New Delhi/Mumbai, June 23, 2020: Sarthak Educational Trust and National Abilympics Association of India in collaboration with UNICEF-YuWaah! (Sarthak Knowledge partner) and The American Center (Sarthak Digital and Outreach partner) flagged off the virtual conference series – Dhristikone: Level up Strategy 2020 for Disability Empowerment to initiate a dialogue with national and international leaders to ponder on required initiatives to empower the disability sector. Introductory session of the webinar focussed on connecting prime stakeholders for an enriching session directed towards combating the effects of COVID-19 on various segments of disability namely healthcare, Inclusive Education, vocational skilling and Employment.
The virtual conference/webinar saw the participation of 100+ representatives from national and international repute related to the disability sector. The topics covered included Government support to disable community during COVID-19, the aftermath of economic disruption on disability diversity and Inclusion and Media Lens on disability during COVID-19.
“At Sarthak, we have always been highly aware of our responsibility towards the nation and are committed to providing all possible support to India’s response to the COVID-19 challenge in the domain of disability. We believe in taking measurable steps to tackle the urgent need of the hour and our response to the pandemic is also built around this approach”, shared Dr Jitender Aggarwal, Founder CEO, Sarthak Educational Trust. While talking about the steps taken by Sarthak Educational Trust as a response to COVID-19 pandemic he shared, “Sarthak’s response to COVID-19 is knowledge sharing and generating awareness to combat COVID-19 considering all spheres and segments of disability. Each adversity has led to some new opportunities. Sarthak has been conducting counselling and therapy session for children requiring early intervention. Sarthak also facilitated skill-building training of 1200 PwDs. Around 50 Corporates have openings in customer care executive jobs and we are in the process of placements, of which 350 trainees have already got jobs during this time which is laudable. A Mobile App is also being developed for PwDs to have easy access to information on schemes, jobs and seek real-time help when required. Additionally, Sarthak is in the process to build global e-learning platform for PwDs and also collaborating with international organising for empowering disability sector globally.
The inaugural #Webinar on ‘Government Support to Disability Community During COVID-19’ aimed at raising mass awareness about the impact of COVID on PwDs and to understand about initiatives taken by the Government so far for the strengthening of the disability sector. The session had eminent speakers like Padma Bhushan Dr MB Athreya, Krishan Kalra, Former President, AIMA, Tarika Roy, IRAS, Joint Secretary, DEPwD, MSJE, GOI, Dr Muniraju S.B., Dy. Adviser, Niti Aayog, Lov Verma, Former Secretary, Government of India and Dr Jitender Aggarwal, Founder CEO, Sarthak Educational Trust.
Dr Muniraju S.B., Dy. Adviser, Niti Aayog shared, “When the COVID situation arose, Niti Aayog reached out to all Civil Societies registered with them to help out PwDs. An advance of Rs. 3000 made to PwDs for their medicines and health care support. Padma Bhushan Dr MB Athreya further stressed on Information Delivery through various channels being crucial in current times. “It’s the right time to upgrade skill training process, some industries may have become obsolete, so re-training & re-thinking needs to be done. Nationally we need a massive study on disability that needs to be updated every year. It’s a big exercise like Census which government needs to execute with an NGO like Sarthak so that services can be provided seamlessly to PwD’s nationally.”
Tarika Roy, IRAS, Joint Secretary, DEPwD, MSJE, GOI clarified the status of various government initiatives underway for PwDs. She stressed on being a fast learner approach which her dept has adopted for a situation where the learning curve was very steep. She shared, “For database preparation, she mentioned that UDID (Unique Disability Identification card has been given out to over 44.8 lakh PwDs already from amongst 83 lakh which are registered with us. Sensitising RWAs was one of the initiatives which attracted me as something new” Issues of mental stress anxiety, depression as they have less access to socio-economic resources are also underway.”
The #Webinar 2 on ‘Aftermath of Economic Disruption on Disability Diversity and Inclusion’ threw light on COVID-19 restriction, many people with disabilities who operated small businesses, corporate jobs or other informal livelihood ventures (ie home cell phone repair or machine repair shops, selling goods, etc.) are unable to work and there is a significant loss of income. The webinar thus aimed at raising awareness about the adverse effect of COVID on PwDs personal and professional front and further deliberation on other vital aspects such as the inclusion of PwDs at workplace post-COVID survival and revival packages, counselling services, skill-building, newer opportunities, work from home model etc. The panel was chaired by SM Gupta, Global Chief People Officer, Startek Gayathri Ramamurthy, Senior Director & Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Capgemini, Shruti Mishra, Lead-People & Organisation Partner (Retail), Puma, Bijay Thakur, Head HR, The Leela Palace and Nandini Mehta, Vice President Human Resources, Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd.
SM Gupta, Global Chief People Officer, Startek opined, “Every crisis by nature brings a lot of opportunities. And one key opportunity this pandemic brought is Work From Home. It’s high time we look after the Disability Inclusive Response to COVID-19”. Gayathri Ramamurthy, Senior Director & Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Capgemini shared, “We have initiated various wellness initiatives like mindfulness, podcasts on mental health, anxiety, stress. PwDs were given access to emergency contacts/local connects. The onus also lies on destigmatising the talent pool of PwD’s and identifying their skill set as per the ecosystem”. Nandini Mehta, Vice President of Human Resources, Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd further added, “We have 700+ speech and hearing impaired working with us. Diversity and inclusion are at the top of our sustainability policy. We are working towards increasing numbers. Only 50 per cent of our stores are open now and we take complete accountability of our manpower.”
The session ended with #Webinar 3 on ‘Media Lens on Disability during COVID-19’ which aimed at highlighting the requirements of disability sector during COVID and discussing the role of media in voicing concerns/ challenges/ requirements of PwDs.
This four-month-long series of virtual symposiums organised by Sarthak Education Trust will give the much-needed impetus to the problems faced by PwDs during COVID-19. These webinars will cover a whole range of topics like CSR support for strengthening disability sector and Global Prospective of COVID-19 on Disabled Community (July 4, 2020), Era of Online Intervention Services for Children with Special Needs and Road Map to Strengthen Inclusive Education (August 7, 2020), and ending with topics like Dharma for Persons with Disability, Parental Role in Shaping Future of a Person with Disability and RDSM: Collaborative Action Towards Empowered Nations (September 3, 2020).