India Growth Story: ‘Millions of Persons with Disability Employable’, AIF launches DI-verse – India’s biggest campaign to Foster Inclusive Ecosystems at Workplaces

March 6, New Delhi: India’s journey towards becoming a formidable five trillion-dollar economy is underscored by its commitment to fostering inclusive growth across all segments of society. With an aim to double the number of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) engaged in formal sector employment and strengthening the entrepreneurial landscape, the American India Foundation (AIF) unveiled DI-verse; a groundbreaking initiative at their annual flagship event – Future of Livelihoods, on Tuesday.

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DI-verse is dedicated to transforming workplaces into inclusive environments committed to the social and financial advancement of PwDs. Following strategic disability-inclusive hackathons, which brought together 29 dedicated champions – persons with disabilities, corporate DEI leaders, and accessibility experts – a comprehensive blueprint for accountability measures for inclusive workplaces was developed, mindful of all 21 disabilities under the 2016 RPwD Act. Building upon this foundation, AIF now proposes to acknowledge and celebrate corporations who actively promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities – not only skill-based positions but also high-paying leadership job roles.

At the launch of DI-verse, the Chief Guest – Shri Rajesh Agarwal (IAS), Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice, and Empowerment, said, “With lakhs of PwDs seeking opportunities within India Inc., DI-verse platform looks very promising. It converges with the government’s economic vision to have more inclusive employment strategies, which can help harness the untapped potential of PwDs to propel India’s growth story forward. Linked to Divyangjan Rojgar Setu PM Daksh Portal, AIF will be able to serve 10 million PwDs across India to bridge the yawning gap between the demand and supply of their employment opportunities.”

Mr. Matthew Joseph, Country Director of AIF, emphasized the broader societal impact of inclusive livelihood initiatives, saying, “Entrepreneurship and employment emerge as viable avenues for individuals with disabilities to achieve financial independence and resultant self-sufficiency. Inclusion is not just about economic empowerment; it’s about building a society where diversity is celebrated, and everyone has equal opportunities to succeed. AIF through its ABLE program has been at the forefront of disability inclusion for over a decade and through DI-verse, we aspire to create a more equitable and diverse society where every individual is valued.”

Mr. Kamesh Sanghi, Director of Livelihood at AIF, highlighted the significance of DI-verse in the landscape of inclusive development, stating, “At the core of our approach is a comprehensive certification program. We aim to become the leading certification provider, guiding corporations in integrating accessibility seamlessly into various facets of their operations, including communication strategies, policies, infrastructure, and hiring practices.”

AIF’s Future of Livelihoods event with the theme of ‘Advancing Disability Inclusive Ecosystem Through Technology and Collaboration’ drove a seminal discourse on collaboration, diversity, and organizational excellence, bringing in 120 subject matter experts, industry leaders, academicians, government officials, and DEI experts to advance the cause of employment and entrepreneurship for individuals with disabilities, extending beyond economic considerations while embracing broader societal inclusion and empowerment.

Through thought-provoking events and dialogues AIF aims to catalyze systemic changes that dismantle existing barriers and promote disability-inclusive cultures across public, private, and multinational sectors. It seeks to double the number of PwDs engaged in formal sector employment and strengthen the entrepreneurial landscape in India.

DI-verse is an offshoot of AIF’s leading program – Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE), which has trained over 18,000+ PwDs and provided jobs to 10,000+ candidates through partnerships with 1,800+ inclusive employers. AIF’s initiatives span from sign language courses for corporate employees, national job fairs for PwDs, to an inclusive policy toolkit, and an AAA certified accessible job portal, catering to remote and inclusive employment for PwDs. Linked to Divyangjan Rojgar Setu PM Daksh Portal, this portal is poised to serve 10 million PwDs across India. With the launch of DI-verse, AIF’s commitment to inclusivity takes a giant leap forward.

Picture Caption from Left to Right – Mr. Matthew Joseph, Country Director of AIF; Shri Rajesh Agarwal (IAS), Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice, and Empowerment; JayKumar, National Manager, Disability Inclusion, AIF; Mr. Kamesh Sanghi, Director of Livelihood at AIF