LONG ISLAND, New York — Poverty in India is an ongoing problem and the situation is even direr if a person is disabled and unable to obtain a job. About 2.2% of the country’s population – more than the total population of Australia – lives with a physical or mental disability. Men living in rural areas have the highest prevalence of disability and the lack of ability to move without assistance is the most common disability. Among disabled people seven years and older, only around 52.2% are literate and more than half of the disabled people in India live with a caregiver.
A Goal of Rehabilitation
Persons with disabilities are clearly in danger of falling below the poverty line because many cannot find employment. However, EnAble India, an organization that works towards economic independence for people living with disabilities, is stepping in to fill the gap.
Founded in 1999, the NGO is based in Bangalore. Its goal is to enable the rehabilitation of persons with visual, physical and hearing impairment disabilities through supplemental education and training. In addition, it provides assistive aids for daily living, education and the workplace.
The organization helps disabled people by offering them work-related experiences, providing them with networks and contacts and teaching them crucial workplace skills. EnAble India has made breakthroughs in skill training, new workplace solutions and tools to change behavior, along with technology innovations that help build an environment of entrepreneurship and employment.
Inspired by a Brother
Founder Shanti Raghavan was inspired to start the organization when her, at the time, 15-year-old brother Hari was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that leads to loss of eyesight.
She and her husband Dipesh Sutariya invited Hari to live with them and they helped him get through school and an MBA program. But even with top grades, because of his visual disability, Hari had to go to 70 job interviews before he was hired.
The experience inspired Shanti and Dipesh to found EnAble India for those like her brother who wanted to work. Customized solutions are implemented for each person, including an on-site job analysis as well as tools to help them work effectively.
Most of the placements occur in finance, banking and the IT sector. EnAble India now has a number of corporate social responsibility funders, such as J.P. Morgan, Bank of America and Accenture.
Bringing Together Companies and the Severely Disabled
A recent project Mission 1000 brings together disability organizations, companies and job coaches. Businesses are encouraged to participate in the program for 1,000 days, with the goal of providing opportunities to persons with severe disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. The opportunities include pre-vocational work, to help develop their talents and use their abilities.
Another project is Enable Vaani. It uses mobile phones to connect the disabled community in Karnataka, since 69% of disabled people in India live in rural areas. Vaani allows those who participate to share information about education and employment opportunities.
Encouraging World Leaders to Focus on Disability
In addition, EnAble India has programs such as The Valuable 500. Launched in 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it encourages 500 of the world’s most influential business leaders to help unlock the economic and social value of disabled people around the globe.
EnAble India has partnered with national universities and over 700 companies to implement its programs. For its excellent work, the NGO won the GuideStar India Transparency Key Award for 2019. That same year, the founder Shanti Raghavan was given the Schwab Social Entrepreneur Award. Helping disabled people to find jobs is a positive step toward breaking the cycle of poverty in India.
– Sarah Betuel