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Disability and Employment: A reality check

There is something quite right with the world where people of different abilities can meet on equal grounds, hold a job, have entitlement to income and survive independently. But isn’t this thought completely Utopian in Indian Society? When it comes to disability and employment the big questions are, will any retail management here would employ a differently abled person at the most critical customer interaction points? Say a cash till? How many of us have the patience and good will to deal with a slower service provider or how many employers would be ready to take that chance?

It is quite reassuring to see sixty-two ‘disability-friendly’ organizations listed on the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) website. Yet, a 1999 survey on the top 100 Indian companies revealed that 0.28% of disabled find employment in the private sector and an even lower 0.05% in the multinationals.

Despite The Persons with Disability Act (1995) mandating a 3% reservation in governmental jobs, various NCPEDP incentives and awards, the reality of underemployment is grim. The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s 2011 report ‘Persons with Disability and The India Labour Market: Challenges and Opportunities’ states that 73.6% of the disabled in India are still outside the labour force. Of these, those with mental disability, disabled women and those in rural areas are the worst neglected. This can’t be good for any economy and we can’t align this with the image of democracy and diversity we boast of. More than policies and incentives, it is common attitude which needs to change.

Mere claims of inclusivity aren’t enough; more patience, grace and courtesy in our daily interactions is the immediate need.