“Teja has to be independent and accountable like others. No job is menial,” Rekha says. “I hadn’t taught my son to ask his employer for his paycheck; he did it on his own on the first of the month after he joined work,” she says, adding that Teja is amply supported by his employer with lesser working hours.
In the last few years, food and beverages, alongside hospitality, IT, banking and BPO industrieshave come forward to recruit persons with intellectual disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy. Karthik Ekambaram, vice president, diversity and inclusion consulting, AVTAR Group, points out that Chennai is proactive, as the awareness is greater.
“Many companies are realising that these people, too, can add value to their work. For creating a congenial workplace for them, awareness about their cognitive strengths, employability skills, and jobs where they can do well is required.”
He adds that apart from policy, it becomes crucial to enhance accessibility for the disabled in these organisations they are employed in.
“The most important part is the mindset and the strong culture of inclusion,” he adds. Many early intervention centres like V-Excel, The Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu, We CAN, etc. have integrated vocational centres that train those with intellectual disabilities in basket weaving, and making candles, lamps, cleaning and detergent solutions, etc. These centres help them develop skills that could help them be self-employed or ready for employment.
At The Savera, a city-based star hotel, five persons with intellectual disabilities, in the age group between 18 and 30 years, are employed. Radhish Kumar, the hotel’s human resource head, says, “We have been consciously trying to integrate people with intellectual disabilities in our workforce.
Now we have five of them from V Excel Educational Trust, who are working with us. They receive a stipend between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000, and are employed for room service, data entry and at the bakery as well.”
A trained staff, who understands their needs, oversees the work of the five, and a teacher from V-Excel regularly visits them to note their progress.
“We have created a fund for Rs 50,000 for this purpose. Just recently, I got a call from another centre that wants to send people trained in housekeeping,” adds Kumar. Vasudha Prakash, founder director, V-Excel, says that such inclusion is a huge boost for parents.
“When they come to us during the early years, they request us to enable their child to have a purposeful life as the rest. Vocational training in centres like ours helps them find their feet,” she says.