The next time you walk into a cafeteria or a pizza store, watch out for something a little more noteworthy than your steaming pizza. A differently abled person could be working in the back area, and quite possibly with more élan than your usual order taker! Several food retail outlets in the city including Café Coffee Day, Dominos, Subway and McDonald’s, are increasingly hiring people with disability, particularly folks who are speech and hearing impaired, to build an inclusive environment at the workplace. Interestingly, fellow employees are more than welcoming to this trend.
‘I don’t feel different from others working with me’
Take the case of Yogendra HM and Sharanappa Khaski, both working with Domino’s Pizza. Being speech and hearing impaired, life has not been a cakewalk for them. However, with hardwork and determination, they became team members of the organisation’s JP Nagar outlet and currently work in the back area! “I now feel independent and live with dignity. I am really grateful to the company and enjoy working here. The whole restaurant team is highly cooperative and full of energy. The work culture is full of fun and value-creating activities. I don’t feel different from others working with me,” says Yogendra. Persons with disability are typically recruited for pizza making or for pre-rush preparation.
NGOs and companies are encouraging the trend
Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled
JP Nagar (080 – 26582670) & HSR Layout (080 25721444)
Koramangala (080 42823636, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Association of People with Disability (APD)
Lingarajapuram (080 25475165, email@example.com)
Mumbai (022 28443260, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hyderabad (040 23331213, email@example.com)
There are about 50 million physically challenged people in India. Apparently, only 2 per cent are educated and 1 per cent employed. Henceforth, such efforts are being made at various sectors to integrate them into the mainstream. “People with hearing and speech disability are very hard working and dedicated as employees. They do a great job in the back area. In fact, there are many who have joined as brew masters in our organisation, and have now become managers, handling a café and a team as well. We are also planning to have outlets where the operation is run completely by differently abled persons only. They are sensitive and honest employees and contribute a lot to the growth of the organisation,” says Sajan Varghese, Head of Human Resources, Café Coffee Day. The organisation has recruited 13 persons with disability in Bangalore till now and plans to appoint at least 10 in every city, each month.
“It is our constant endeavour to contribute towards inclusive development by providing them employment, thereby making them empowered and self-sufficient to not only earn their livelihood, but also get mainstreamed, and gain increased levels of acceptance in the society,” says Harneet Singh Rajpal, Vice President Marketing, Domino’s Pizza India. Domino’s initiated this programme in October 2012. So far, they have more than 150 people with hearing and speech disability working with them pan India. Their aim is to appoint at least one such person in each of their restaurants, across 126 cities in the future.
This growing trend is mainly attributed to the continuous efforts made by various NGOs to promote inclusivity. Not only do they train them, but they also coordinate with corporate organisations to get them employment. Youth4Jobs Foundation and TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India) are two such organisations that train underprivileged youth in market linked employability skills. “The objective is to include persons with disability in the retail sector, with a large focus on food retail. This will result in a win-win situation for both. Differently abled persons will gain employment and the company will be valued more in the market when it brings in an alternate pool of staff,” says Meera Shenoy, co-founder, Youth4Jobs. The organisation has successfully trained and helped 88 differently abled youth find employment in food retail. In next 3 years, they plan to train and place 1000 more in food retail.
Getting them work ready: training programmes
Training and development is an integral part of these programmes. “We provide robust on-the-job training, in addition to several short courses for soft-skills enhancement. We have also developed a special module in sign language and provide training to our operations team on workplace sensitisation and basics of sign language. Through means of this, we want all our employees to understand and develop sensitivity towards the differently abled. We also have a practise of “PwD (persons with disability) Buddy” where an able-bodied employee of the restaurant is made a buddy of the PwD employee. This is essentially to make the PwD feel comfortable in their new working environment. All these practises are not only helping PwDs, but also our restaurant teams, in developing the right approach and empathy while communicating with PwDs,” says Harneet. “As we are in the food industry, we train them about food hygiene and customer service. Before integrating them into the system, we have to explain to our regular employees ‘what not to do’ with people with disability,” says Srinivas Rao, store manager, Subway.
Before starting the process of training, a detailed role mapping exercise is done to understand the roles that these employees can take up. “There are many roles which can be performed by differently abled persons, particularly persons with locomotor and hearing disability. Also opportunities in the food retail sector is growing threefold, especially at the entry level”, says B S Nagesh, co-founder, TRRAIN. Along with training in English, life skills, computers and retail, another important course offered by these organisations is on quick service, followed by on-the-job training, where candidates get hands-on experience. Companies then visit the training centre for final campus recruitment. The duration of the training is about 90 days.
Empowering differently abled people
Khadhar Valli, hailing from Chittoor district, is a young man who dropped out of college on account of his dwarfism. He has been trained in English, soft skills and computers by Youth4Jobs and joined Café Coffee Day as a trainee in Chennai, and at present, draws a monthly salary of Rs 5200. Within 3 months of joining work, he won the ‘Best employee of the month’ award. He now supports his family and continues his education through distance learning.
In terms of remuneration, companies do not differentiate between employees. Differently abled employees are entitled to all the benefits, as other able-bodied employees. Interestingly, the attrition figures tracked by training companies, show less attrition among differently abled employees. However, the two major reasons cited by folks who quit work, are long standing hours and lack of suitable, moderately priced accommodation.
“The lives of people with disabilities is challenging at every step. However, we are hopeful of changes coming across the society in the future. Today, I am lucky that NGOs and some organisations have come forward to really empower people like us,” adds Sharanappa.