R. Sethuraman (28) lost his legs to polio and prefers to use his limbs to commute rather than a wheelchair or crutches. A first-class graduate in computer engineering, he did not get a job for four years. He had to train himself in several multimedia designing applications before landing a job as a web designer in an IT company.

K. Muruganandham (31), a software engineer with physical disability, who was unemployed for five years, underwent an extensive programme on SAP to gain a contract job with the company he is currently working for in Guindy. Ask him about the difficulties he faces in office, he says, “Since I am the only employee with disability, I have learnt to make all adjustments.”

While the private sector tries to live up to its claim of being sensitive to disability by organising frequent job fairs, a large section, especially qualified persons with physical disability continue to feel left out.

Since it takes quite a lot of investment by the employer to make their work environment holistic, many are not ready to do that, says S. Prasanna, Program Manager, Confederation of Indian Organisations for Service and Advocacy.

Attitudinal problems of employees which hinder such steps need to be countered, says IT Secretary P. W. C. Davidar. “Every company should employ self-testing measures to identify the stations favourable to people with a particular disability,” he adds.

While senior HR executives of companies say that the IT sector does not believe in discrimination of any sort, and hence does not indulge in carrying out internal tests that are ability or gender discriminatory in any way, NGOs say that company policies and recruitment clauses fail to incorporate measures that are accommodative of disability.

“Companies won't do anything that threatens their bottom line and often leave it to the candidates with disability to prove that they have what it takes,” says Meenakshi Sridhar, who runs corporate sensitising seminars.

Candidates have to focus on software skills like CAD, MCA, CCNA, Java and Oracle to get a job, says M. Vasanthakumari, a job counsellor for persons with disability.

Firms including Lasersoft and Mindtree Consulting employ a number of people with disabilities and many other IT firms have started providing ramps, wheel chairs and assistive technologies. Most companies have improved access that includes enabling software and hardware, like JAWS for Windows for the visually impaired; and in-house training for skill up-gradation. But there are few that ensure reasonable accommodation process to recruit persons with physical disability. Apart from the special employment exchanges and some NGOs, there are no large-scale, organised fora where the qualified disabled can register or companies can access resumes.

Multidimensional sector

Corporate houses do not realise that disability is a multidimensional sector, says T.M.N. Deepak, Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust. Often recruitment activities are undertaken as acts of charity, wherein qualified persons with minor disabilities get jobs, and the company gets a good name. “How many companies employ physically disabled persons as receptionists where the work requires only handling of phone-calls?” he asks, adding that every company needs to scientifically analyse its recruitment process making diversity the rule, not an exception.