23 year-old Madan Kumar, born deaf, attended a mainstream school till Grade 10. Raised by a single mother whose livelihood depended on her earnings as a farm-worker, Madan constantly worried about his job prospects. He travelled to Bangalore, from his village Chikkabalapura, which is around 100 kms away, and enrolled in AIF’s skilling program, where he learned ITeS, computers, spoken English and soft skills. On completion of his training, he was interviewed and recruited by Reliance Retail as a Junior Associate. He says, ““I used to ask my mom for money and never felt good about that. This job gives me dignity and independence. I’m thrilled I got this job. The skills I learned through ABLE’s training are invaluable and will stay with me for life.”
People with disabilities (PwDs) are subject to multiple deprivations. They are more likely to be out of school. They have much lower employment rates, and the gap is growing. They are subject to strong social stigma within the community, and it gets internalized. In India, there are around 27 million PwDs. Decent work is the best path to self-advancement of PwDs, it underpins the stability of communities and families. And skills are pivotal to decent work strategies.
AIF’s Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment program (ABLE) is building solid bridges between the world of work and skills training providers specializing in PwDs in order to match skills provision to the needs of enterprises. ABLE also leads sustained dialogue between employers, trainers, government institutions, and employment services in an advocacy effort to promote inclusivity at the workplace, thereby opening more job opportunities for PwDs.
This year, ABLE introduced self-defense training for women with disabilities, empowering them to feel a little more independent so that they won’t feel restricted in the places they go, the people they can meet or even the activities and events they can take part in. There are no government statistics on the numbers and types of crimes against the disabled, but specialists on disability issues present studies that point to a profoundly disturbing trend: disabled people apparently comprise the highest-risk group as victims of violent crime.
The ABLE program is guided by the belief that it is one’s ability, not disability, that defines any individual. Madan Kumar now looks forward to furthering his education with the salary he earns. And his mother no longer worries about her son’s future.