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Find Value in People with Disabilities

06 Dec blog | Comments
Find Value in People with Disabilities

I have attended the India Inclusion Summit in Bangalore for the second year in a row. I am left speechless and humbled at the spirit displayed by so many differently abled people, their families, teachers, employers and a host of entrepreneurs who are leveraging technology and design to make our world more inclusive.

As each one shared their personal story, I was struck by the range of roles they could perform in mainstream organisations. There was a partially blind standup comedian, who had the audience in splits. The deaf and mute wrestler who won the gold medal at the ‘Deaflympics’ but is still not allowed to compete for the Rio Olympics thanks to an insensitive bureaucracy. The autistic musicians or the whiz who can tell you the day of the week if you tell them any date, all struck me as people with talent that organisations could benefit from.

The main dream of the parents of a special child still remains economic independence. This goal is elusive. Traditional hiring often looks at the role and then tries to match the capability of the individual to do the role. Competency matches reveal only half the story. We have all suffered the competent person who manages to alienate people or say something that leaves everyone red faced.

People get hired for competency and their intelligence quotient but it is the soft skills and emotional intelligence that lets people succeed and grow. Successful hiring is all about matching the skill and the temperament to the role and the culture of the workplace.

Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines can be a source of enjoyment forpeople with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). SAP Labs has employed a few people with middle-to-high range of ASD who were proficient in using computers and could work with other people in the office.

They were told about the 50 steps involved in testing software. Other employees have to write down the steps involved and refer to it repeatedly. If he misses one step, the test results get flawed. The average software testers get these right 80% of the time.
Autistics do tasks like this easily and they enjoy the repetitive routine and get it right a 100% of the time. Autistic employees are well settled in their routine and so are their managers.

In one of the plants where I had worked, the workers used to complain about working in the packaging section. The machines are too noisy, they would say to their supervisors. They were afraid of losing their hearing despite being given protective muffs. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea of hiring only people with hearing disability in that section. This was another case of finding a job that could leverage what for someone else was a challenge.

As we celebrate yet another International Day of People with Disability on December 3, it may be worth thinking about the jobs that see a high degree of attrition and resistance to possible areas where it would be an advantage to employ people with disabilities. Ask the innovators where they got their ideas, and they will say that many opportunities lie in the pain points of customers. Think of things that people find disturbing, frustrating, urgent or uncomfortable. That may be the sweet spot for innovation.

(Written by: Abhijit Bhaduri, The writer is chief learning officer, Wipro)

Originally published on TheEconomicTimes

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