Can India lead the way in Disability Inclusion?

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By Shanti Raghavan

Vijay comes from a small village in Mysore district and is a team leader of 30 people at Vindhya e-Infomedia. He is a husband and a proud father. Vijay types on the computer using his legs. All activities which we usually do with our hands are done by Vijay using his legs. Why? You guessed it. He has no hands. There are persons with disability like Vijay working at large or small companies or who are self-employed. They pay their taxes, take care of their family and are part of general society. They remind us that what makes India great is the ability of its people to overcome challenges such as disability, poverty and discrimination. There are many more persons with a disability who are left out of the workforce. How do we bridge the gap? The answer lies in seeing the success factors which contributed to Vijay’s current status.

Vijay received encouragement from his parents to study and travel. A wise teacher made him use his legs as an alternate solution. Vijay himself is very personable and had many friends and was very persevering. Most importantly, when he was looking for a job, the founder Pavithra from Vindhya Info media “saw” Vijay. She had conversations and got comfortable with Vijay. She took the time to find out more about him, his dreams and what he will be able to contribute. She assessed him, was a curious learners to know what solutions they can provide to enable Vijay to get the best out of him. She gave him feedback at the right times and promoted his potential.

She is among the growing breed of includable leaders who not only are able to include persons with disabilities and are able to build high performance teams and deliver more. Such leaders are also realizing that customers with disabilities are an 8 trillion dollar market and are focusing on offerings for customers with a disability. Microsoft’s Ease of Access and Apps such as Seeing AI are sought after by customers with disability which enables them to be productive employees and values members of society. Such customers with disability will have a loyalty which cannot be “bought or swayed”.

Visionary Leaders such as Tata Steel realized that as part of their CSR, they must include disability in their community development. The TATA Sabal centre in Naomundi serves persons with disability including tribal and many other marginalized families across Jharkhand.

This is the India we all would aspire to live in where our employees, customers, community feel valued. Where the focus is on the strengths of each individual and where solutions is the game changer! Do we have many such companies and visionary leaders? The answer is yes and no.

Today, we are at a tipping point where we have enough visionary leaders who have shown the way individually. But they need to step forward now and form a cohesive group to socialize and influence the other CEOs and leaders to start with disability inclusion.

(The columnist is Founder, Managing Trustee, Ashoka Fellow- Enable India. Views expressed are the author’s own.)

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