educated PwDs have an enormous `can-do’ attitude along with higher productivity and lower attrition.”

The Economic Times