November 2009 | Arushi Agrawal

Rising to their right potential

TCS-Maitree is opening the door of opportunity for the visually impaired through training and skill development

Replacing the ‘sans’ of their lives with a ‘sense’ of pride and accomplishment, initiatives by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are empowering the differently abled sections of our society – helping them rise to their right potential.
“It is possible to gain knowledge and skill anywhere but they do not teach us how to utilise it in corporate life. Here at ACTC (Advanced Computer Training Centre), however, they not only upgrade our knowledge and skills but also teach us how to utilise it in our daily lives,” says Tirumangalam Rajath. “I never knew that I was a good presenter before coming to this centre. Here, they not only help us identify our skills but also help us develop them further.”
Mr. Tirumangalam Rajath, trainee, 
3rd TCS Maitree ACTC Batch
Mr Tirumangalam, a trainee from the third ACTC batch, has been successful in competing without concession, and has earned an internship with the insurance industry solutions unit in TCS. He is one of the many beneficiaries of the advanced computer training programme designed for the visually impaired by TCS-Maitree.
TCS has always endeavoured to use its core competence to address large-scale societal problems. In line with this endeavour, TCS-Maitree pioneered the ACTC for the visually impaired to train these ‘special people’ for employment. The centre, launched in 2008 at the MN Banajee Industrial Home for the Blind at Jogeshwari, Mumbai, offers courses that are in sync with industry requirements, providing trainees with life-affirming employment opportunities and a prospect to overcome their disability with the help of technology, able guidance, recognition and the right operating environment.
A special course has been designed with the help of JAWS, a screen reader software that converts screen content into audio format. To enhance the employability of trainees, the course focuses mainly around training in IT infrastructure and service management (ISM), building competency for business process outsourcing (BPO), and soft skills.  
JAWS is a user-friendly software that not only enables trainees to conquer their disability and undertake their job efficiently but also enables them to chat, email and even read a newspaper.
TCS-Maitree conducts full-day training sessions in batches of 15, for a duration of 40 days in the state-of-the-art lab set up at Jogeshwari. The qualifying criteria for aspirants to apply for the programme are graduation, average communication skills and basic computer knowledge. TCS-Maitree receives around 90 to 100 applications per quarter from all across India, from which trainees are selected after a rigorous merit-based, all-India entrance test. Upon qualifying, aspirants are trained and counselled by experts from TCS who prepare them to compete with sighted candidates on equal footing and secure a job with dignity and merit.
By bridging the gap between ‘training for employability’ and ‘employment’, ACTC ultimately aims to create, within TCS, Tata companies and other organisations, suitable opportunities for these individuals to prove their competence and ability to contribute to the organisation, without any expectation of preferential treatment. The efforts by TCS-Maitree to spread awareness and create an inclusive culture in the corporate world for these people with the same range of skills and abilities as people without disabilities but differently-abled, are being recognised and appreciated across the board.
“It is an amazing endeavour [by TCS-Maitree]. We want to support this initiative. We are working on a feasibility report on how to employ these talented people in our hotels,” says Debasmita Pani, head, corporate social responsibility, Taj Lands End, Mumbai. 
Spotting the huge opportunity and potential, Sanjiv Saraff, vice president, ICICI Securities, says, “It was not just a perspective but the opening up of a completely new world for me. Simply amazing yet true! I am privileged to be associated with such a cause and I know it is an onerous responsibility. Together we can and we will. Maitree has commenced a wonderful journey and it is heartening to see such a dedicated team. We just need more Maitrees.”  
People with disabilities offer incredible reserves of untapped potential and an alternate talent pool, both as employees and as customers. With this belief, TCS-Maitree has proactively worked towards providing an inclusive environment for the differently-abled within TCS, an effort aimed at making this practice a part of regular business rather than a special consideration. After a thorough needs assessment and situational analysis, the company has undertaken the following steps to drive this agenda internally:
  • Sensitisation of senior management and associates for the employment of differently-abled.
  • Identification of core areas for employment, eg BPO, infrastructure services (Internal IT), testing, etc.
  • Providing adequate training and assistive technologies like JAWS.
  • Incorporating changes in the physical structure of the operating space by creating ramps, etc.
  • Facilitating employment and monitoring inclusivity of differently-abled employed in TCS.
The vigour and dedication of the TCS-Maitree volunteers to contribute to this life-changing experience for their fellow human beings is truly heartening and inspiring.
Learning hardware together
- caring and sharing within the team
In its second year now, ACTC has already trained 53 associates out of which more than 30 are employed in TCS across roles within ISM, BPO processes, learning and development, human resources, global helpdesk and accessibility testing. A host of them are also being considered for employment by companies such as Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Taj Hotels and Tata Communications.
Sans the feeling of incompleteness and helplessness, the trainees of ACTC are able to stand tall with the best of their peers with certainty. And lending a helping hand are the eager volunteers of TCS-Maitree.