The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in association with Mindtree has announced the winners of Helen Keller Awards 2017. In their 18th year now, the awards have not only led to a recognition of the exceptional work being done by corporates, NGOs and individuals, but have also emerged as a credible way to map the progress being made year by year towards greater dignity and empowerment of India’s 70 million disabled citizens.
This year, 10 awards have been announced under three different categories. The following exceptional individuals and organisations who have established themselves as role models in furthering employment opportunities for persons with disabilities will be felicitated in a simple ceremony in New Delhi on December 2, 2017, the eve of World Disability Day.
Category A: Role Model Disabled Persons
Disabled persons from within the disability sector and outside who have been active as ambassadors of the cause of employment for disabled people and are a positive role model for others.
1. Dr. Charudatta Jadhav – Head-Accessibility COE, Tata Consultancy Services
Dr. Jadhav is 100% blind. A doctorate in Management Science, he is the key architect and lead consultant in establishing accessibility practice in Tata Consultancy Services, organisation wide. A modest and self-effacing man, Dr. Jadhav is an inspiration for all disabled youth, particularly the blind. Dr. Jadhav also founded the All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB).
2. Devanshi Joshi – Store Assistant, Gram Bharat
Devanshi is a person with Down Syndrome. In spite of her Intellectual Disability, she studied up to 9th standard in a regular school and succeeded in completing her 12th from National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), New Delhi. Devanshi works at Gram Bharat, a mini departmental store dealing in Swadesi products. Inspired by her success many parents have been successful in educating their children from regular schools and open school.
3. Dr. Nirmita Narasimhan – Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society
Nirmita is blind. She is a law graduate and works in the areas of Policy Research and Advocacy related to Technology Accessibility for People with Disabilities. Based in Bengaluru, Nirmita is also a Gold Medallist in Karnatic Classical Music.
4. Pradip Sinha – Executive, Issue Retrieval Centre in IT Asset Management, Dell – EMC
Pradip is 100% Deaf-Blind. In spite of the severe nature of his disability, he succeeded in getting Senior Secondary Certificate and Diploma of the Computer and now works as an Executive in the IT Asset Management Team at Dell – EMC. Pradip uses a Refreshable Braille Display with a Screen Reader Software installed on his laptop, which converts text to Braille. He has delivered talks at 35 Conferences, not just in India but in USA, UK and Vietnam too.
Category B: Role model supporters of increased employment opportunities for disabled people
Individuals from within the disability sector or outside who have contributed substantially to the cause of promoting employment opportunities for disabled people over an extended period of time.
1. SV Krishnan – CEO, Dialogue in the Dark – ACE Take 1
SV Krishnan is the founder of Dialogue in the Dark – ACE Take 1 (DiD). DiD is an international empathy experience that puts visitors through daily life situations like having a walk in the park, crossing a road, experience shopping at a supermarket or the use of a computer, etc. all in complete darkness in a fun and entertaining way. Since 2011, over 4 lakh visitors have been sensitised and this sensitisation has led to the skilling of 5,000 persons with disabilities and job creation for 3,000 people with disabilities.
2. Swaminathan Subramanian – Manager, Payments and Operations, ANZ Bengaluru Service Centre
Swaminathan Subramanian works as a Manager in ANZ Bengaluru Service Centre. Swami is leading a key initiative that supports hiring and inclusion of persons with disabilities in his organisation. Due to his consistent effort over the last 7 years, 220 persons with disabilities have been employed in ANZ Bengaluru Service Centre, which is more than 3% of their total workforce.
Category C: Role model companies/ NGOs/ Institutions
Organisations from the disability sector or outside who have shown their commitment towards promoting equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
1. Barrier Break Solutions
Barrier Break Solutions is an accessibility consulting firm based in India with a global footprint. Just for example, they have tested more than 1,800 websites and 180 mobile applications across different platforms for accessibility. They launched Newz Hook in 2016, which is the first inclusive app to make news accessible to all including people with disabilities and the elderly. Moreover, 65% of their employees are persons with various types of disabilities.
2. Hatti Food and Beverages
Hatti Kaapi is a fast growing South Indian filter coffee chain based out of Bengaluru. Each outlet has a few disabled people and senior citizens on its workforce. Around 10% of their total workforce is comprised of people with disabilities.
3.Lemon Tree Hotels
The Lemon Tree Hotel Company started with 49 rooms in 2004 and now operates 40 hotels in 24 cities with 4,289 rooms and over 4,000 employees. Over 12% of their workforce is comprised of persons with disabilities including People with Intellectual Disabilities, Down Syndrome, Autism and Acid Attack Survivors.
4. Vindhya E-Infomedia
Vindhya E-Infomedia describes itself as an inclusive BPO. Close to 58% of their employees in Bengaluru and 100% employees in Hyderabad are persons with disabilities. One primary focus at Vindhya E-Infomedia has been to create awareness amongst the community in Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
The Helen Keller Awards started in 1999 as a result of the findings of a survey conducted of the Top 100 companies of India by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP). The results showed that the average percentage of employment of people with disabilities was 0.54% in the public sector, 0.28% in the private sector and 0.05% in the multinationals.
Thus, the objective of the Helen Keller Awards was to start a discourse on equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in the area of employment and to recognise exceptional work done by corporates and individuals towards promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities in India. Over the years, these Awards have come to be recognised as the most prestigious Indian benchmark for honouring people and organisations which have been working towards promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Highlighting about the awards, Javed Abidi, Honorary Director, NCPEDP said, “We launched the Awards in 1999, when the discourse on employment for people with disabilities was unable to move beyond basket weaving and candle making. Today when I look back, it is with a great sense of satisfaction. We have inspired several other leaders and even smaller other awards!”
Registered in 1996 NCPEDP is India’s leading cross disability, not-for-profit organisation working as an interface between government, industry, international agencies and the voluntary sector towards empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Last year, NCPEDP partnered with Mindtree, a leading digital transformation and technology services company and a role model in the area of employment for persons with disabilities, to give away the NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Awards.
Krishnakumar Natarajan, Executive Chairman, Mindtree said, “It is heartening to see the increasing number of corporates being nominated for the Awards. It is a proof that inclusivity is being taken up on priority. Mindtree is honoured to be partnering with NCPEDP for this important cause. Together, we hope to create a greater impact in the coming years.”