People with disabilities are enriching the talent pool at Amazon India
“Many people find it hard to believe, but we are a strong team of men and women with speech and hearing disabilities. Everyone knows sign language here and we all work well together".
- Neelam Tanna, in charge of Operations at the Silent Delivery Station in Mumbai, managed by Mirakle Couriers, an Amazon service partner who exclusively employs delivery associates who are deaf and speak using sign language.
“I look after daily operations and inventories at my centre, besides leading the team.”
- Kailashchand Sharma, Team Lead at Amazon’s Sort Centre in Ahmedabad, who lost a leg in an accident.
“I give the best solution possible to customers who call me regarding problems with any product.”
- Nilesh Nikume, a Customer Service Associate with Amazon, a person with a post-polio syndrome.
“I work with media and influencers to build awareness about Amazon Alexa.”
- Mrunmaiy Abroal, PR Manager, Amazon Devices and is living with quadriplegia
“I work as a rebinner. I’m happy working here. The facilities are good and we have a comfortable work environment.”
- Chennaiyan, a Fulfilment Centre associate who is deaf.
“I work in the packaging department and I’m proud to be able to support my family financially.”
-Ramya, a Fulfilment Centre associate who is deaf.
Diversity and inclusion at the workplace
Amazonians with disabilities contribute in almost every aspect of Amazon in India, be it e-commerce, seller support, fulfilment centres, sort centres, delivery stations, or customer service. Quoted above are just some of the many diverse roles that employees with disabilities are in charge of at Amazon India. Leveraging its massive tech and innovation infrastructure, Amazon has been enabling employees with disabilities throughout its vast network, empowering them with financial independence and helping them realise their true potential.
'We are all learners in the journey'
Speaking on what tips she would you give PWD candidates so that they can grow in their career at Amazon¸ Deepti Varma, HR Director, APAC and MENA (Corp), says, “The only tip that I would want to give is based on the principle that I think holds true for anyone to grow in their career at Amazon and that would be to take those bold BETS! Be curious: To learn new things, ask questions, learn as much as you can; Engage in Thinking Big – Always think of what long term impact you can bring, how can you delight customers and work backwards; Take risks- Experiment often, do something new, take on challenging assignments. There would be only two outcomes- either you would have succeeded or learnt something new; Support- Don’t ever be shy or afraid of asking for support from your colleagues, peers, manager. We are all learners in the journey and can really benefit from a little bit of support from each other.”
“To make sure our buildings are accessible to all PWDs, we have collaborated with Youth4Jobs for a detailed infrastructure audit,” shares Dr Karuna Shankar Pande, Director Operations at Amazon India. Amazon has also taken several workplace safety initiatives at its Fullfilment Centres, such as customised safety orientation for new PWD hires, assigning interpreters or a fellow associate “buddy” across shifts, dress code for easy identification, token system for tracking associate movements at work, providing whistle/strobe light and paging system for emergency communication, among many others.
People with disabilities come from different walks of life and Lorna Tangirala, senior site leader, Customer Services Operations, observes, “One thing that was common was their zeal to be the best and the enthusiasm to be a part of Amazon. Each one had their own inspiring stories and how they overpowered the showstoppers and outshone. It was this spark of commitment towards Amazon, combined with the recruitment eligibility that we used to shortlist the candidates. There is no difference in evaluation. They are given the same goals to achieve and go through the same performance improvement plans.” She goes to add that they have seen that with the right support and guidance PWDs can achieve anything and wanted to compete without being left behind.
In this inclusive endeavour, NGOs like Youth4Jobs and GiftAbled, a social enterprise that works in the space of inclusion, provide valuable support and resources.
Special training for Fulfilment Centre associates with disabilities
“Our PWD associates are tested on their understanding of safety protocols at work and retrained till they achieve a 100% score before being deployed on the shop floor. For effective emergency response, they are trained to communicate through a paging system and other safety devices,” shares Dr Karuna Shankar Pande, Director – Fulfilment Centres and Safety, Amazon India. All processes laid out for the safety of PWD associates are also audited by the site leadership on a weekly basis.
Amazon recently launched, “SignAble”, a virtual and interactive interpreter platform to enable effective communication and real time trouble shooting for PWDs at work. “To facilitate the integration of speech and hearing impaired associates into our shop floor, our managers are trained in sign language,” adds Dr Pande. Amazon also trains its PWD talent in association with partner NGOs like GiftAbled, who recently conducted a “Silent Chat” with hundreds of PWD employees and their families as active participants.
Amazon’s expectation from its PWD associates on work quality and productivity is the same as that from any other associate. What is very heartening to see is that the organisation’s army of PWDs has delivered on par with all other associates. The strong leadership commitment across the organisation, backed by a programmatic approach to building an inclusive workplace has been immensely helpful in this journey.
Developing a inclusive work environment
“I had the opportunity to be the pillar owner for PwD and LQBTQIA+ affinity groups for CS India in 2020 and supported by a fantastic core group. One of our key priorities this year was to create awareness and build a platform that enhances inclusion of our PwD colleagues. We realized we can do so much more for our PwD colleagues and across CS India, we conducted several initiatives this year. We had lunch and learn sessions, senior leadership connects and “Hear it out” program where our PWD colleagues were encouraged to share their journey at Amazon in a fireside chat. It was heartening to hear our PwD colleagues share their stories and how CS India was more than just a workplace for them. They were very appreciative of the support provided by Amazon and how CS India has made a big difference in their lives”, adds Lorna.
To sum up, Amazon's journey towards Diversity and Inclusion has been a well thought one which used the insights and learnings of previous years year to arrive at these key values - Respect Individuality, Practice Equity and Create an inclusive and Safe Space for all.