In an exclusive event organised on 24 February 2024, the Empowered Committee for Differently Abled Persons (ECDAP), University of Hyderabad (UoH) brought together a panel of HR leaders cutting across the corporate world for a discussion on inclusive hiring practices with particular reference to visually impaired professionals. It was a day-long event organised by the ECDAP in collaboration with Wow HR (Hyderabad Chapter) and Help the Blind Foundation, Chennai. The program was inaugurated by Prof. Lokananda Reddy, the UoH Finance Officer and professor in the School of Management Studies.  In his inaugural address Prof. Reddy referred to the widening income gap between the world’s rich and poor populations. The Global Inequality Report (2022), for example, reveals that the richest top 10% population own around 74% of total household wealth. On the other hand, a new study widely published in January 2024 suggests that 1% of India’s rich own around 40% of country’s wealth. Making reference to some of these stunning statistical facts , Prof. Reddy told the audience that the present model of development is undergoing a serious crisis, and urgent steps are needed to correct it. If anything, the inaugural address had enough clues for the panel to deliberate upon, clearly indicating that inclusion and diversity can no longer be optional but should be made an integral part of corporate hiring policies.

Shri. N. Annavaram, speaking on behalf of the chairperson Prof. Ramaswamy Shamanna (in absence of leave), ECDAP welcomed the guests and emphasised the fact that University of Hyderabad has been proactive in bridging the gap between individual skill sets and societal needs. The ECDAP in particular has been taking up various initiatives to introduce students with special needs and different abilities to the world of opportunities. The Managing Trustee of the HTBF Mr. Shivaji Rao briefly recalled the history of their organisational evolution and how the HTBF has been catering to the needs of visually impaired students in the space of higher education for more than a decade now. Setting the context for the event, Smt. Sarvani Rani briefly spoke about the Wow HR as a group of HR professionals committed to bridging the gap between the industry and students in higher education.

The prominent HR leaders who participated in the event include: Ramchander Maddela (Head HR – Dhanush Healthcare Systems Pvt Ltd), Mario David (Vice President –Organizational Development – JPMorgan & Chase Co.), and Roohi Syeda – Global Head of HR – (Next Quarter). The other special guests who participated in the event include: Suman Damera – Senior Principal Accessibility Engineer – (Phenom), and Ram Bubesh Murugan – Senior Manager Digitization – (Sutherland).

Dr. Rajdeep Manwani (Head, Department of Commerce, Jain University, Bengaluru delivered the keynote address, wherein he pointed out that the key obstacle in the recruitment of people with visual impairment is not really the lack of talent but the misconstrued assumptions the employers often make about the abilities of this section of people. The fact is that there is a huge talent pool among visually impaired professionals, but a lot of that talent remains unutilised simply because the employers do not have enough awareness about the real potential of this professional group. The keynote speaker called for a transparent recruitment policy where the current thinking based on flawed logic should give way to an institutional policy based on plain logic.