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75 Years Of India's Independence

We The People: Creating A Job Market For The Intellectually Disabled

Mumbai-based NGO, Mann, trains people with intellectual disability, largely hailing from low-income backgrounds, for roles in corporates

Mann, Headhunters for the Intellectually Challenged

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.

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