The need to include differently-abled persons in the mainstream has never been so imminent. On World Disablity Day, PM Narendra Modi has envisioned an inclusive society where disability will not be considered a hindrance in development. Companies are also slowly waking up to hire more differently-abled people in their verticals, and they are envisioning business growth where they also play an important part. "On 'International Day of Persons with Disabilities', I salute the indomitable spirit of all persons with disabilities. They are our heroes," Modi tweeted. In another tweet, he said it was a day "to pledge our commitment towards our unwavering support to persons with disabilities & ensuring equal opportunities" for them.
What the Government is offering
The Government in its ‘Accessible India campaign’ has conceived equal opportunities. The campaign will focus on three areas – built environment for the disabled, improving public transportation, and ramping up information and communication technologies. In April 2015, the government had launched a national action plan for skill training of persons with disabilities to improve vocational training and employment opportunities for differently-abled people.
“Access will be provided for the growth and development of persons with disabilities to lead productive, safe and dignified lives,” said secretary Lov Verma. The government has lined up to improve 50 government buildings in 20 tier one cities and 25 in tier two cities. As part of its campaign, these cities will be made disabled-friendly by mid-2016. Building ramps, elevators and travelators will be installed for better accessibility.
Five major railway stations (to be taken with the most footfall) will be made disabled-friendly by July 2016. While of the remaining ones, 50% will be improved by March 2018. However, only 10% of India’s public transport will be made disabled-friendly by March 2018. Airports are already in the process of improvement and making progress for the disabled, but as per the campaign, all the 18 international airports will be made disabled friendly by July 2016, while the domestic ones (78 of them) will be completed by March 2018.
As India is also moving ahead with internet inclusion, this will not be successful if the differently-abled are not taken into account. In this aspect, 50% of government websites will be made disabled friendly by March 2018, along with 50% of all public documents. A crowdsourcing initiative and an app will also be launched.
The government also plans to train 200 sign language interpreters by March 2018. "We will work with the I&B ministry so that public programmes on TV have captions and text-to-speech options. We will also work with the HRD ministry to come up with inclusive education schemes. There is also a new university in the offing,” said Verma to a news agency.
What the corporates are offering:
To begin with, for the first time in India, radio-taxi service provider Uber has launched specialised services called the uberASSIST. As per reports, the new service will provide additional assistance to the disabled and the elderly to travel safely and also affordable. The company has tied up with iCare to provide special training to drivers to roll out this service. The drivers will be trained to assist differently-abled people while boarding or de-boarding a car apart from folding and storing their walkers, scooters, wheelchairs of transport. Delhi is soon going to get this service soon.
Many IT firms have pledged to include disabled people as part of their workforce. Certain business process management (BPM) companies have about 1 per cent disabled persons on their rolls, while others are looking at disability inclusion for the first time. Companies such as Capgemini, Ageis, MPhasis and IBM also train people with disabilities.
In a Mumbai restaurant Mirchi & Mime, the entire wait staff is specially-abled –they are expert in sign language as that’s the only way they communicate. This 80-seater bar and grill claims to be the first restaurant in India to have the entire 27 member-strong service team comprising hearing and speech-impaired individuals. There are just handful of other similar all-inclusive restaurants and cafés around India.
Growth is only possible if we have an inclusive society. And hopefully with these initiatives by the government and the companies will make a world a much better place to work.