Hiring People With Disabilities - A Viewpoint Unexplored

Imagine yourself in a situation where your caliber is misjudged, demotivated, sympathized throughout your entire life?

Yes, that is how it feels to be like someone having special needs! The one way through which any person, with or without special needs, can feel independent and not a liability is to get employed!

Disability and health issues are part of being human: we all need to accommodate differences.

With one in six of the population living with a health condition or impairment, employers are missing out on a considerable number of talented people if they don’t recruit and retain people with special needs.

Enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is one of the main concerns of the disability sector in India. The employment rate of disabled people has fallen from 42.7% in 1991 to 37.6 % in 2002. For years, companies have maintained low expectations about hiring people with disabilities. Most of these companies believed that employees with disabilities could not perform well in the workplace and that actively hiring them would drag company performance and profits down. Thankfully, over time, many employers have come to understand that these perceptions are untrue. And new research strongly suggests that the opposite — that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.

Concern of Disability Sector India-Hiring People with Disabilities

Let us keep the statistics aside for once!

As per the U.S. Office of Commerce, obliging impaired ability – like every single other characterization of diversity — strengthens a company’s bottom line. They also described these workers as loyal, reliable, committed, and high performing producers. Better yet, the diversification of the business culture promoted a more positive work environment for everyone.

business executives discussing over flip-chart - Hiring People with Disabilities

They also often bring assets like problem-solving, empathy, and resilience to the workplace because of the challenges they have faced. People with special needs are reliable employees and have an overall higher job retention rate. Many studies have shown that people with special needs take less absent days and that they are more likely to stay on the job longer than non-disabled workers. Workers with special needs will increase diversity in the workplace. Both workers with and without special needs benefit equally from a diverse work setting.

By working alongside employees with special needs, individuals who are not disabled will become more aware of how to make the workplace and other settings more inclusive and accessible to everyone. They also learn about etiquettes to interact with people with disabilities. They’ll see that people with special needs are as capable as anyone else! Employees with special needs can give your company a unique perspective. They know assistive technology and the plight that disabled people go through, which attracts more customers who also have special needs.

Rights for Persons with Disability: RPwD Act 2016

According to RPwD Act 2016 (Rights for Persons with Disability), there are 21 types of special needs defined under the Indian Law including Locomotors disability, Leprosy affected, cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, acid attack, Visual impairment (blindness, low vision), Hearing impairment (deaf, hard of hearing) and Intellectual disability.

Private Sector organizations are required to abide by the law by taking the following steps:

  1. Framing and publishing an Equal Opportunity Policy (EOP) & Register the policy with the Government authorities
  2. Modify HR policies and revamp existing hiring practices (in line with EOP)
  3. Maintain records related to employees with special needs
  4. Conform to Accessibility Norms, and
  5. Prohibit Discrimination on the basis of disability.

The Act should be seen in extremely positive light by corporates as it does not impose a quota but encourages enabling policies for equal opportunity. It allows for “reasonable” accommodation to the job profile, internal policies and infrastructure to enable hiring or people with minor or major special needs. It has very clearly defined approach and guidelines on enabling a truly inclusive workforce and therefore is a great opportunity for corporates to innovate and practice diversity in its true essence.

RPWD - Equal Opportunity-Hiring People with Disabilities

The Way Forward:

  • Reasonable accommodation with Job: Accommodation with job would be needed to slice the job to ensure the disability of the individual does not influence performance in any manner. E.g., a person who is hard of hearing can not be placed in calling job and therefore aspects of the job that may require sound based interactions may have to be made minimal.
  • Sensitization: There is a need to sensitize people managers and immediate team on how to best assimilate people who may need adjustment and support from immediate peer group. There may be a need for special training like sign language for the team members.
  • Infrastructure and IT readiness: Employees with orthopaedic, visual or hearing disability may need infrastructure support like wheelchair-friendly washrooms, handrails in common areas, special software support.

Organizations aiming to hire people with disabilities should define short term and long term strategy to a seamless growth and assimilation agenda. Having led this journey myself, it is the most fulfilling and humble experience HR and business folks can have, and the social impact it creates is immense! So, after the most sensitive hours of this pandemic when things resume towards normal, ask yourself Is India Ready To Work Again?

Consider this new point of view and let us know in the comments on what you think about it.