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CSR: Inclusive workplaces for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Due to the concerted efforts of academics and disability activists alike, the dialogue around disability has moved far away from theories of ableism and segregation. Decades of work to change attitudes and approaches towards PwDs (persons with disabilities) has brought the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion to the forefront of the disability discourse.
In the last decade, India has made significant headway in protecting disability rights. It passed a law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) in 2016 to uphold its commitments under the UNCRPD. The Government of India launched the ‘Accessible India Campaign’ in 2015 and even directed the Indian Railways (India’s largest public-sector employer) to conduct a recruitment drive for PwDs, through which it hired 4,000 PwDs.
And yet, since PwDs are not a homogenous group – persons with certain kinds of disabilities continue to experience greater marginalization than others. Growing momentum around disability rights gives us an opportunity to improve outcomes for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (PwIDDs) and to empower them.

RPwD Act, 2016

This critical legislation replaces the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act, 1995 and represents a paradigm shift in the nation’s attitude towards disability. It recognizes 21 categories of disabilities, as compared to the seven categories previously identified under law. It also takes a holistic approach to disability rights and recognizes social, economic and political rights and freedoms of PwDs, in line with the UNCRPD. Legally, the Act provides 1% reservation for the intellectually disabled in government jobs.

Inclusion of disability in the SDGs

Disability is an integral part of the Global Sustainable Development Agenda, which refers to PwDs in the goals on education, employment, reducing inequalities and inclusive cities. It is important to capitalize on this international momentum towards inclusion and advocate for disability rights.
If a majority of corporates establish inclusive workspaces with the requisite infrastructure and identify specific job opportunities for PwIDDs (repeatable and consistent tasks such as data entry and packaging are usually suitable), it will help them become economically independent and successful members of their community.

How Bank of America does it

A report by Dasra titled ‘Count Me In’ lays out how Bank of America (BoA) does it. BoA’s US-based support services team has been providing meaningful employment to persons with intellectual disabilities for over 25 years. It acts as an in-house marketing and fulfillment (i.e. packaging, printing and data entry) operation that is aligned closely with BoA’s core business functions. The team’s competencies lie in:
(i) fulfillment
(ii) graphic arts/printing; and
(iii) inventory management services.
It currently comprises 300 individuals with intellectual disability who perform consistent, repeatable and operational tasks that are critical to BoA’s operations. BoA has adopted the following actions to ensure the sustainability of the support services team:
Recruitment and assistance: BoA partners with local agencies that help hire suitable candidates, provide job support after recruitment, and address all concerns during the term of employment.
Competitive costs: The support services team’s overheads are absorbed at the corporate level, and only direct supply costs are charged to customers. This not only enables customers to save money by utilizing support services but also ensures that the team gets a high volume and variety of work.
Human Resources support: A committed employee relations team liaises with the support services team to address any challenges experienced by the employees.

In conclusion

In order to bridge the disparity in employment rates between individuals with and without IDD in India, we need to actively address the difficulties that PwIDDs experience in being gainfully employed. It is imperative that the government and committed corporates partner with non-profit organizations to co-create suitable job opportunities for PwIDDs.
Such opportunities can help them become economically self-sufficient and live lives of equity, dignity and respect. While non-profit organizations can provide the technical skills required to support PwIDDs in the workplace, corporates and state agencies can use their finances and influence to create more inclusive job opportunities for PwIDDs.
Providing employment opportunities to PwIDDs is not only a civil rights issue but has proven to be a rewarding strategy for companies as well. The Institute for Corporate Productivity surveyed over 230 organizations that employ PwIDDs and found that this decision had a positive impact that led to improved culture, attracted better talent and increased customer satisfaction that translated into larger profits.

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The CSR Journal Team