Creating employment opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities

Mustafa works at a Shell petrol station in Chennai

Mustafa works at a Shell petrol station in Chennai

I Mustafa is 40 years old, and a little over a month ago he landed his first job. When this reporter spoke to him on a recent morning — 8 a.m. or thereabouts — Mustafa was waiting at his house in Kanathur on East Coast Road for his regular auto to ferry him to his workplace, a Shell petrol station.

Intellectually challenged, Mustafa landed this job following vocational training programmes. The Department of Adult Independent Living (DAIL) at the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD) had a big hand in giving this direction to Mustafa’s life.

“Over the last two years, we have been searching for some job for Mustafa but it was not easy. An educational institution agreed to give him a job after the training but he was rejected as he has mobility issues,” says D Gunasekar, rehabilitation officer, DAIL.

Mustafa lives with his elderly mother and a sister, who is also intellectually challenged, in a rented house. “Over the years, the family mainly made ends meet with the maintenance allowance they got from the government. Now, Mustafa will be able to supplement the family income,” says Gunasekar.

Department of Adult Independent Living is working closely with employers to help many intellectually challenged adults find jobs.

At the recent job fair held on its campus, 60 candidates were shortlisted by 10 companies. Shell, for instance, shortlisted seven candidates for various job roles at their petrol stations.

For many years, Shell has been creating a positive example of inclusivity by hiring persons with disabilities for its various job roles.

In Chennai, Shell currently has 37 retail outlets, with 75 specially-abled service champions working with us, says Sanjay Varkey, director, Shell Mobility India.

“We have implemented a policy to have on board, a minimum of 20% women employees, and two differently-abled persons across all our sites, including distributor-operated (DO) sites,” says Sanjay. “Some sites may have a higher number of women and/or specially-abled people, and we welcome and encourage this diversity. A no-compromise on selection criteria recruitment approach, pictorially and digitally enabled training ensure all employees are treated equally at the mobility site.”

In this journey towards diversity and inclusion, the retailer network works with NGOs like Enable India, TRAAIN and other local organisations.

Managing a differently-abled employee needs a lot of hand-holding.

K Balabaskar, lecturer, DAIL, says to make intellectually challenged adults employable both employer and employee need to come together. “Pre-placement orientation is a must to understand a prospective employee’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Balabaskar.

DIAL is working on mapping candidates to place them with companies in or near their neighbourhoods they live in.

Balabaskar says the department is working to create awareness among various stakeholders about the Government of India gazette 2021 which states that one percent of government jobs must be reserved for persons with intellectual disabilities, autism, special learning disability and multiple disabilities. “We are providing training to them; and we want many more deserving adults to benefit from it,” he adds.

For details, contact Balabaskar at 9382934157; or Gunasekar at 8778425556

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