To all appearances, Jeeva is no different from her co-workers. That is because she has a disability that is not obvious. Hearing-impaired, Jeeva has been working at the assembling unit of Texmo Industries in Erode for the last nine months.
There are 30 others with various disabilities working at this company which manufactures agricultural pumps.
Jeeva has distinguished herself in her role. That’s not surprising. According to a study, speech-and-hearing-impaired people do well in manufacturing industries.
It says that in the manufacturing sector, the speech-and-hearing-impaired are found to be less distracted by the sound of equipment and also report less fatigue at the end of the job.
In so many other areas of employment, people with disabilities (PwDs) have proved to be an asset. Despite their great track record, PwDs find themselves on the margins of the job market.
Though seven to eight per cent of the population in India have locomotive, vision, hearing or other types of disabilities, PwDs constitute only a little more than one per cent of the workforce, says this study. Titled ‘Road to Inclusion — Integrating PwDs in organisations’, this study has been brought out by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in association with Youth4Jobs and the Skill Council for Persons With Disability (SCPwD) in 2015.
With rural areas accounting for a higher percentage of the disabled population, as per Census 2011, new initiatives have to be introduced to bring them into the job market.
Experts say many companies in Tier-I cities are now more open to hiring PwDs, but a lot more still needs to be done.
Interestingly, in these cities, smaller companies, which offer their services to big corporations, seem to be rolling out the red carpet to PwDs, says Revathy Rugmini, regional representative, Leonard Cheshire Disability — Asia, an NGO working for inclusive development and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
“Many rural BPOs are also recruiting PwDs,” she says.
Companies that started inclusive programmes as part of their corporate social responsibility have made recruitment of PwDs integral to their hiring policy.
According to Meera Shenoy, founder, Youth4Jobs, multinational companies, especially those in the IT sector, have always had an inclusion policy.
“Now, many smaller companies are exploring the option,” she says.
Retail, ITeS, hospitality, food, banking and educational institutions are some sectors that are increasingly recruiting PwDs as they find it to be win-win situation.
“Companies might need to modify their job roles, but it is worth the effort and investment,” says Shenoy whose company conducts sensitisation programmes for companies at various levels.
Many studies suggests that recruiting PwDs are as good as bringing regular employees on board. These companies have seen higher customer satisfaction, lesser attrition rate, a more sensitised organisational culture and improved brand image for the enterprise.
Gitanjali Gems started recruiting PwDs in 2009-10 and today, 12 per cent of its workforce comprises PwDs. Here, attrition rate among PwDs is much lower than the rate among non-disabled staff, says the report published by The Boston Consulting Group.
Over 60 per cent of the workforce at Vidhya E-Infomedia comprises PwDs. What has this done for the organisation? It has been able to retain much of its customer base for the last 10 years. Radnik Exports started its inclusion journey when a blind person applied for a job. Today, PwDs make up over 8 per cent of its workforce.
Creating an inclusive culture
To ensure PwDs are engaged, concerted efforts, involving companies, government, NGOs, individuals, friends and families, are required. In all successful inclusion programmes one can see the involvement of the top management.
“Inclusive hiring not only improves employee morale, but also impacts the bottom line as people prefer to do business with companies that look out for the disabled,” says Chryslynn D’Costa, who heads diversity and inclusion at Serein Inc.