Published 06 October, 2020

Abling the Specially Abled (5 minutes read)

The universe is enormous enough to accommodate every living being on this planet, and also to give the means of surviving. In the eyes of universe everyone is equal, irrespective of age, caste, sex, or physical and mental disability. It’s us humans who have a hard time accepting people who are different than us, and 90% of the times its not even their fault. However, we are not here to talk about human bias exactly, but rather how people have consciously tried to throw that bias into the bin.

When we talk, hear or see specially abled people, the most common reaction is feeling sad or showing sympathy towards them. Sympathy is important; however, sympathy fails to awaken the feeling of empowering people.

That is why there are rights in our constitution which are handcrafted for specially abled people. One of them being, Right to economic and social security, including the right to employmentThe good part is that this right isn’t succumbed to just being on papers, its actually applied in real life. Employers are realising that hiring people with disabilities is not just charity, and that people with disabilities have a lot to offer, once you try to look past their disabilities.

Here’s how companies from all around the globe are breaking stereotypes related to hiring specially abled employees:

  • IBM- Even before the awareness about specially abled people begun, IBM engineered braille typewriters and similar equipment to facilitate the jobs for such people.

In the 1940s, IBM brought a blind psychologist on board to develop a program for hiring and training disabled people. The company has a 40-person team responsible for making sure all IBM products comply with government-mandated accessibility standards and aids partner companies in using the technologies in their workforces. Managers at IBM also receive training about how to make workplaces maximally accessible.

IBM is the epitome of what we mentioned above, “employers are realising that hiring people with disabilities is not just charity”.

  • Procter & Gamble- The company proudly observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month. During it, the brand took the opportunity to explain some of the things it’s doing to make workplaces more open to those who are specially ables. At one of its manufacturing plants, over 40 percent of the people employed have developmental or physical disabilities according to P&G, and there are similar inclusivity efforts in the brand’s other U.S.-based facilities. Procter & Gamble also has a corporate affinity group for people with disabilities that serves as a resource for disabled employees as well as those who care for them.
  • Aetna- Aetna is one of the largest health insurance providers in the United States. It has a standout track record of hiring specially abled workers and offering employment options that fit their abilities.  One of the ways it offers accommodation is by providing flexible break schedules for people with identified disabilities that may require more frequent periods of rest. People also recognize Aetna as a worthy provider of remote work that may be more feasible for disabled people who aren’t able to travel outside the home to pursue employment.  
  • Amazon- More than 350 associates who are deaf with speech disabilities, and are part of Amazon network across the country.

There are two sides of the coin, heads and tails, but in the case of hiring disabled people, the two sides can only be good and bad, and we can’t deny that it comes with a lot of responsibilities, which becomes the cause of challenges, below are a few challenges that organizations need to be prepared for when the hire specially abled candidates:

  • Hostility towards disabled employees- The calendar show we are living in 2020, but unfortunately some people are still lagging behind in the 20th century when it comes to being aware about disability. Due to lack of awareness many employers think that disabled candidates lack the necessary knowledge or skills to perform a job, and thus are reluctant to hire them. To rectify this attitude, the shift should be from “disability to ability”, i.e. judging a disabled person based on his skills and experience like any other candidate.
  • Restricted Job profiles- Employers generally think that disabled people can fit a certain kind of job profile. For e.g. Being a masseuse or telephone operator for a person who is visually impaired, working in a noisy work environment for a person who is hearing impaired, etc. This kind of closed thinking can lead to harmful consequences as employers may think that for people who are hearing impaired, an ideal job with a noisy environment, yet loud noises of particular vibration can further harm auditory systems.  Hence awareness and openness are very crucial.
  • Lack of proper accommodation – One of the common reasons given by employers for not hiring disabled people is that they do not have transportation and accommodation facilities for them. This problem is more relevant in small or medium sized companies where finances are limited and additional expenses are required to hire them. Deep rooted biases also restrict them to think any further in this regard. In fact, all such worries and biases regarding disabled people are ill thought as companies could actually benefit when they decide to hire them. 

With society becoming more and more socially aware and responsible, people tend to deal more and more with companies who hire specially abled employees: There are many additional benefits too:

  1. Morale and productivity of employees often increases at the work place. Additionally, employees get greater exposure to deal with different kinds of people as it helps to sensitize them towards other fellow beings.
  2. Improves the image of the company: According to a research in the US, consumers positively view companies that hire people with disability and some even change brands to support such companies.

Some companies let go of these benefits because of their prejudices for specially abled people and ultimately lose out on talent as a person with a disability might turn out to be a better performer. If organizations can accept and trust a man-made AI for performing a task why not a accept and trust a fellow being who has mind, skills, as well as emotions. This is also a social responsibility which a company has to undertake. This will help society evolve and also improve the image of the organization.

While there is a long way to go in terms of the corporate world becoming truly inclusive but we take heart in seeing some green shoots in that direction.

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