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‘Today, I can contribute...I’m no longer a burden on my family’ - 06 Jan 2008

As you check into the ITC Maratha hotel near the Mumbai airport, a young woman will deftly make all the entries into the system. But even as you complete all the formalities, little will you realise that Dipti Prabhakar, a data entry operator at the front office of the five-star hotel, is completely hearing impaired.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying my work here. It is good to work here,” she smiles, reading lips to understand questions.

At the back office, Carlton Misquita is busy with two huge ledgers marking the presence for the day. The bustle in the narrow corridors does not disturb Carlton in the time office even as he marks the attendance, calculates extra hours, enters the data into the computer and maintains L forms for the hotel. He too is hearing impaired.

Having completed his education till Standard X from Stephen High School for Deaf, Carlton worked in a private firm as a computer operator for 13 years.

Dipti and Carlton are among the 17 differently-abled persons employed over the last one year in various departments of the hotel.

“With my earlier experience of working on computers, I like the work I’m doing here,” says Carlton, a Vile Parle resident.

“They don’t live in the outside world. They just live in the world that they see. He is very good. Initially, it was a bit difficult to communicate, but once everything is explained he was really good at it. Now we have no difficulties in communicating with him,” says colleague Pradeep, helping us to communicate with Carlton.

Among the first batch of differently-abled persons to be employed by the ITC Hotel, Carlton has led the way for several others to be employed. “With the sense of our social responsibility, we felt that we should look how we can help them and see if we could employ them,” says Harish Purandare, head of human resources at the hotel.

For little over a year now, the ITC group has been employing, on contract and pay roll, persons with physical handicap and hearing disabilities. “The point is that there is talent. Moreover, we have seen that they are more sincere and hungry for work, productivity levels are also good,” adds Purandare.

In the electric section of the hotel, Ganesh Naik, in his green overalls, is busy discussing a problem. With an injury to his leg, he began working in the hotel eight months ago after trying his luck with three other small establishments.

“Earlier I used to work at places where they did not regard my disability. They would even make me do really risky work and the pay was dismal. I was a liability for my family. Today, I can contribute towards the family. I’m no longer a burden on my family,” he says.

His colleague Satish Bhikerao, completely hearing impaired, has just completed his three-month training and is eager to join the hotel.

The hotel now plans to tie up with the catering college to train 14 more differently-abled persons, who will then be recruited. The hotel is also considering apprenticeship in housekeeping for them.