Coronavirus cases are on the rise, which could put the labor industry at risk again. Working from home is not a viable option for those who work in industries such as retail and hospitality. In the past year, companies have laid off people who were younger workers or whose absence would make no difference. Unfortunately, they included people with disabilities.
Even before the pandemic, people with disabilities had difficulty integrating into a work culture that was still developing. Then they had to work to find that they were more than just a charity recruit. However, with the layoffs caused by the pandemic, they have returned to where they started looking to find the right job.
In this scenario in particular, it is not easy to return to the labor market or switch fields to find work. This can have serious consequences, like loss of confidence, uncertainty about your own abilities and of course financial suffering.
Although there are no national data on the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, a study by the National Center for the Promotion of Employment of People with Disabilities, “Locked Up and Left Behind” of 1,067 people with disabilities, shows that 57% experience financial difficulties due to loss of jobs.
When Vineet Saraiwala from Jamshedpur realized this, he launched the online job portal Atypical in December 2020 to help recruiters find applicants with disabilities based solely on their merit. There is also an area that sells products made by people with disabilities. Vineet fully understands the profound implications of disability as he himself suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder that causes vision loss due to breakdown or loss of cells in the retina.
“When the pandemic broke out, several people from the disabled community turned to social media platforms and WhatsApp groups for help. I can help 4-5 people on my own, but the extent of these people was so high that I would need support at an institutional level. The concept of working from home exacerbated the problem and the training or aftercare of the disabled became a growing problem. Thanks to Atypical, job seekers can post their profile instead of relying solely on someone’s goodwill” – Vineet told The Better India.
Vineet was ready for it, he said. His goal was to uncover each person’s stories in detail while focusing on their references. Finding talent wasn’t as difficult as living up to their profiles. He then used social media and a strong network of NGOs operating in the arena across India to spread the word. The tedious process took almost nine months.
Vineet said we did everything from taking a decent photo to translating written bio-data into native languages to bridging the communication gap over the phone. At the time of our launch, there were 200 applicants listed on our website and that number has grown to 400. There are 20 categories or industries listed on the portal, including singing, dancing, photography, sign language interpreting, physiotherapy and magic, etc.
Meanwhile, recruiters arrived in decent numbers too, and Biswajeet, a masseur with visual impairment, was deployed on the first day of launch. He organized an independent therapy session in Mumbai.
Recruiters need to fill in their information. If the person is nervous or uncomfortable talking to the recruiters, Vineet and his team act as the go-between. Sometimes they even help job seekers find a better salary package, as in the case of Sheetal, a hearing impaired person in Nagpur. She wrapped up a magic show for Tokyo Edelweiss.
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