Inclusivity in corporate culture: Enabling the differently-abled
By Choudhary Sandeep
As per Census 2011, India is home to 2.68 crore people with disability, which makes it 2.21 per cent of the total 121 crore population.
While differently-abled people battle multiple challenges with regard to people’s attitudes, acceptance and inclusion, lack of access to good quality education and employment keep many from being financially independent.
However, of late, various corporate firms have come forward to champion the cause of people with disabilities through their CSR activities. The Bridge India profiles some such notable companies, which are not only enabling the differently-abled but are also becoming an inspiration for other corporate firms to emulate them and become a harbinger of change.
Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL)
A public sector undertaking (PSU) under the administrative control of the Shipping Ministry, the Cochin Shipyard Ltd’s CSR initiatives include interventions in healthcare, environment, Swachh Bharat, education, providing aid during natural disasters and providing employment to handicapped.
As part of its efforts to bring a change in the lives of the differently-abled, CSL has been taking a number of steps from time to time.
“The Cochin Shipyard has taken up a project to support 50 physically challenged poor people, identified by the Social Justice Department, at Thrissur in Kerala. It has provided them electric tri-cycle manufactured by the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation. These tri-cycles, fitted with water proof boxes with lock provided, are expected to bring about livelihood development,” MD Verghese, Head-CSR of CSL, said.
“The CSL has also agreed to support NGOs — Ashwas Vocational Training for Mentally Challenged at Kanjirappally and Sevaniketan Thiruhridaya Nivas School at Changanacherry — to set up a Sensory Therapy centre for children with special needs in Kerala,” Verghese, who is also the Chief General Manager (Industrial Relations and Administration), added.
Stress upon Skill development
The Microsoft believes that advancements in technology can be a force multiplier in unlocking solutions for some of the biggest challenges being faced by the society. It was this belief that led Microsoft to launch a USD 25 million AI (artificial intelligence) project to benefit one billion-plus people with disabilities around the world.
The company believes that AI can be a game changer for people with disabilities. “We are already witnessing this as people with disabilities expand their use of computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy. At Microsoft, we have been putting to work stronger solutions such as real-time speech-to-text transcription, visual recognition services and predictive text functionality. AI advances like these offer enormous potential by enabling people with vision, hearing, cognitive, learning, mobility disabilities and mental health conditions do more in three specific scenarios: employment, modern life and human connection,” the company said.
Globally, only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to assistive technologies and products. By making AI solutions more widely available, Microsoft believes, technology can have a broad impact on this important community.
In a letter to shareholders, customers, partners and employees earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out that the company’s products and services are accessible to meet the needs of all customers, including over 1 billion people with disabilities around the world.
“We have invested in accessibility of both Office 365 and Windows 10, setting a new bar of accessibility for blind and low vision users, including our new Eye Control feature in Windows 10 in beta for people with ALS, and Seeing AI, a free US app on iOS for the blind which narrates the world around you,” Nadella wrote.
Aditya Birla Group
A huge business conglomerate, Aditya Birla Group’s CSR activities are not limited to just one sector. The CSR activities of the group focus on the all-round development of the communities around its plants located mostly in distant rural areas and tribal belts. The main focus areas of the group are healthcare, education, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and espousing social causes.
As part of its CSR activities, the group has undertaken a number of initiatives. Some of them which are providing financial support for cochlear implant surgery for 50 deaf and mute children in the age group of 0-5 years, distributing artificial limbs to over 5,000 physically challenged persons in Karnataka and Lucknow to make them self-reliant.
Besides, it has collaborated with the Vision Foundation of India to provide sight to visually-impaired. Under this collaboration, about 6,600 nearly blind people have been cured.
Jindal Saw Ltd
The Jindal Saw as part of its CSR initiative has set up Svayam, which works towards making public infrastructure like transportation modes, tourism and heritage sites, education and employment accessible to those living with disability or reduced mobility.
Founded in 2000, Svayam has emerged as one of India’s leading organisation dedicated towards the cause of differently-abled and bringing all stakeholders on a single platform to create a barrier-free and inclusive world.
The organisation also collaborates with different government departments and other corporate houses to incorporate user-friendly infrastructure and services in their working environment for the differently-abled.
The way forward
Every sector of the society needs to join hands to work towards social inclusiveness of the differently-abled. While the corporate sector is doing its bit, the general public should also change their perception towards divyangs, which can only bring an actual change in the society.
THE UNSUNG HEROES
” I salute the indomitable spirit of all persons with disabilities. They are our heroes,” tweeted PM Narendra Modi on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. As the country endeavors towards an inclusive society where differently-abled persons are brought into the mainstream. The Bridge India celebrates the perspective, grit and invincible approach of these special souls who defied all odds and turned their lives into a message to the society. They not only turned their life into a celebration but are making a remarkable contribution towards making the world a much better place to work and live in. Ritesh Tomar, Ira Singhal and Sonu Bhola share their remarkable journey with team The Bridge India.