Persons with disabilities are few in Technopark
Inclusivity in the workplace is growing in corporate India; IT firms, especially, have been striving to put it to good practice. Companies in Technopark claim to be right up there in this regard, with most of them having – at least on paper – corporate policies that aim at the same. Yet, a quick survey reveals that out of the 40, 000-plus people who work at IT/ITes companies in Technopark, less than 50 are persons with disabilities. Some accounts put the number at around 25, others say its less than 10; in short there’s no official count! The majority of them are said to be employed in BPOs.
P.K. Mohammed Salih, Technopark’s first visually impaired employee, who used to work in app development in Schogini Systems, says: “Once they get over the mindset that persons with disability are unemployable, most people, whether it is employers or colleagues or other techies, are sensitive to our needs and often go out of their way to help. I was fortunate to have supportive work environment where all my needs were met and I never faced a situation where I was caught out because of my disability. The company arranged suitable accommodation and I was picked up and dropped off at work. Even if I wanted to go to the canteen, I would be accompanied by my colleagues. The Leela building where I worked is to an extent disabled friendly – though, I recall, the elevator didn’t have voice activation. These little things count.”
A physically challenged IT professional, who does not wish to be identified, describes Technopark as “moderately disabled-friendly”, though she does say that getting around campus is a bit of a task, especially if there is no access to company cabs. Abhilash D.S., officer, HR and administration, Technopark, explains: “All the new buildings have ramps for wheelchairs, while older buildings such as Nila (the first building) do not. Park Centre was fitted with ramps when it was re-modelled. Although, Tejaswini and Bhavani do not have ramps, employees can access elevators from basement car parking areas.” Some of the buildings also have disabled-friendly toilets.
On the flip side, though, some say that there are infrastructural issues within these facilities itself. For example, there are no grab bars on the ramps, which makes it difficult for disabled people who don’t have access to wheelchairs and also for people who find themselves having to move around with a cast on their legs. “Also, in many of the buildings/ toilets floors are of granite, which again makes it slippery for wheelchairs. In Bhavani building, no physically challenged person can access restrooms because all them are actually one step above the surface level of the floor!” says a concerned techie.
Their numbers may not be huge but some people with disablities in Technopark have managed to make a mark - perhaps none more so than Santosh A.S. He is Technopark’s only chief executive officer who is physically challenged. Santosh, a victim of polio, who holds a diploma in software engineering and animation, started Vygen Technologies that deals in web application development, mobile apps and cloud services in 2012. Ratheesh N., a director of the company, is also physically challenged. Says the 30-year-old Santosh, who through his policies at Vygen, is sort of an advocate for inclusivity in the workplace: “These days, the challenge is not the disability but in the attitude of society. We’re not exploiting our potential because society is not giving us the opportunity.”
His own rise to success is an example, he adds. “I had my share of challenges when I was setting up Vygen; I still have to deal with condescending attitudes on a daily basis. But if you move forward with a positive frame of mind you can do anything.” Santosh is now in the process of setting up Vygen Rehabilitation Centre for the Physically Challenged, that aims at training and finding employment in IT services for some 500 people. “People with disabilities are as focussed and as intelligent as any other person and most of them can use their hands. They are thus capable of doing IT jobs such as animation and web development.”