Seamlessly integrate people with any kind of differences into the workforce, V R Ferose, SAP

13th Nov 2013
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We recently caught up with V R Ferose of SAP to talk about The India Inclusion Summit scheduled to be held between 29-30th November in Bangalore. SAP being one of the pioneers of inclusivity, is an anchor partner for the summit.Entrepreneurs must think about inclusivity early on to build a meaningful organization. So, let us hear Ferose’s thoughts on inclusivity at workplaces -

Edited excerpts of the conversation:

What are some of the best practices that organizations can follow to make workplaces more inclusive?

Inclusion requires a special thought to be given for each of the areas (disabilities) that the organization intends to focus on. Ultimately, the objective is to seamlessly integrate people with any kind of differences into the workforce so that they can contribute to the organization, without needing to realize the need for inclusion on a daily basis. Our firm belief is that "everyone is good at something" and in an inclusive world, there is a place for all kinds of people! Organizations need to put in a concerted effort towards culture building, training, innovative workplace solutions and a special focus on the abilities of individuals.

What are some of the case studies from within SAP promoting inclusivity?

We began the journey towards inclusion a few years back. One of the areas where we’ve had a very special focus in the last couple of years has been for Autism. We started working with the use of technology for education of children in the Autism Spectrum 3 years back. Here the focus was mainly on the use of touch screen devices such as iPads for learning and communication. The first of its kinds back then. We found the whole program to be very effective. Employee volunteers from SAP developed a free app called ‘Bol’ and an online education repository. (Check it up online here www.learn4autism.com)

Our experience in this space led to recruitment of individuals with Autism for Software Testing. It’s been an amazing journey, with a lot of learning and experience. Today we have 6 individuals working in Bangalore – 5 of them in software testing and 1 in content research. We are constantly working on how we can use the skills and strengths of these individuals to the fullest. Recently, the project was rolled out globally within SAP, and we aim to have 1% of our workforce from the Autism Spectrum by 2020.

Are you working with the government and policymakers to make workplaces more inclusive in India?

 Propagating the importance of inclusivity in workplace is best done through active advocacy in the community. The India Inclusion Summit (IIS) is one such attempt by us. The Summit, though funded and supported by SAP, is designed as an ‘open source’ event owned and run by the community. It’s like a Barcamp for inclusion – with an active advisory board and an open democratic way of functioning. Looking ahead, our aspiration is to deepen the engagement with the community through IIS and the multiple inclusivity related projects that we will undertake through the year.

What do we expect from the India Inclusion Summit this year? What excites you most about the summit this year?

 This year the Summit kicks off on November 29, with Dr Abdul Kalam opening the fund raising dinner. During the dinner, we’ll witness some entertainment, inspiration and an auction. We have some rare items on auction like for example a cricket bat signed by the IPL 4 winning Mumbai Indians team (including Sachin Tendulkar’s) and an original framed poster of the blockbuster movie ‘Kashmir ki Kali’ signed by Sharmila Tagore.

 The opening day of the Summit, on 30 November, has inspirational speakers from all walks of life – activists, entrepreneurs, real life heroes, authors and industry stalwarts who have made inclusion a part of their life. We owe it to the community to make it a world class event, that is open to all. We’ve had partners like Ritz Carlton, Showbiz who’ve made this possible and as well contribution from our NGO partners.

This is a platform for many unsung heroes. Our focus is to make inclusion a topic that excites everyone, so that everyone plays some role in the same.

What motivates you the most about what you are doing right now with the India Inclusion Summit?

 Change in the society will be visible when Corporates, Community and Culture come together. The summit is an amazing conglomeration of people who have contributed to the disability sector. It’s a day, where ideas and actions come together. Each year we look at seeding ideas and kicking off projects that take shape over the next 12 months, which we follow up and support throughout. This year we are working with EnAble India to launch an online platform that promotes awareness about disability and inclusion at workplace, and also scale Autism Society of India’s efforts in the field of employability for Autism.

Technology is impacting every aspect of life today. How do you see technology solving the issue of accessibility and inclusivity in the future?

Technology plays a great role in increasing the reach of information and knowledge, reducing barriers and the associated costs. In many ways, it is a great leveler. We constantly seek opportunities to spread the awareness of technology and its usability to organizations and people working in the field of inclusivity. I believe it’s important for technologists to understand disabilities and inclusion and that’s one of the roles that IIS plays.

The Summit sounds like a really encouraging discussion forum, and we wish Ferose and SAP team all the best as they gear up towards the summit! The world will be a much better place when we make it more inclusive for all. Do register to attend The Inclusion Summit right away, and learn from the best.

Note: YourStory is a media partner for the summit.

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