A year into its inception in 2011, the founders of the Mann, a Mumbai-based NGO that offers training in making art and crafts products to people with intellectual disability—IQ below 70—were in for a surprise. Four of their beneficiaries had started imitating the trainers, using the commands, action cues like flash cards, etc., to direct fellow students. In encouragement, the foundation hired them as assistant trainers on a monthly stipend.
The remuneration brought a sea change. The students, who mostly belonged to lower income groups living in chawls, slums or single-parent households, felt a sense of purpose while their families no longer saw them as a burden. It prompted the founders to design a curriculum that identified mainly housekeeping/laundry roles in industries such as F&B, corporate, retail, hospitality and art, suitable for people with intellectual disability, based on which training programmes were created. But the plan hit a roadblock when companies refused to employ the students.