Gurgaon (Haryana). When millions of disabled people are still dreaming of a decent life, 23-year-old Madhubala Sharma, blind since birth, has etched out her own identity as a voice and accent trainer in a multinational IT company here.
Although the blind community faces a lot of barriers ranging from lack of education to poor acceptance among employers, the desire to be different can help them to overcome all of them, said Sharma, currently working with IBM Daksh, a leading business process outsourcing (BPO) firm in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi.
"I was born blind, but since my childhood it has been my desire to be different. My mindset has helped me to progress in life. I think determination and self-belief can help the millions of disabled people in our society," said Sharma, who has trained around 175 trainees in the call centre in less than one year.
"To equip myself, I decided to be a part of a normal school - first in Faith Academy, then in Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, and then in Lady Sri Ram College. It was difficult initially, but I could accommodate myself," Sharma told IANS on the sideline of a disability conference here.
After her graduation she learned how to operate computer, mastering the Jaws software that speaks out words written in a file. Later, she joined Daksh in July 2005.
According to the 2001 census, the number of disabled people in the country is 22 million, but the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) claims that the number is over 60 million.
While 93 percent of the disabled in rural India are below secondary level (in education), the percentage in urban areas stands at 82. Only nine out of 1,000 physically challenged people in urban areas are able to get into engineering as against three in rural areas.
Sharing her experience at the BPO firm, she said that her employer had thus far been cooperative. "I have Jaws software, Braille metal plates describing room number and name and talking lifts (in the office)."
She said she faced some problems at the initial phase with her trainees. "They used to think how a blind girl could be their trainer. But after attending my classes, they showed more determination to do well. They would tell me that if I could be their trainer in spite of my handicap, they too could achieve their targets."
Sharma, however, complained that employers, mainly from the corporate sector, had preconceived notions about the disabled.
"The (blind) community is not getting proper education, they lack employment information and above all they are victims of perception problem of the corporate sector. I think knowledge and skills should be the basis of recruitment rather than mere physical attributes," she added.