Avenues for Employment

In the past, vocational training had no relationship with employment. Trades chosen had very low market value and the training imparted had no relation/similarities with the real work situation. Therefore, there have been a lot of cases of dropouts from jobs. Today, the need to select specific employment has been realized. The current trend is looking for employment available in the immediate community and providing training in those areas, so that a person can enter into meaningful employment after he finishes the training.

The various models of employment are:

1. Self-employment:

Any person with the support of his family members can enter into self-employment once he receives appropriate training for the job to be undertaken. The other pre-requisites apart from training are the adequate family resources such as space, funds and the support for decision making, money management, procuring raw materials and marketing of products. For persons with mentally challenged, it includes quality control and supervision at the time of production too. Therefore, it protects the person with mentally challenged from exploitation by the outside world. Involved professionals can provide opportunities to the persons with mentally challenged e.g. organizing group recreational activities, business tours etc.

There are a few schemes available for starting self employment for the challenged but care has to be taken to ensure that the person with mentally challenged is benefited primarily, even if the family derives secondary benefits.

Examples of home based self- employment in the Indian context are- aggarbatti making, candle making, running photo-copying center, managing small shops, chalk making, preparing edible goods, operating phone booth.

2. Sheltered employment:

This is a set-up where 10-12 challenged workers work under the supervision of a supervisor. This is the most popular kind of Employment Avenue for all the categories of the challenged population. An individual is trained and employed in the workshop itself. As they work under sheltered environment; developing social competence required for such a situation is relatively easier. On the other hand, it would be advisable to give these employees ample opportunities to go out of their protected environment and interact with the outside world. The advantage of a sheltered employment is that persons with various degrees of handicap can be meaningfully employed and their abilities can be taken into consideration and built upon while assigning a particular task to them.

3. Open employment:

This caters best to individual with mild mentally challenged, as it requires higher social & cognitive skills. A person has to work under the normal work situations (not overprotected ones) with the co-workers who may or may not have disabilities. The work demands are also higher. For open employment the jobs possibilities may be explored e.g. a job that requires a lot of public dealing may be unfit for a person with mentally challenged since he may be more suitable for a routine job which will have minimal changes in his daily activities.

Some examples are

In Singapore all branches of McDonalds have people with Down syndrome working for them.

In Delhi, a children’s readymade garment shop has employed many people with disability.

Many other department stores and shops all over the world employ challenged people as assistants, sales managers etc.

4. Parents Cooperatives:

Recently a new trend, i.e. a modified version of sheltered workshop has been introduced in the field of rehabilitation of persons with mentally challenged. The parents of the persons with mentally challenged mainly manage the production centre, taking technical help from the professionals.

There is a cooperative at Balwant Rai Mehta, Lajpat Bhavan in Delhi, which sells masalas. Aakanksha is a production centre for persons with mentally challenged run by the parents with strong support by the South Central Railway. At the Okhla Centre in Delhi, they make agarbattis, candles, envelopes, cardboard files, chair, canning etc. They also make moodhas with nylon thread, which is an income generating activity. They also make furniture with nylon thread. They are able to earn Rs.50 per day.

Persons with mentally challenged also need some incentive through meaningful employment for the full development of their personalities. It also helps to build a high self-esteem and higher self-confidence.