A job fair with a difference to employ the disabled

October 7th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Oct 7 (IANS) A popular coffee house is an unlikely venue for a job fair. The fair itself was unusual. It was exclusively for the differently abled and held for the first time in India’s IT hub.At the end of the fair Sunday, 70 people with low vision or hearing impairment or mild mental retardation and other physical disabilities went back home with appointment letters as housekeepers, helpers, office assistants and other unskilled positions in leading corporate houses.

“I am happy that I got a job. I am no more dependent on my parents,” said an excited Bina Prasad, 22, who is hearing impaired and was chosen by Bangalore-based Integra Garments as a tailor.

Echoing Bina’s emotion, 23-year-old Sourav Shukla, who has locomotive disorder and was offered a job by ITC Agarbati, said the job would help him lead life with dignity. Sourav is a trained incense maker.

Besides Integra garments and ITC Agarbati, other employers at the fair included Coffee Day, ITC Hotels and Bangalore-based IBC Hotels and Resorts.

The fair was organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with EnAble India, a Bangalore-based NGO working for the uplift of the physically challenged people. The job seekers had to be above 18 years of age and with qualification lower than Class 10.

“We strongly believe that people with disability can contribute a lot to the economic and social development of the country, but due to lack of opportunities, disabled people hardly get employed,” a CII official told IANS.

“The event is an attempt to provide job platform to the disabled. We are overwhelmed by the responses from corporate houses. Seeing the success of the fair, we plan to organise more such events in the coming days,” the official, who did not wish to be named, said.

The industry body formed the CII Disability Forum in August 2006 in Bangalore to provide economic opportunities to persons with disabilities by bringing together NGOs, corporate houses and government representatives.

“It is a positive step forward. Employment opportunities for disabled people are very few. There is a taboo associated with them that they are less efficient, which is a misconception.

“Such a fair, where corporate houses participated enthusiastically, will definitely help in creating awareness among the masses about the potential of disabled people, who are as good as any other human being,” said Shanti Raghavan, founder of EnAble India.

“Since our inception in 1999, we are training persons with disabilities in various skills, according to their interest and aptitude. We also try to get them employed in various corporate houses and government offices,” she added.

The NGO also keeps in touch with the disabled persons even after they are employed to see that proper treatment is meted out to them by their employers, Raghavan said.

“In most of the cases we found that the performance of the disabled in their respective job is on par with others. They are hardworking and sincere and thus get full support from their colleagues. We also conduct awareness drives on a regular basis in various corporate houses and government departments on the need to employ persons with disabilities,” she said.

Of the 75 who attended the job fair, 60 were trained in various skills by EnAble India.

People with disabilities are among the most excluded in Indian society, according to “People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes”, a report prepared by World Bank in collaboration with the central Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2007.

The report states that disabled adults have far lower employment rates than the general population and this fell from 43 percent in 1991 to 38 percent in 2002, even in the midst of high economic growth.

The report says 60 million disabled people in India are subject to multiple deprivations. Households with disabled members are significantly poorer than average, with lower consumption and fewer assets. Children living with disability are around four to five times less likely to be in school than Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste children, it adds.

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