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Rangam Hosts Round Table on Matters Pertaining to Vocational Skills Training and Disability Inclusion in India

roundtable-conferenceRangam hosts a roundtable to discuss the challenges facing the disability community in India, as well as identify solutions through collaboration with partners in the US who specialize in vocational skills development and employability programs.

ColorsAcademy, Rangam’s offshore skills training and career development center for children and young adults with disabilities, convened a round table on Friday, August 10 in Vadodara, Gujarat. The conference, held at the premises of ColorsAcademy, was attended by special educators, parents of children with disabilities, and representatives from local as well as national disability support groups.

Among the guests were Manju Kaushal, Founder of a local parents group for individuals with disabilities; Radha Tandon, Director of the Praangan Center for Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN); Dr. Sonal Shah, Trustee, Medical Director and Coordinator at the Matushree Parsanba Charitable Trust/Sankalp Centre for Children with Disabilities; Pravir Lal, member of the governing board at Sankalp; N. K. Chawla, Vice President of Disha Autism Centre; and Priyanka Biradar, social activist. Merry Barua, Director of Action for Autism and National Centre for Autism (India), and Anita Narayan Iyer, Founder, Managing Trustee, and Chief Volunteer of the EKansh Trust in Pune, also joined the conference through video.

The senior leadership team at Rangam, headed by CEO and Chief Innovation Officer Nish Parikh, made a presentation of Rangam’s global strategy and efforts aimed at developing innovative tools, programs, and services to facilitate vocational and life-skills development for individuals with disabilities as they prepare for employment.

“It was an honor to personally meet the game changers who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities in India. They are doing an amazing job on their own. The purpose of the round table was to understand the challenges and learn from each other through collaboration. We would like to bring the best training programs and the right resources to India, in order to accomplish our mission of Employment for Everyone. However, to be able to do so, we have to find the right partners who can tell us about best practices, evidence-based methodologies, and the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ we should follow when working with a marginalized community striving to find sustainable work in the open job market,” Nish Parikh said.

Parikh further stated that ColorsAcademy would like to tap into local, community-based employment programs – an approach that differs from Rangam’s nationwide hiring programs in corporate America. “There is a vast pool of talent with unique abilities in India. We need to start working with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and employers to identify, train, and employ talented job seekers. In order to start that process, we have developed a plan to collaborate with local manufacturing and retail businesses,” he explained.

Anita Narayan Iyer put forward the idea of reverse engineering as a practical way to meet the needs of employers. “The primary purpose of skilling individuals with disabilities is to find them jobs. However, we are currently skilling them to a certain extent before sending them to companies, saying that this is what our candidates can do for you. We have to work the other way around. We need to have hiring managers come over to skilling centers [like ColorsAcademy], meet candidates in person, look at their skillsets, and work out the best job profiles for these special talents.”

Merry Barua discussed the complexities of getting people with autism to work and applauded the efforts of Rangam toward creating a system of inclusive employment utilizing technology and collaborative strategies. She also emphasized the need to educate and empower parents.

“About three years ago, Rangam ran a successful pilot program at Sankalp for two months. We found that our children were attracted to the audio-visual stimulation provided by ColorsKit,” Pravir Lal said. “ColorsKit was very helpful in tracking the progress of children who are non-verbal. We hope to work with Rangam in further developing this program and taking it to the next level.”

N. K. Chawla touched upon the importance of having local training and therapy centers for individuals with developmental disabilities. He also thanked Rangam for offering support to students at Disha through the ColorsKit series of educational apps.

“The roundtable was an appreciable initiative to get the key stakeholders to interact with each other. We should continue to organize similar events in the future, since sharing knowledge multiplies it,” Radha Tandon wrote in a thank-you note.

For more information about ColorsAcademy, please visit http://www.colorsacademy.com.