Article: Embracing disability: Fostering workplace inclusion in India


Embracing disability: Fostering workplace inclusion in India

Including persons with disabilities in the workforce is essential for creating inclusive workplaces. However, this section faces challenges, underscoring the necessity to destigmatise disability in the workplace.
Embracing disability: Fostering workplace inclusion in India

In recent years, India's corporate hiring landscape has evolved, with a notable shift towards inclusion, diversifying the talent pool to include women, LGBTQIA+, and persons with disabilities. However, the 26 per cent increase in diversity hiring in 2023, according to Foundit, brings to light the long journey ahead, especially for the 1.3 crore employable people with disabilities in India, of whom, only a quarter are currently employed.

Creating workplaces that truly embrace diversity is more than a checkbox; it is about fostering innovation and collaboration. In a country where 5–8 percent of the population faces disability challenges, inclusion is not just a social responsibility but a strategic necessity for a progressive society.

The pressing need for heightened inclusivity arises since Persons with Disabilities often face barriers beyond physical limitations, including restricted access to education, healthcare, and sustainable livelihoods. Disability-inclusive workplaces in India, therefore, demand holistic modifications, including technological advancements, policy considerations, and community sensitisation.

It is critical to appreciate that people with disabilities constitute a significant market segment with specific needs and preferences. By catering to this market, businesses can tap into a new consumer base, leading to increased sales and economic growth. A study by the Return on Disability Group estimates that the global disability market represents a $8 trillion opportunity.

Technology as a change catalyst

The transformative power of technology emerges as a critical enabler in building inclusive workplaces in India, bridging yawning gaps for individuals with disabilities. Inclusive development leverages technology to create adaptive and assistive solutions, ensuring that no potential contributor is overlooked. Mobilising support through sensitisation, training, and employment opportunities enables persons with disabilities to thrive economically and provides them with suitable livelihood opportunities.

One aspect of this experience involves establishing a digital job marketplace, where user-friendly technology platforms have the potential to connect talented individuals with disabilities and employers committed to inclusivity, thereby facilitating hiring and recruitment efforts.

Also read: 'More than a gesture': What employing persons with disabilities actually entails

Destigmatising disability within workplaces 

The urgency for comprehensive and supportive workplace environments is evident as a 2011 Canadian survey showed that 88 percent of employees with invisible disabilities choose not to disclose their conditions at work to avoid stigma and discrimination. Almost a decade later, another survey conducted by Accenture in 2020 where 5000 individuals were studied globally, also showed that 76 percent of employees who hid their disabilities in workplaces cited fear as the main reason for the non-disclosures. These included uncertainties in the form of limited growth opportunities or the fear of being forced to take on unfulfilling roles.

Corporate efforts aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals can help address this persistent challenge. Workplaces should work proactively towards developing a culture where the employees feel safe confiding in their employers. It is germane to build and implement a mental health and well-being policy, so employees have easy access to support.

Way forward 

As India faces macroeconomic challenges, widespread and equitable implementation of inclusive hiring practices becomes crucial. This strategic approach not only enhances organisational resilience but also positions companies to navigate the complexities of the ever-changing economic environment, contributing to a more equitable and socially responsible business ecosystem in India.

Unambiguously, the imperative of disability-inclusive workplaces and inclusive development in India is integral to the country's progress. Embracing diversity is not just a moral obligation but a strategic advantage that can lead India towards a more resilient, harmonious, and inclusive future. This transformative journey requires a thorough re-evaluation of existing practices, emphasising a commitment to recognising individuals with disabilities for their unique abilities and contributions to society.

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Topics: Diversity, #Culture, #Work Culture

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