The Helen Keller Awards, announced in Delhi on Dec. 2 on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, honoured people and institutions doing extraordinary work for the welfare of disabled people.
The NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Awards for 2016, named after the deaf and blind American author and social activist, recognise exemplary work done by individuals, companies and NGOs, to promote the wellbeing of disabled people. The awards were instituted in 1999, discontinued for one year in 2014, making the 2016 awards the 17th edition.
Of the 12 prizes given out in various categories this year, eight were received by Bengaluru-based individuals and organisations.
Here is what you need to know about them:
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CATEGORY: Role Model Disabled Person
1. Cegeo Thekkal, Peer Director, AMBA
Mr Thekkal is a Bengaluru resident who is intellectually-disabled. He is employed at an organisation that promotes alternative education for people with disabilities. His job requires him to oversee the quality monitoring of a team of 25 data operators. Mr Thekkal also holds trainings in communications.
2. Deepa Narasimhan, Head, Diversity & Inclusion APJ, EMC DELL
Ms Narasimhan heads the ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ initiative at an MNC in Bengaluru. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when she was six months old and over the years it has weakened her muscles considerably so she is now confined to a wheelchair.
“I always look back to where I began and that keeps me motivated to do more. When I see my journey, the challenges and how I overcame them, over and over again, I know I can do more,” Ms Narasimhan said in an interview last year. “I kickstarted the unique Profound Disability Internship programme at EMC for people with conditions similar to or more severe than mine. I get to mentor these young and enthusiastic people. This, and the fact that the programme is being emulated by many corporate, really motivates me,” she added.
3. Pratik Rajiv Jindal, Assistant Manager: Human Resources-Global Strategic Hiring, Wipro Ltd.
Mr Jindal became blind when he was 20 because of a genetic disorder. His disability was a disqualification for many potential employers who came for college placements.
“A company representative would come to me personally and tell me I had scored the highest in the interviews, but the company was apprehensive about supporting me because of my condition,” he told The Times of India. He finally landed a job with Wipro and now serves as the assistant HR manager for global strategy at their Bangalore office.
CATEGORY: Role Model Supporter of Increased Employment Opportunities for Disabled People:
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1. Dr Jasmer Singh Saini, Professor, Rural Development, National Institute of Technical Training and Research
Dr Saini started working with differently-abled persons when his son Saurabh Saini was declared fully deaf at one-and-a-half years. When the government enacted the Persons with Disability Act 1995 and the Human Resource Ministry approved a scheme to improve access to employment opportunities for disabled persons, Dr Saini saw a way to help. He actively helped implement the scheme in Chandigarh. It was Dr Saini who pushed the concerned authorities to reserve 25 seats in 50 polytechnics across the country for disabled persons and to impart 3-6 months vocational training to them. He also fought for better representation of disabled people in the corporate sector, convincing Tech Mahindra to hire 10-12 disabled persons in 2010. Big brand companies like IBM and TATA soon followed suit.
2. Pankajam Sridevi, Managing Director, ANZ
Ms Sridevi is the Managing Director of the Technology Services vertical of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Bengaluru. She has been committed to hiring disabled persons in the ANZ Bengaluru hub, where over 7000 people work. “It is our job to create an equal opportunity for everyone, including the disabled,” she told The Times of India.
3. Prof. Sanjeev Sonawane, Professor, Department of Education and Extension, Savitribai Phule Pune University.
Mr Sonawane suffers from a vision defect but that has not stopped him from making sure that blind youth get a shot at employment. He has created educational programmes to make young people who are blind more employable. He is the sole person from Maharashtra to receive the award.
CATEGORY: Role Model Companies/NGOs/Institutions
In this category, which recognises the efforts of organisations dedicated to promoting equal employment opportunities for disabled persons, the following were awarded: Bengaluru office of Accenture Services Private Limited, CISCO Systems India Private Limited, DELL EMC, Aegis Limited, State Bank of India, and Synchrony Financials.
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