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What it takes to include talent with disabilities, into the workforce

ET Spotlight
Ask around. Organisations, not just in India but globally, say they are committed to diversity and inclusion. But for the majority, diversity efforts do not include employing differently-abled people. That’s leaving out 15% or 1.3 billion people in the world who have a disability!

This needs to change. Not just because companies need to commit to inclusive hiring, but also because it makes a whole lot of business sense for them to do so. According to a 2018 whitepaper on accessibility published by Accenture, companies which have hired candidates with disabilities have seen 28 per cent higher revenue and two times higher net income. Organisations which have removed barriers for those with disabilities have also reduced attrition, lowered recruiting costs and achieved far better customer outreach.

Here are 3 critical changes organisations must initiate for inclusive hiring of talent with disabilities.

Aligning access for all
Availability of accessible spaces and services is an important feature of hiring people with disabilities. Business parks, office premises and every area within the workspace should be made accessible. Many companies across the globe are taking initiatives to make this happen. For example, Brookfield Properties is undertaking infrastructure upgrades across all its office parks in India to make them universally accessible and ensure universal accessibility guidelines are followed thoroughly. Companies which don’t have accessible spaces can do so easily with retrofitting and infrastructure upgrades. Accenture India and Capgemini India are redesigning busy areas in their offices, such as cafeterias, for barrier-free movement. Candor TechSpace is making sure that all their business parks and buildings are universally accessible and that the food courts have Braille writing features in their F&B menus and vending machines, making the overall workplace experience seamless for professionals with disabilities.

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Widening hiring practices
Companies must commit to hiring and supporting differently-abled people in the workplace and for this, they need to evaluate all stages of talent management, from recruiting and benefits to retention and advancement. That’s what ‘The Valuable 500’, a global movement launched at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in January this year, aims to accomplish -- to get business leaders to commit to making disability inclusion a boardroom agenda.

Companies like Accenture, Allegis, Candor TechSpace, Tata Steel, MakeMyTrip, L’Oreal, etc. are not only hiring and skilling persons with disabilities, they are also positively impacting employees’ experience through a host of programs and initiatives.

Creating an inclusive culture
True commitment to inclusivity does not end with hiring talent with disabilities. It must go beyond. An organisation’s culture should be aligned to make sure people with disabilities do not feel like outliers. Messaging from senior leadership, awareness efforts within the organisation, no-tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination, diversity champions, disability-specific training and development, etc. are all important aspects of inclusiveness. Several organisations partner with specialised NGOs and agencies to enable inclusive cultures. Enable India is one such NGO working towards economic independence and dignity of people with disability and partners with corporates to make workplaces more inclusive.

The road ahead
The good news is that with the efforts of Enable India and CII-India Business Disability Network (IBDN), several companies like Brookfield Properties, Mahindra Group, Tata Steel, Wipro, Dr Reddy’s Labs, Mphasis, ANZ Bank, IBM, Sansera, Schindler Lifts, etc. have already pledged to prioritise inclusive hiring.

December 3rd, the International Day for Persons with Disabilities is round the corner and right before that, on 29th November, 50 CEOs and 100 professionals will take a pledge at “ India Inc. | Valuable 500 – Drive Value through Disability Inclusion” -- a special event organised by Brookfield Properties, IBDN and Enable India (The Valuable 500 India Partner) in New Delhi -- committing to more inclusive workplaces. The time to put disability inclusion on the business leadership agenda is NOW.

Disclaimer: This article is an ET Spotlight partnership initiative with Brookfield Properties.

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