How Tech Companies Are Championing the Cause of People with Disabilities
Organizations across the world are waking up to the potential of hiring the differently-abled. In India, the trend gathered steam some half a decade ago, and several companies started by hiring visually and speech and hearing impaired. Today, 25-30% of their employees with disability are in managerial roles.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 that makes it mandatory for private companies to be an equal opportunity employer has been a big driver to this trend. Besides, studies have shown that companies embracing best practices for hiring and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers. An Accenture report jointly prepared with not-for profit Disability: IN reveals that inclusive companies outperformed others over four years and reported 28% higher revenue, double the net income and 30% higher profit margins.
As the world marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, CXOToday speaks to IT companies in India who have seen huge benefits, both tangible and intangible, of hiring disabled people.
Let’s hear from the experts who shed light on how their organizations are championing the cause of disabled employees, by providing leadership opportunities, mentorship and making new endeavors to help chalk out their career progression.
“Accessibility has never been more important than it is today. We know that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, only one in 10 people with disabilities have access to assistive technology that they need to be successful. To enable everyone to be productive in a work-from-home context, we need to build workplaces that are inclusive, accessible and committed to empowering people with disabilities.
At Microsoft, accessibility is core to our mission of empowering every individual and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It is woven into the fabric of our company from how we hire and build products and extends to the culture of our workplace. It starts by inviting people with disabilities to join the organization and actively seeking their expertise to improve our processes, products, and culture.
Accessibility isn’t an after-thought at Microsoft, it is built in by design into our products. We are passionate about creating products that help people with disabilities unlock their full potential at work, school, and in daily life. We believe that designing with and for people with disabilities will lead to greater innovations for everyone.” – Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, India at Microsoft
“The PwD community in India is a highly talented workforce and can produce great results if provided with accessible training and employment opportunities. What stops them from entering the corporate world are the logistical limitations and accessibility issues with both physical and digital infrastructure in their operating environment. As an industry, it is our responsibility to create a fair and inclusive work environment for People with Disabilities by removing such these barriers and challenges.
At HGS India, our facilities are accessible with the appropriate physical and digital infrastructure in place. Our official website and intranet are digitally accessible as well. As soon as the pandemic hit us, we enable work from home for all our People with Disability and ensured that even in the new environment, they have all the support required to perform at their best.” – Shilpa Sinha Harsh, SVP – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, HGS
“At Walmart, our values of ‘Service to the Customer’ and ‘Respect for the Individual’ include every customer and every individual regardless of identity, experience, style, ability or perspective. And as a human led, tech-empowered organization, our focus is to build an equal workplace, with equal opportunities for everyone.
Accessibility is a critical part of creating equity within the organization and we have focused on upgrading our infrastructure and benefits, keeping in mind the diverse needs of our associates. Some of the benefits include insurance covers for surgeries related to accidents and treatment for acquired disability, ergonomic workstations and necessary software to aid associates to work from home seamlessly. Equally important is to build a culture of inclusion, and we are conducting several programs and activations on this day to sensitize our larger workforce, reduce biases and empower people dealing with disabilities.” – Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President, People, Walmart Global Tech India
“According to WHO, 15 percent of the world’s population (about a billion people) have some form of disability. A staggering statistic. Large technology giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple are all investing and creating technology that is truly inclusive. For example, Lookout from Google is an accessibility mobile application for the visually impaired people where it can describe the immediate surroundings in real-time when the user points the camera at things.
To put all this in a current perspective, the pandemic has completely disrupted how businesses operate, leaving leaders scrambling to adapt to ‘new and different modes of work’ – and keep their employees engaged and thriving through it all. It’s extremely heartening to see that, even in the midst of such widespread upheaval, disability inclusion and digital accessibility continue key areas of focus. In fact, many organizations are doubling down on ensuring workplaces are adaptive and supportive environments for all people. Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of corporate social responsibility and mission-driven investing.” – Smitha Hemmigae, Head of Marketing, ANSR
“With over a billion people (about 15 per cent of the world’s population) having some form of disability, according to WHO, it becomes important for tech companies to create their products with accessibility features in mind. Every industry has far reaching applications of technologies like automation, IoT, AI, augmented & virtual reality, and smart analytics. Complying to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards, online portals and websites have to be accessible for visually challenged community, and this is where assistive technologies such as screen reader helps to read information on the browsers such as text, images, control elements, audio and video files. The screen reader translates the content and is made audible for the visually challenged people. CSS Corp has developed an automated solution for handling accessibility testing, which has been applied for a leading American cosmetic brand with about 4000 pages on its site. The solution is integrated with speech to text engine for comparing the detected content with the displayed content. The solution leverages technology to help business do the right thing the first time, avoid legal risks of inaccessibility and thereby achieve inclusive customer base. It also helps to improve testing coverage to 100% and reduces the cost of testing by over 70%. Further, the solution has a module that helps to identify the poor contrast regions using computer vision algorithms.” – Dr. Kiran Marri, Chief Scientist & Vice President, Digital Engineering at CSS Corp
“Of the approximately 70 million people with disabilities in India, only about 0.1 million have successfully found employment in the corporate sector. This is an obviously untapped talent pool. The tech industry has the opportunity to be a powerful enabler of Disability Inclusion, and therefore also a force for equity, diversity and innovation. Today’s acceptance for ‘work from anywhere,’ has opened up the job market for a diverse set of people – that includes people with disabilities. They are no longer limited by long commutes, conventional and inflexible working hours, inaccessible workspace design etc. Talent can literally be employed from anywhere and deliver remotely. This year, ThoughtWorks signed ‘The Valuable500 pledge’, a global movement inspiring business leaders to commit to accountable action in support of disability inclusion. Guided by the ThoughtWorks People with Disability community and its allies, we’re driving our diversity and inclusivity efforts to sustain long-term disability inclusion across all our offices.” – Tina Vinod, Head – Diversity and Inclusion at ThoughtWork
“As a talent-led organization that is deeply committed to providing equal opportunities and building an inclusive culture, we value the unique skills and talents that each of our people bring to us, our clients and communities.
We have several programs and initiatives to hire, retain and grow the careers of persons with disabilities. We also enable reasonable accommodation in the form of assistive technology, workplace adjustments and transportation arrangements based on the requirements of our people.
Technology has been a significant enabler. We have a ‘Disability Adjustment Request’ platform that acts as a one-stop shop for all reasonable accommodation requirements of our people, providing them a very personalized experience. To help our people choose the right assistive technology and enablement devices, we also have an Accessibility Centre of Excellence which our people can visit to experience the technology or device before they decide to request for the same. An example of this is our in-house platform called Dhvani that enables voice to text and text to voice conversion, and supports communication for persons who have speech, hearing and language disabilities. Above all, each of our web and technology applications are built such that they are completely accessible for persons with disabilities.” – Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead – Human Resources, Accenture in India