Work from Home: Realizing the potential for persons with Disabilities

Slow learners and how we can help them

Learning is a complicated process that is pursued by each one. While school education has seen multiple reforms in technology adaptation, it majorly follows a one size fits all approach for promoting students. The pace overlooks true ability and poor performance in fast-paced schooling are called slow learners.

Slow learners are not mentally disabled and have below-average IQ level. Their IQ range falls between average intelligence and mentally retarded. They face difficulties at home, schools and in having a successful career. They are either bashed and treated as an average child or are sidelined and put to mentally challenged institutions. Peers neglect them at schools,  that hinders socialising. Due to the aversion faced, they are pushed to perform physical repetitive tasks.

This group of learners can compete in ordinary schools with added efforts and learning aids. They can be enrolled late at school. It is recommended to use learning aids and make learning more amusing to facilitate learning. Other steps that can help include repetition, focusing on their areas of interest etc.



Interaction with Dr Krishna Dutt, Asmita

Dr Dutt is a clinical psychologist who initiated ‘Asmita’ as an institution for aiding slow learners. The centre focusses on teaching basic learning activities, and then habitat them later in their career. It grew from 5 students in 1989 to over 350. The students are enrolled after proper assessment and testing. The motivation behind starting this noble institution rose from recognising the absence of such centres in India and growing need to spread awareness for assisting slow learners. He was greatly inspired by his father to focus on a good cause for society. His institution has also initiated healthcare campaigns in rural regions to provide basic health amenities and diagnosis. He also shared that they guide parents and provide them with necessary advice for the upbringing and education of slow learners.


Work from Home: Realizing the potential for persons with Disabilities

The traditional job would require commuting and long hours at a workplace, which poses a difficulty for persons with disabilities. Employment of Persons with disabilities is often viewed through welfare and charity instead of diversity and inclusion. According to the Census 2011, 2.68 (2.21%) crores Indians have a disability, it is debated to be actually in the range of 5%-15%. The employment rate has remained low for them with 0.28% in the private sector and 0.54% in the public sector. Legal frameworks such as ‘The Disability Act, 1995’ have helped to improve the condition. With the changing job environment, there are opportunities for empowering persons with disabilities.

We have seen significant corporations pivoting to work from home in a short while. This proves that persons with disabilities can engage and contribute productively even by working from home actively. This removes commute burden, moving closer to the workplace, special arrangements at the workplace, and accommodation constraints. In most cases, their homes are suited for them with the necessary arrangements to move around and carry out activities. This eliminates various barriers that had posed a challenge for the disabled by limiting their options to work.

The pandemic has transformed and revolutionised many businesses and forced others to adapt to modes of working. The lockdown and social distancing norms have established a new normal with nearly 88% of the workforce now preferring the flexibility of working from home, as per a survey by SAP Concur, an expense management firm. While many enterprises struggled due to disrupted supply chains, they have sustained their activities’ smooth functioning by having their workforce work from home.

People with disabilities have been an untapped pool of individuals who can contribute to the workforce, but are often sidelined due to misconceptions, prejudice, physical and information barriers that hamper their access to the labour market. With work from home becoming a ubiquitous working model, this opens up new opportunities and job roles that can be employed remotely. The concerns of productivity and collaboration stand busted. It has unlocked new avenues of efficiency and strengthening culture. The disability community has long fought for suitable working conditions and reasonable accommodation needs and has been denied or lost jobs due to constraints. Work from home makes the workplace accessible to persons who have difficulty commuting.

Diversity and inclusion have proven to improve a business’s financial performance, increase problem-solving capabilities, and add to creativity and innovation. While many workplaces have tried to move in the right direction for the workforce in terms of gender, minorities etc., the inclusion of persons with disabilities is still lagging. Digital tools like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which have facilitated seamless communication despite physical barriers imposed by Covid-19 lockdowns, have WFH acceptable for persons with disabilities.

The time has passed wherein the requirements of a traditional job sidelined the active participation of differently-abled persons to work. Technological advances have created immense opportunities for persons with disabilities to telecommute and work from home. The accommodating stance taken towards work from home should pave a path for making the work environment more welcoming and accessible. The benefits that employers and employees realize that remote work is manifold for the disabled. This should increase the hiring of disabled persons with the proven success of remote work. According to a SHRM’s research on ‘Navigating Covid-19: Return to the workplace’, 5% of corporations are more likely to employ persons with disabilities than before. This positive change should bring in a long term change in the opportunities available to the disabled.

It is time to overcome the negative stereotypes and attitudes based on false facts and actively support persons with disabilities to be included in the workforce. This will empower them not only in the economic sense but also from social and political standpoints. The inclusion will help understand the problems faced and develop better codes and policies to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. The focus should be on the abilities instead of the disabilities in hiring and facilitating career growth.

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