Employing Beyond Labels

The Disability Act 1995 provides for three percent reservation in the 'identified jobs' category. However, even a decade after the Act was passed, few are aware of this list, depriving deserving candidates from rightful employment opportunities.

What kind of a job can a person with disability perform in an office environment? An answer to this question is not very simple. It is much more complicated. A constantly changing technology leading to the introduction of solutions, which were not there earlier, makes it impossible to give a standard answer to this question. So what is the basis for categorizing a disabled person?

Till the accounting software is not made compatible with the screen reading software, persons with blindness will not be able to take up the accounting profession. However, if the accounting software is installed in any organisation that works with the screen reading software, there is no reason why a person with blindness or low vision would not be able to perform well as an accountant or an account's supervisor. A newspaper report recently quoted a specialised career councilor who stated that mathematics is a subject where persons with vision impairment are at a disadvantage and therefore after class eight they should be given a choice to leave mathematics. The very next day, there was an article about Dr TV Raman who was born blind and completed his M Tech in Mathematics from IIT, Mumbai. Not only this, his teachers say that due to the abstract nature of the subject, persons with blindness are actually at an advantage to their seeing counterparts in learning Mathematics.

It is therefore very important for youth with disabilities to make a correct choice of subjects to pursue their career in order to enable them to prepare themselves for job opportunities that lie ahead for them.

The quota system

There is also a severe lack of awareness on this subject. Due to this, many opportunities of employment are denied to persons with disability in spite of their having appropriate qualifications and an excellent academic record. To counter the barriers in employment opportunities due to lack of awareness about capabilities of persons with disabilities, a quota system has been in force in the government and public sector jobs. This has been further enshrined in the Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995.

Section 33 of the Act states: "Every appropriate Government shall appoint in every establishment such percentage of vacancies not less than three per cent for persons or class of persons with disability of which one per cent each shall be reserved for persons suffering from-

  1. blindness or low vision;
  2. hearing impairment;
  3. locomotor disability or cerebral palsy, in the posts identified for each disability:"

This section makes a mention of posts identified for each disability. This means that the government adopts a procedure to go into the depth of capacities and current mode of operation for any specific job profile and experts prepare a list of jobs which are found to be doable to the best of their knowledge where any category of persons with disability can be fully productive. The law also acknowledges the changing definition of capabilities due to technological solutions and changes taking place in the work environment. Thus a periodical review of this list has been made mandatory.

  Class A Class B Class C Class D Total Posts
Blind 173 81 120 55 A+B+C+D=429
Low Vision 238 98 305 155 A+B+C+D= 796
Hearing 431 147 945 205 A+B+C+D= 1728
730 211 1062 212 A+B+C+D= 2215

Total Identified
Post as per the list
783 254 1142 215 2394\

Section 32 of the Act states

Appropriate Governments shall

  • identify posts, in the establishments, which can be reserved for the persons with disability;
  • at periodical intervals not exceeding three years, review the list of posts identified and up-date the list taking into consideration the developments in technology."

Periodic review

Although the job identification committee formulation and review has not taken plac e as frequently as is mentioned in the law, the latest review took place recently and a renewed list of identified jobs has been published through the Gazette Notification of India on January 18, 2007.

The committee constituted to review the jobs identified felt strongly that all jobs should be considered as identified unless any specific job process is found to be not doable. In such an approach, if the candidate possesses the desired qualifications and skills for any job, he/she should be considered for employment based on that qualification. The benefit of quota should be given to that candidate for that particular job. This approach requires change in the language of the law and the committee therefore decided to stay with the current approach itself and make necessary changes and augmentation/deletions in the previously identified jobs.

It is important that the qualifications and skills of persons with disabilities are given due importance vis-à-vis the list of identified jobs.

Many large establishments were taken up as case studies for the job identification process. Samples from various sectors such as universities, railways were picked up for assessment of job profiles, field surveys were undertaken and various jobs were identified in the process. Personnel departments of these establishments were also involved. The committee was headed by additional secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment.

Following is the table providing total number of posts identified under each category for different kinds of disabilities.

Persons with disabilities tend to get stereotyped in their job roles. For example, the blind are seen as teachers, telephone operators, office clerks or stenographers only. As a result, young students with blindness invariably restrict their ambitions to just these three or four areas and thus choose subjects like music, languages like Hindi and Sanskrit, and Political Science and History for higher education. However, a look at the list of identified jobs, show many new areas including management, administration, law, welfare, editors, economists, computer programming, public relations which require much more than the traditional choice of subjects. As a result of this lack of awareness, few qualified candidates are available for the complete range of identified posts.

The list of identified jobs is obviously an excellent career guidance tool. It is also worth observing that all committee members unanimously agreed that this list should not be treated as an exhaustive listing of jobs that can be done by persons with disabilities. This list should be seen as an indicator since job profiles are extremely varying and capabilities of persons with disabilities is not some thing that can be related only to the level of impairment. There are persons with blindness who have flown airplanes over Europe which certainly cannot be put as an identified job as of now. However, the feet is not a fluke and was done using technology solutions which are not within the reach of most of the persons with blindness. As mentioned before, the capabilities in the field of Mathematics have been proven by many persons with blindness. But as of now fields like teaching Mathematics are not yet covered under identified jobs. In case of mathematics, if the person does have required qualification and skill it would not be right to deny him/her the post of lecturer in Mathematics simply because it is not covered under the list of identified jobs. It is therefore important that the qualifications and skills of persons with disabilities are given due importance vis-à-vis the list of identified jobs. The list should only be treated as a minimum base by which persons with disabilities can be provided job opportunities and job reservations.

The writer is a member of the committee constituted by the GoI for the review of the identification of jobs for persons with disabilities, is winner of the President's gold medal for being the most accomplished disabled person for having created employment opportunities for the disabled