February 20, 2024
Design thinking making work spaces disability inclusive

The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 1 billion disabled people worldwide, including those with age-related impairments. However, only 10% of this group has access to products designed for them. These inclusive design approaches address the needs of under-represented and marginalized adding their voice to the mainstream. 

In India, Business Standard study in 2019 highlighted that persons with disabilities (PWDs) constituted less than 0.5 per cent of employees in the country’s top companies. It reflects low employment opportunities for PWDs in the corporate sector and other reasons that include: lack of infrastructure, lack of sourcing avenues, the myth around additional expenditure in the recruitment of PWDs and lack of awareness about disability in corporate India. 

Human-centred, empathy-first approaches can foster a more innovative and open workplace, but what specifically can employers do to create this kind of environment? 

a.) Here is a listing of workspaces in India that have prioritised disability care and offering related services as part of their core business philosophy: 

I. Accenture India

In 2014, Accenture set up its India Accessibility Council comprising senior business leaders to ensure the company was an ideal workplace for persons with disabilities. As a step in achieving this, the office is wheelchair friendly, all videos are subtitled, and sign language interpreters are available. At a physical infrastructure level, in addition to accessible restrooms, workplaces, and parking, to support people with visual impairment, the organisation has started to use braille stickers in lifts and changing visual signs to have more high contrast colours. The company is also re-designing busy areas such as our cafeterias for barrier-free movement.

II. Candor TechSpace (Brookfield Properties)

Candor TechSpace, the leading provider of IT/ITES office spaces managed by Brookfield Properties have been designed with an emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility, as the office spaces are equipped with wheelchair parking areas, access ramps at entrances and specially built washrooms. The campuses have segregated pedestrian walkways with tactile pavers to aid navigation and curb ramps at crossings to help negotiate level differences. There are floor directories and signage in high contrast in the elevator lobby. The F&B menus and vending machines feature Braille writing. The organization is committed to creating workplace solutions keeping people at the Centre. All the five campuses are working towards IGBC Platinum LEED certifications for operational buildings, universal accessibility, indoor air quality management systems, shared mobility solutions, thematic landscaping with art installations.

III. MakeMyTrip

This online travel website not only employs the differently-abled but invests in their development as well. It offers transportation to work, reconfigured workstations, and made restrooms, entrances, and cafeterias disability-friendly. MakeMyTrip has also partnered with non-government organizations that train people with disabilities and employs over 40 people with disabilities in various roles, including programming, legal, and customer care

IV. L’Oreal India

In 2017, the organization hired two employees and took in six individuals for an internship program. The company offices are accessible and have conducted external accessibility audits. L’Oreal India is working on recommendations like automatic doors, contrasted signages, slope elevations, parking, etc. 

V. Capgemini India

Capgemini policy and practice to encourage diversity at the workplace by providing and promoting equal opportunities and treatment to all employees and candidates being considered for hire by Capgemini. Capgemini India’s Disability Inclusion Program aims at providing a non-discriminatory environment to persons with disabilities at the workplace such that they are able to gain access to employment, self-development and career growth. The company takes an approach of accessibility by providing accessible Infrastructure, IT systems, and reasonable adjustment to persons with disabilities.

b.) Policy support for PwD

From a policy perspective, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (the ‘Disabilities Act’) was enacted by the Indian government to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995. The Disabilities Act seeks inter alia to ensure that reasonable accommodations are made in all aspects of social life whether by educational institutions, commercial establishments, public buildings and/or transport systems in order to ensure that people with disabilities have access to all such facilities, alongside prohibiting discrimination. The Act recognises 21 types of disabilities, combining disabilities that are both physical and mental, making the scope of the Disabilities Act much larger than its former.

Under the Disabilities Act, every establishment (including a private sector employer) is required to adopt an ‘Equal Opportunity Policy’ (EOP), detailing the measures proposed by the establishment in order to ensure an inclusive work environment and prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Employers are also required to register a copy of the EOP with the Chief Commissioner or the State Commissioner, as the case may be. The Disabilities Act further mandates :

  • the facilities and amenities provided to persons with disabilities to enable them to effectively discharge their duties in the establishment
  • a list of posts suitable for persons with disabilities within the establishment, the selection process for various posts, post-recruitment and pre-promotion training, preference in transfer and posting, special leave, preference in allotment of residential accommodation (if any) and other facilities
  • provisions for assistive devices, barrier-free accessibility and other provisions
  • details of the liaison officer appointed by the establishment

c. ) Industry’s push for collective action in disability space in India 

A company’s commitment to Persons with Disabilities via having a Disability Inclusion Policy offers them a sense of security and opportunity to grow professionally. The industry as a whole in India has been advocating for disability inclusion in events and conferences. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) launched the India Business and Disability Network (IBDN) in 2019 to ensure workplaces are inclusive, accessible and barrier free for persons with disabilities.The fifth annual CII-IBDN National Conference was held on 19-20 September last year in Delhi in partnership with the Zero Project, a global organisation working to promote disability inclusion. With “Global Networks and Innovations for Inclusive Employment in India” as the theme of the conference, leading experts, practitioners, and advocates from the field of disability inclusion came together to share innovative ideas and discuss ways to further promote disability inclusion in the world of work. 

Some renowned assistive technologies showcased were:

  • An assistive aid designed to optimise mobility for people with visual impairments
  • SignAble – a mobile app that provides live interpretation in Indian Sign Language 
  • A head-wearable device that enables hands – free operations of computers and smartphones

With the need for businesses to prioritise disability inclusion, there is also a need to create programmes to create opportunities for persons with disabilities, explore technology to empower them at work spaces and share best practices on design thinking for quick replication across industry.  




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