'Inclusion is a process which will make each person feel valued and accepted for who they are' (WION)
Shanti Raghavan, founder EnAble India, is working to transforming attitudes towards employing the disabled. Raghavan has been working to further the cause of economic independence and dignity of the disabled for more than nine years. Till December 2016, she has helped more than 4,500 differently-abled people with their livelihoods, while securing jobs for about 10,000.
Q. What prompted you to help the differently-abled?
A. The journey started after my husband, Dipesh, and I experienced disability at close quarters with my brother, Hari, who started growing blind at the age of 15 due to a degenerative eye condition. We learned a lot while rehabilitating him. In the process, we decided to help others, ultimately coming up with EnAble India. Today, my brother is a manager at IT major Dell and is doing very well.
Q. What are the systemic flaws preventing employment opportunities for the disabled in India?
A: The primary reason would be the lack of knowledge management. There are many non-governmental bodies doing good work. But they have not documented their experiences with finding solutions which can then be replicated elsewhere. There is also a lack of human capital and processes. Our effort as an organisation is to fill these gaps.
Q. How does your organisation help the disabled?
A. Before Enable India started in livelihoods, most with disabilities were getting jobs through reservations (in the public sector). We opened up the private sector and made companies understand the business value in hiring persons with severe sensory disabilities. We impact livelihoods across 11 disabilities, including visually impaired, physically disabled, autism spectrum disorder, mental illness, learning disability, audio-visual impairment.
The disabled do not need sympathy - they need a supportive environment to grow and fulfil their needs, potential and dreams. (WION)
Q. How is the training done?
A. We emphasise on encouraging candidates to develop an attitude to work. This is followed by making candidates aware of the skills necessary to succeed in any job role such as working with quality. Next is facilitating candidates to increase knowledge about their disability so that they speak about it using positive language and learn about using tools to work at par with the non-disabled. And finally, we strengthen workplace readiness – enabling candidates to get ready for the job that matches their educational qualification and skills.
Q. What are the pros and cons of being a social entrepreneur?
A. I see only pros. I have to work on my self-development and my values constantly to ensure that the vision is delivered. Innovation is a must. As we solve pieces of the puzzle, you realise how much more you need to do. I have been able to evolve to higher degrees of focus and energy by cutting out negativity, ego, judgment and more. There are no cons because this is what I want to do and would not have it any other way.
Q. What are some challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them?
A. Challenges vary from demand creation to opening up of jobs, developing the skills of candidates to barriers in environment to those with disability. We have come up with an innovative employability training, a division for demand creation, different workplace solutions to open up jobs which hitherto did not exist for the disabled.
Q. What keeps you motivated?
A. Every occasion when we have felt bereft of answers or have lost steam, we have seen the power of intent. I also draw inspiration from every person I meet. I wonder about how different people work in tough sectors with low income, how homemakers manage without any recognition, marginalised women in construction work to house work, transgenders and much more.
Q. How can a common man contribute in the initiative?
A. We come across disabilities in our day-to-day lives in the form of accidents, illnesses and stress factors. If we build something in our sphere of influence keeping these disabilities in mind, a world will be created to benefit them. People will see inclusion as a way of life. Inclusion is a process which will make each person feel valued and accepted for who they are.