Bangalore firms turning disabled-friendly

By Maitreyee Boruah, IANS,

Bangalore : Nisha P., 22, brews coffee at a popular coffee outlet here. Murali C., 28, works as systems operation lead specialist in an IT company in this tech hub. Not a big deal unless one realises Nisha is hearing impaired and Murali, visually challenged.

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They also reflect a bigger trend: that Bangalore, often referred to as India’s own Silicon Valley, has begun employing an increasing number of physically challenged people, not out of charity, but on account of their talent.

“Of late, Bangalore’s private firms, including IT companies, are showing considerable amount of interest in training and recruiting persons with disabilities,” said M. Srinivas, chief executive of the Karnataka chapter of National Association for the Blind.

“However, one thing has to be kept in mind — companies don’t recruit disabled people out of sympathy, but because they are efficient,” Srinivas told IANS.

The association’s Karnataka chapter became the first organisation in the country to provide computer training programmes for the visually challenged in 2000.

Karnataka is home to one million disabled people — 400,000 of them visually impaired –out of a total population of around 60 million, according to the state government.

There are no statistics on the number of disabled persons employed in various corporate houses in Bangalore, but activists say the private sector is making a genuine effort to employ them.

“In the past two years, around 100 visually challenged people through our employment and placement cell have got jobs in IT companies including Infosys, Oracle, IBM and Cisco,” said Srinivas.

Shanti Raghavan, founder of the NGO EnAble India that works with 149 corporate firms across India to get jobs for the differently abled, also said the private sector was keen to employ disabled people.

“It is ready to provide training to persons with disabilities, and are trying to provide disabled-friendly atmosphere for them,” Raghavan said.

Added Mamatha Sharma, a manager at IBM: “It is not out of sympathy that we’re employing people with disabilities. In fact, they are some of the most skilled and hard working people whom the IT industry badly need.”

IBM, which has around 200 disabled employees across India, has been conferred two awards for its efforts — the national award from the central government, and the Helen Keller Award given by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.

Incidentally, according to the Disability Act of 1996, it is mandatory for all government departments to reserve three percent of jobs for handicapped people.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at [email protected])