Gauging economic viability to hire people with special needs

Presently organisations are embracing people with disability in an accessible and inclusive way is not just the ethical thing to do, but makes good business sense too.


Twenty-five year old Mallika Sharma, by birth, is deaf. She is working in a UK based company for the past three years and it made her realise that her disability is a strength that makes the company better.

Presently organisations are embracing people with disability in an accessible and inclusive way is not just the ethical thing to do, but makes good business sense too. Hiring disabled workers offers a number of important financial, legal, public relations and productivity advantages for a business while helping to avoid potentially harmful events such as lawsuits. It boosts their competitive edge in the market. Employing PwDs (people with disabilities) are a not only low cost but also positively impact the workplace in many ways. YV Verma, former COO of LG India says “PwDs are more focussed, productive and efficient. Also, they are not involved in influencing people negatively neither create bureaucratic environment”

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease Services says that “physically challenged people are devoted to their job. Their absenteeism rates are low and they stay for long tenures. Such employees are also believed to be loyal, reliable, and hardworking.  “An additional benefit of hiring people with disabilities is the diversification of work settings, which leads to a positive, inclusive environment."

Only 9.8 million people are employed out of 2 crores 68 lakhs disabled people in India (according to census 2011). Leaving persons with disabilities out of economy translates into a loss of about 5-7 percent of GDP. How vital disabled people are for the economy! People with disabilities represent an overlooked and multibillion-dollar market segment with an untapped resource of talents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi named “divyaang” – which translates to the divine body – for persons with disability, instead of the usual “viklaang”, or handicapped. Each person has unique skills, talent and strengths to contribute, and there should be no barrier to sharing talent due to a disability – whether hidden or visible.

Globally, companies such as Microsoft, KFC, hotel chain Lemon Tree are actively working to incorporate people with disabilities in both its customer base and workforce. For instance: Since 2007, Lemon Tree Hotels recruit people with Down Syndrome and hearing and speech impediments. Multinational companies are also investing in creating the infrastructure to hire disables in India. Sample this: With over 350 KFC outlets in India, 20 outlets are managed by people with disabilities, with employing more than 400 people. The company started the KFC Academy to develop skills which increase employability not only in KFC but across all retail food chains. The fully sponsored 11-week training program teaches young, hearing-impaired differently abled English, Critical Skills, realistic job preview, food safety, industry familiarisation, life skills and grooming.  Delhi based Cafe Echoes, has also employed hearing- and speech impaired. Every table has a switch to call waiters armed with a notepad and pen for guests to put down what they need. The cafe chain has three outlets, two in Delhi and one in Bengaluru, with 80 staff members of whom 20 are PwDs (people with disabilities). In India, IBM has a special policy of hiring people with disabilities in departments such as project management, Programming, Consulting, Operations, Quality Assurance and Human Resources. Café Coffee Day hire speech-impaired differently to brewing coffees behind the counter. They are given the tag of the ‘Silent Brewmasters’. They have heightened the sense of smell and vision and hence ensure the most visually appealing presentation of coffees. Mahindra Holidays is another organisation that employs about 60 differently-abled individuals who are work across resorts as front-office operators, spa therapists, electricians and plumbers, gardeners, kitchen staff and housekeeping staff.

These successful organisations recognise the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. With industrious efforts from the Government like Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act on making the disabled more employable, organisations are seeing remarkable business impact in getting them into the workforce. With further hope for improvement, one can say, baby steps yet, but in the right direction.


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