International Disability Day: Celebrating diversity

Organisations in all sectors make efforts to create a diverse culture by integrating differently-abled people in their organisation.

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Anwar Sheikh, a store assistant at Mahindra Holidays & Resorts, shares his story in a video which was made to celebrate the International Disability Day and was posted by Prashant Khullar, CHRO, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts. Sheikh who suffers from speech and hearing impairment, is a former Special Olympics champion, who played hockey and won a gold medal for India in Japan in 2005. After reading about him in the newspaper, Club Mahindra called him up and hired him.

According to Khullar, in their organisation when they hire differently abled people, they make sure that the person can grow in the organisation like any other employee and the organisation sensitises its employees to treat the differently abled people equally. No special treatment or perks are given to these people so that they feel that are treated the same as the other employees and staff in the organisation. “We sensitise our staff and employees and do not treat our differently abled employees any differently. We treat them as any other employee and put them in roles which give them learning and growth,” says Khullar.

As of now the organisation is not hiring people with visual impairments as the working of the organisation involves a lot of movement but it is working towards accommodating the visually impaired in the workforce in the future. Presently, two per cent of its workforce comprises differently abled people.

Prashant Khullar

“We sensitise our staff and employees and do not treat our differently abled employees any differently. We treat them as any other employee and put them in roles which give them learning and growth.”

Venkataramana B, group president- HR, Landmark Group, also talks about the initiative that they have been undertaking for many years now. The ‘Swabhiman’ programme hires people with hearing and speech impairments. These employees wear small badges on their uniforms, which indicate to customers at the stores that the person is differently abled.

Venkataramana shares that they have special instructors to teach sign language to other employees of their organisation. As of now, differently abled people only work as cashiers, folders and stackers in the stores. Sometimes, the cashiers have to deal with customers and they communicate with the customers through placards. “A lot of customers express the urge to get photographed with these employees and post the images on social media. Through this initiative we get a lot of mileage also,” says Venkataramana.

There are about 20,000 employees in the organisation, of which 500 are differently abled and constitute about two per cent of the workforce.

RBS India started an industrial forum known as ‘Disability Smart’ aimed at creating a culture in companies, which engages and enables differently abled people in the workforce. This includes removing the barriers to recruiting and attracting differently-abled people. It also aims at getting the right talent for organisations, development and collaborating with peer companies to enhance hiring of differently-abled people.

Venkataramana B

“A lot of customers express the urge to get photographed with these employees and post the images on social media. Through this initiative we get a lot of mileage also.”

 

As explained by Andrea daCosta, director, programme management, RBS India and lead, diversity and inclusion- Disability Smart shares that the organisation is making constant efforts to make technology accessible to its differently-abled employees. The organisation has also started a programme ‘open to everybody’, where employees can voluntarily opt to learn sign language to communicate with employees, who have hearing and speech impairments. The organisation believes in a no segregation policy, wherein it ensures that differently-abled people in their workforce are not given any special treatment so they do not feel any different from other employees. According to daCosta, all line managers are sensitised to be careful while handling differentl-abled employees who work at all levels of the organisation.

RBS aims to co-create an environment and culture where these people can fit in. When there is an ongoing project, specific guidelines are issued to be followed so that differently-abled people can be accommodated in the project, for instance, making sure that there is a screen reader during a presentation.

Andrea daCosta

“They work at all levels and any role from making high-value payments to the customers, dealing with trade documents, research and data analytics, product and portfolio management to leading a team of 50 members.”

daCosta also shares that the company trains these employees to adapt to technology so that they can work in the organisation without any problems.

In RBS India, differently-abled people can be seen at every level of the organisation, even in leadership roles. “They work at all levels and any role from making high-value payments to the customers, dealing with trade documents, research and data analytics, product and portfolio management to leading a team of 50 members,” says daCosta.

“We do not take the numbers approach in this case; we give equal opportunity to everyone whether differently abled or not. We believe in treating them equally, just as any other employee in the organisation, and giving them equal opportunities.”

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