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02.12.2022 By Shai Venkatraman, Vice President – Client Experience, Current Global India

Helping Brands Champion Disability Inclusion: Perspectives from India.

This year’s theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3, 2022) – ‘Not All Disabilities Are Visible’ – aims to highlight the struggles faced by people living with invisible disabilities.

Disabilities like mental health disorders, deafness, chronic pain, and fatigue are not always evident to the naked eye, making it hard for people living with hidden disabilities to talk about their struggles and needs. This makes it important to initiate conversations about ways to build an inclusive, supportive culture.

Globally, Covid made a significant contribution to disability inclusion in the workplace as the pandemic led businesses to acknowledge the importance of accessible working and sparked forward-thinking product innovation. With a wider community of consumers turning to technology during the pandemic, large companies like Current Global client Microsoft increased their focus on improving disability inclusion. Likewise, many brands have started putting inclusion at the core of their marketing strategies. For example, LinkedIn (another client) launched a new feature in early 2022 that allows users to add “dyslexic thinking,” an invisible disability, as a skill on their profiles. This came soon after Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, and the global charity Made By Dyslexia launched the #DyslexicThinking campaign. Through this feature, LinkedIn aims to recognize the creative and problem-solving skills that dyslexics bring to the workplace.

Covid also brought workplace accessibility into the spotlight in India as physical distancing norms compelled companies to make accommodations to facilitate the new work realities. The irony is that India’s disabled community has been fighting for decades for these accommodations, but it took a pandemic for them to be mandated. The shift, however, remains largely restricted to the workplace. Public transportation remains a challenge but disability rights champions like Roma Balwani, CEO and Brand Custodian of Indian Deaf Cricket Association, see this as an opportunity to push for a larger change.

Cricket is a national passion in India and the Indian Deaf cricket team is confident of carving out its own following despite the overwhelming obsession with mainstream cricket. “The pandemic has emphasized the importance of values like compassion and empathy, and we are seizing this mindset change to seek the support of the brands that sponsor mainstream cricket tournaments like the IPL (Indian Premier League),” said Balwani. “Diversity and inclusion are under focus in a big way now, and brands increasingly see value in supporting disability sports to help build credibility and that authentic connection. They have an opportunity here as the returns are high and it helps them build a brand connect that is unique to Deaf cricket.”

Many big brands have taken the lead in this regard. Current Global’s client Bacardi India, for instance, has set a benchmark for events in the country by introducing a series of measures to make its annual music festival NH7 Weekender accessible for people with mobility, visual, and hearing disabilities.

The pandemic will give this further momentum, believes Current Global’s head of India, Shashikant Someshwar. “From how we communicate to how we shop, inclusion defines individual experiences in the post-pandemic world. I believe this will endure, making it important for brands and businesses to embrace and promote diversity and inclusion in ways that are not reduced to acts of tokenism or appear patronizing. Rather, they need to do this in meaningful ways through authentic stories and experiences and elevate them to spaces where they are seen, heard, and recognized,” says Someshwar.

Learn about Current Global’s commitment to making communications accessible to all at www.accessible-communications.com, where you can access free resources to start your own accessible communications journey.

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