Ankit Rajiv Jindal, a winner of this year’s Helen Keller Award, talks about compiling a corporate manual for hiring people with disabilities, and an inclusive cab service in Bangalore
No matter how sincere your effort to hire people with disabilities, there is so much to it than just offering jobs to them. An inclusive office environment calls for plugging many a loophole really.
Young corporate employee from Bangalore, Ankit Rajiv Jindal, points at some such teething issues while referring to the need for creating an inclusive office setup. A winner of this year’s Helen Keller Award given by New Delhi-based advocacy organisation NCPEDP, Ankit is a marketing manager for Wipro Infotech and Global Infrastructure Services. Among other things Ankit is involved with to better the disability sector, the award is to also to acknowledge his compiling of a corporate manual for hiring people with disabilities. Apparently, it is the country’s first ready reckoner for corporates to know the best practices in the field. Ankit has authored the manual spearheaded by Diversity and Equal Opportunity Center (DEOC), a social enterprise that promotes inclusivity of which he is a founder member.
“The corporate manual, ‘Values Route to Business Success — The Why and How of Employing Persons with Disabilities’, was conceptualised in 2007 and published by CII. At that time, though there was some awareness about the issue, at least among the larger companies, their approach was inconsistent. Some did it as a gesture of charity, some did hiring of persons with only certain impairments and only in certain jobs; some others tried and could not find suitable candidates and gave up. There was little focus on addressing the barriers in the workplace. We realised that most corporate professionals lacked the knowledge of how to create an inclusive work place,” he says.
It was also the time when India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which put the onus on employers to ensure that such employees are well accommodated in the work place. “We felt the CRPD provisions should be known to the employers. So we decided to come out with a comprehensive manual which would provide an in-depth understanding of disability and non-discrimination in workplace,” he adds. Experts from across the country were consulted before compiling it.
“It is in a question-answer format which makes it easier to read. We have received positive feedback from corporates across different industries and also NGOs who use it as a reference manual,” he says.
Formerly with the HR division of Infosys, Ankit is the first marketing manager with visual impairment at Wipro. He puts himself nowhere beneath those without visual impairment, “Technology has been a great enabler and equaliser. I leverage the screen readers on my laptop and iPhone extensively to perform my work and personal tasks. It has made me independent.”
Ankit is involved in yet another interesting venture, Kickstart Cabs, available in Bangalore. It is again a DEOC venture. “It started with a vision to provide an accessible and inclusive transportation service for people with disability, the elderly and other persons with special needs. We have cabs with different adaptation for different needs. Our drivers are trained and sensitised to suit the needs of different persons, for instance, they will communicate on SMS to persons with hearing impairment, will escort persons with visual disability inside the building premises. Similarly, persons with orthopaedic impairment can choose from three custom vehicle options to transit independently.”
The service is also competitively priced. “Our charges are comparable to other service providers. There is no extra premium for doing the right thing.”
Ankit gives credit for this venture to “the vision” of Vidhya K Ramasubban. “He has been working in disability sector for many years. I am happy to support him.”
The service is so far available in Bangalore but Ankit adds, “We would certainly want to expand to other cities, after we establish a proof of the concept in Bangalore.”
(The corporate manual can be downloaded for free from www.mycii.in/KmResourceApplication/9457.CII%20Disability%20Manual%20-%20Publication.pdf)
15TH NCPEDP SHELL HELEN KELLER AWARD WINNERS
Role Models category (persons with disability)
Ankit Rajiv Jindal
Nita Paragbhai Panchal
Role Models (Supporters of Increased Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
No awards were given away under this category this year
Role Models (Companies/NGOs/Institutions)
Café Coffee Day, Bangalore
Capgemini India, Mumbai
RR Donnelley India Outsource Pvt. Ltd., Chennai
Scope International Pvt., Ltd., Chennai
V-shesh Learning Services Pvt Ltd., Chennai
Wipro Ltd., Bangalore