Shanti Raghavan has pioneered a system in India to transform the mindset of employers towards Persons with Disabilities (PwD). She has been instrumental in helping PwD access job opportunities by creating awareness in the corporate sector, and using innovative technology solutions in the workplace. Building on this success, she is now helping PwD gain higher-level “game-changer” jobs, where they can be influencers and leaders in making workplaces more accepting of PwD.
Prior to Shanti’s pioneering work, PwD unemployment was being addressed through “charity placements” in the corporate sector; and government programs focussed on recruitment of quantity of people over quality of work allocated. Through her organization, Enable India, Shanti is changing this approach by enabling PwD to achieve economic independence with dignity. At one end, Shanti helps PwD build skills, and develops innovative workplace solutions that act as the bridges between the PwD and the corporate work environment. On the other end, she conducts outreach with employers to create economic opportunities by altering their perceptions of PwD as valuable human resources. Enable India focuses on comprehensive development of PWD including interpersonal and communication skills through quality training. This ensures that candidates with disabilities gain confidence and are well-equipped to face challenges in the workplace.
Since her election, Shanti has expanded Enable India’s work to help PwD obtain “game changer jobs.” Shanti believes that a larger impact in societal attitudes will be achieved when PwD are working in non-stereotypical jobs that are influential in society. As part of the expansion, Enable India has successfully scaled its programs to countries like Mauritius, Singapore and Nepal. Program results have been strong, as 45% of PwD candidates have been placed in skilled jobs across 18 cities. Enable India has also managed to create demand for PwD in 26 sectors from Education, Fast Moving Consumer Goods to Information Technology Enabled Services. In addition, Enable India has been working with the Government of Karnataka to create a unique job placement model for PwD, in partnership with various government programs and the private sector.
In the future, Shanti plans to open a Center for Excellence in Banking dedicated to increasing PwD employment in mainstream businesses like banking. This builds on the success of a pilot study Shanti conducted at a national bank that included 40 visually and 20 hearing impaired employees, and led to bank savings of 1.68 crores per year. Shanti also plans to improve corporate and societal mindset by working with IIM Bangalore to develop “Inclusive and Adaptive Leaders” who are inclusive of abilities and adaptive of their disabilities.
Note: This was updated in June, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile