Can’t believe I’m already done with 1/3 of my internship! This past week has been full of learning and exposure, as well as traveling back and forth between the EnAble India training center and the EMC company building. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, EnAble India’s main goal is to help people with disability find employment. There’s a systematic process that EnAble India uses to take their candidates from start to finish, and I’m lucky to have observed all of the different steps over the last few days. The journey can be broken into three main parts: Registration à Training à Job Mapping. The steps aren’t mutually exclusive; there’s a lot of going back and forth between training and job mapping to ensure that the candidates are placed in the most suitable jobs and that they are fully prepared to perform the tasks. I’ll discuss each part in more detail–
So first, registration. Saturday was registration day for new candidates interested in EnAble India’s programs. After taking some aptitude tests, the candidates brought their paperwork to the profiling stations, where we asked them about their disabilities, work experience, skillset, education, and other details. After profiling, some of the candidates went through workplace solutions assessment, where we introduced them to various assistive technologies and gauged which ones fit them well. Registration day is the candidates’ first point of contact with the NGO. In a few weeks’ time, they will begin their training sessions.
Now onto training. Training sessions are usually for learning English or computer skills. Candidates rely heavily on assistive technology to perform many computer functions. For example, visually impaired candidates use the NVDA screen reader, which reads out whatever the cursor lies on; candidates with cerebral palsy and who cannot move the mouse with their hands use speech recognition to control the computer; candidates with low vision use a magnifier and on-screen keyboard to enhance visualization of the computer screen. I spent some time this week familiarizing myself with the various assistive technologies that the candidates with profound disability are using, especially speech recognition. I also saw how AT is applied in real life when I met the profound candidates at the EMC office on Wednesday and Thursday to help set up their company laptops. It’s really quite incredible how simple software can empower the candidates to such a large extent. It’s important that I know how to use the AT myself, as my main responsibility next week is to teach some of the profound candidates the computer functions relevant to their EMC jobs, such as email and Excel.
For job mapping, EnAble India works with companies to carve out or identify positions that match the candidates’ qualifications and abilities. It’s a pretty arduous process, as I realized on Wednesday when I joined in on meetings with EnAble India’s employment team, EMC’s director of the profound internship program, and various EMC project managers. First, it takes effort on the project managers’ part to figure out a job that’s substantial but still manageable for someone with profound disability. Second, assigning candidates to project teams is like a utilitarian quest, maximizing happiness with the options we have. Finally, after we’ve decided on the matches, we conduct accessibility testing, where we see if the candidates can indeed perform the tasks required for their jobs with the AT they know. If accessibility testing gives a thumbs up, the matches are complete. If we find that the candidates are unable to complete their responsibilities, we need to re-assign jobs or tweak the jobs. For the EMC profound internship, we’re almost done with assigning candidates to project teams. A couple of matches have yet to be finalized, and this upcoming week we will begin accessibility testing.
Spending the last few days with the candidates and EMC employees has been eye-opening for me. The immense desire that EMC has to build a diverse and inclusive community and the way the EMC employees welcome people with disability as their colleagues and equal team members inspire me to humble myself and be more generous with my own time and energy. I really think that it’s important to include corporations in the dialogue, and that multiple players—NGOs, companies, government, etc.—should work together to empower people with disability. I’m glad to see this partnership between EnAble India and EMC working so well, and I’m hopeful for more collaborations like this to form elsewhere and in the future.