Employment for a Person with Disabilities

Despite the buoyant private sector, there is still a long way to go

The HRM 
It’s just a little more than a month since Saugat Wagle, a seventh-semester finance student at Kathmandu University, started working at Kamana Sewa Bikas Bank as an intern. The bank has deployed him in two departments – Strategic and Small Ticket Loan.

Although Wagle is an undergraduate student, he has been assigned to work in two critical bank departments.

But Wagle’s struggle is real given his full visual impairment.

The Nepal Association of Blind (NBA) helped him find an internship placement at Kamana Bank. “During the interview, I mentioned that I would not be able to work like every other intern. I will only be able to work if I am recruited in appropriate departments,” Wagle remembers his interview while talking to the HRM Magazine.
“In Nepal, interns are assigned to work in customer services—getting photocopies, analyzing documents, among others. For me, using a photocopy machine, analyzing the documents was impossible.”

Wagle was able to convince the officials. He got a job—that too in essential departments.
As the banking system is completely digitized, Wagle has to access the banking software like every other banker. And here comes the problem for a visually-impaired person like Wagle in Nepal’s corporate sector. The corporate sector does not have enabled technology that gives people who cannot see access to computer software.

“I currently use the NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) software on my laptop. The software is free. The bank has to invest in technology for the system to be accessible to people like us,” he said.
Despite countless problems, Wagle is hopeful that lately, the corporate sector has become positive to inducting people with disabilities into their workforce.

The Challenges
The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the troubles of persons with disabilities. “The lives of persons with disabilities were already tough, and the Covid-19 situation has added more troubles,” said Chiranjivi Sharma, director at the Fueling Opportunities to End Unemployment for Nepalis with Disabilities (FOUND) project.

The Leprosy Mission Nepal jointly runs the project with the National Federation of the Disabled-Nepal and the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries. The United Kingdom government funds the project.

The project has collaborated with employers to help persons with disabilities get placements. “The project has already been able to find jobs for a handful of people, but there are a few challenges,” said Sharma.

“Both—persons with disabilities (PwDs) and the corporate sector—need to understand that one is paid only after selling the skills. The corporate sector has to identify areas where PwDs can work, rather than hiring without a concrete plan,” he said.

Although the corporate sector is buoyant, Sharma said the number of applications by PwDs is minimal in vacancies called by different organizations. “How can PwDs get jobs when they don’t apply?”

Vishwo Ram Shrestha, director at the Blind Youth Association Nepal (BYAN), pointed out other challenges. “Despite few positives, there needs to be a massive reform. The PwDs are still considered a burden and are recruited only to make the organization inclusive.”

The salary is minimal—only like token support, said Shrestha, highlighting the need for awareness to increase the number of persons with disabilities in the corporate sector.

“They [employers] still feel sorry for PwDs. What we need to understand is that they [PwDs] are also productive team members,” according to Shrestha.          

The Need for Awareness
As per the National Census 2011, 1.95 per cent of citizens are differently-abled. This equals more than half a million people. But different organizations working in disabilities claim the number is way higher than the government data.

“The number is huge. The corporate world, including other organizations, need to understand that these people have skills to compete,” said Shrestha, director at BYAN.

There are 14 categories of disabilities. Some are partially disabled, while some are fully disabled. “Employers put all the categories of disabled in the same group,” Shrestha said, giving a few examples of lack of awareness on categories of disabilities among employers.

“Suppose there are two persons with disabilities—one who limps, and the other who is wheelchair-bound. They both are considered disabled. One who limps will have some difficulties but can easily do physical activities and doesn’t need help commuting. The one who is wheelchair-bound will have difficulty commuting but may have other skills. However, employers will deny jobs to both of them,” said Sharma.

According to Sharma, a person with colour blindness or low vision can work efficiently in an office setup, and the employer doesn’t need to make changes while recruiting them. But for the one who is entirely visually impaired, the employer needs to analyze the skills to place them. In this case, too, the employer puts both of them in the same basket. “It is crucial for employers to understand the categories of disabilities. If we can make them understand this, more and more persons with disabilities will get jobs,” said Shrestha.

According to Saugat Wagle, it is not only about the recruitment process, but the attitude towards the persons with disabilities that matters for the differently-abled to feel included. “The banking system thinks those who can sign are only literate. Visually impaired people can’t sign. If you are fully blind, the bank will be reluctant to open your account in the first place. You have to request the branch manager to get a bank account. That is our attitude towards persons with disabilities,” said Wagle. “The attitude towards people like me should be positive if we are thinking of a change.”

Recently, Growth Sellers organized an Employers’ Meet in Kathmandu to explore opportunities to create a disability-inclusive workplace. During the meet, HR officials from major commercial banks, officials from organizations working in disabilities, among others, gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges for inducting PWDs in their organization.

Changing Scenario
Although the scenario has begun to change and the corporate sector has slowly started to hire persons with disabilities, there is much room for improvement. “Still, the corporate sector recruits them to make the organization inclusive. They don’t get a good salary. Allocating jobs for PwDs is a big positive, but there is a long way to go,” disability-rights activists say.

The HRM Magazine talked to almost half a dozen commercial and development banks on employing persons with disabilities. Nearly all the banks the HRM team spoke to had already recruited persons with disabilities, except a few exceptions. They also said the banks had plans to increase their numbers.
At Siddhartha Bank, nine persons with disabilities work in different branches, including the head office. Three use crutches, three have low vision, and three are colour blind.

“We have placed the crutches-users in the branch where there is an elevator. Likewise, we have also analyzed the skills of others to place them in respective branches,” said Pankaj Pant, HR Head at Siddhartha Bank.

Although the bank has almost a dozen persons with disabilities, it doesn’t have a separate recruitment policy for PWDs. “Due to the nature of the job, we are unable to hire some categories of disabled people like the visually impaired,” he said, adding, those who are already working in the bank have competed to get a position.
“The bank is recruiting persons with disabilities in some departments soon.”

Prabhu Bank, another leading commercial bank, also has a few persons with disabilities and plans to increase their number. “They [PwDs] are recruited through open vacancy announcement, and there is no discrimination. We place them in the branches where they feel comfortable,” said Ramesh Thapa, HR Head at Prabhu Bank. “If we hire a wheelchair-bound person and place them in a branch far from their home, that’s injustice. We keep everything in mind and analyze their competence before giving a placement.”

Among all the commercial banks the HRM spoke to, Standard Chartered Bank Nepal has a different approach to recruiting persons with disabilities. The bank is searching for persons with disabilities and recruiting them.

“To make their lives a bit easier, we have adopted a work from the home policy so that they don’t have to face the hassle of coming to the office. This policy is for those whose assignments can be done from home,” said Rajan Udas, HR Head at Standard Chartered Nepal.

On condition of anonymity, an HR Official of a bank told the HRM that banks perceive persons with disabilities as a burden. “We need to understand that PwDs can be good at desk jobs. If banks were to recruit a fish as an employee, they would ask them to climb a tree. This is a bitter reality. The scenario is changing, but the private sector judges a fish by its ability to climb a tree,” the officer laughed.

Enhancing Skills
The participation of persons with disabilities in the private sector will only increase if the government helps in enhancing their capacity, activists say.
“If someone has a disability with zero skills, how can we recruit just because they are disabled? The private sector is competitive. You have to be sharp. Those with disabilities might be good at desk jobs. These skills need to be enhanced,” according to an HR official.

Shrestha agrees with what the HR official said. “It has been a must to enhance the capacity of persons with disabilities. This is when organizations and the government have to play a vital role. Providing vocational, entrepreneurship training will help enhance the capability of persons with disability,” said Shrestha.
According to Chiranjivi Sharma, director of FOUND Project, the applications of persons with disability seeking job in the private sector is minimal. “This means only a handful of people have skills required for the private sector. We are lagging in capacity building,” he said, adding that the FOUND project has partnered to help people with disabilities to enhance their skills and competence.

When asked about skill enhancement, Wagle shared a different story. “It is important to enhance skills. But schools think blind students can never be good enough for mathematics. They don’t make students sharp on subjects like mathematics and accounts. How will these students be competent enough for the banking sector?” he questioned.

“When we talk about enhancing skills, we should not forget how schools ignore mathematics,” he added.

As per the act related to the rights of persons with disabilities, the government of Nepal shall provide vocational training to develop professionalism and create self-employment by enhancing the skills of the persons with disabilities. However, the act is only on paper, activists say.

Legal provisions
The constitution of Nepal, 2015, has strictly prohibited any discrimination against persons with disabilities.

“No person shall hate, disregard, neglect a person with a disability, knowingly do any act that hurts his or her self-respect or makes obstruction to or interference in the use of assistive materials to be used by a person with a disability or snatch or disorder such materials,” as per the act relating to Rights of Persons with Disability, 2074.

The government has also reserved a 5 per cent quota in civil service jobs for persons with disabilities.

However, there is no mandatory rule for the private sector to employ persons with disabilities. “If the government makes a mandatory rule for organizations to at least ensure a few jobs for persons with disabilities, we would see a massive change,” said Shrestha.


Bishwo Ram Shrestha
Director, Blind Youth Association Nepal
The presence of PwDs in the private sector is still far from satisfactory. The private sector still perceives PwDs as a burden. Those who are disabled are getting a minimum salary. The private sector is employing PwDs only to make the workplace inclusive.

We need to understand that persons with disabilities are also a productive workforce. They have different skills. With no mandatory law for employment in place, PwDs are ignored and neglected by the private sector. If the government makes it compulsory for the private sector to employ many PwDs, the situation would be different.

There are different categories of disabilities. All of them have some or the other skills. The private sector shouldn’t put them in the same basket. There is a significant role of the government to enhance the capacity of PwDs. It is their responsibility to train and make the needy persons competent.

Saugat Wagle
Intern, Kamana Sewa Bikas Bank
I am blind. It has been just over a month since I started my internship at Kamana Bank. I am a finance student at Kathmandu University. People like me are weak in Mathematics as schools think all the blind people struggle with numbers. They believe we can never be good at Maths. 
Due to this reason, blind students are compelled to take other optional subjects in High School. This is the primary reason why there are only a handful of PwDs in the banking sector.

Despite this problem, I dared to study Mathematics. And now, I am working in two critical departments– strategic and small-ticket loans of Kamana Bank.

Apart from accessibility, there are other significant challenges for PwDs, especially the blind, in the banking sector. For people like us, a different technology is required to access computers. Here comes the problem. No bank has technology that is needed for blind people to access computers.
Currently, I am using software named ‘NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA)’ on my laptop. The corporate sector needs to invest in enabling technologies.

Rajan Udas
Standard Chartered Nepal, HR Head
We encourage persons with disabilities to join our bank. We search PwDs and recruit them. To make their lives a bit easier, we have adopted a work from the home policy so that they don’t have to face the hassle of coming to the office. This policy is for those whose assignments can be done from home.
There are already a few persons with disabilities working at the bank. The policy of allowing them to work from home shows our support towards PwDs. We make sure they face no discrimination and harassment at work.
We have zero-tolerance against harassment of staff members with disabilities.


Pankaj Pant
Siddhartha Bank HR Head 

A total of nine persons with disabilities are working in different branches, including in the head office of Siddhartha Bank. Three use crutches, three have low vision, and three are colour blind.
We have placed the crutches-users in the branch where there is an elevator.
Although the bank has almost a dozen persons with disabilities, we don’t have a separate policy to recruit PwDs. Due to the nature of the job, we cannot hire some categories of disabled people like the visually impaired. Those already working in the bank have competed to get a position. The bank is recruiting persons with disabilities in some departments soon.


Pushpa Shrestha
Kumari Bank HR Head
We have not got applications from persons with disabilities seeking jobs in our bank. The bank only has one person with disability among our staff. He limps. As per our policy, one has to be mentally and physically fit to be part of our bank. After the recruitment process, the hired staff must present a medical certificate to the bank.

The nature of a job in the banking sector is that one must be mentally and physically fit. I think the banking sector has not received applications from PwDs as they might have felt that they are unfit for the job.

As of now, the bank has not planned to recruit persons with disabilities separately. When they come to open competition, we have never discriminated. But to be in the banking sector, you have to have certain qualities and skills. Our company welcomes any deserving candidate regardless of their physical ability if they meet the criteria for the position.

Chiranjivi Sharma
Director, FOUND Project
The condition of persons with disabilities has become worse after the Covid-19 pandemic. Many organizations from the private sector are optimistic about providing jobs to PwDs. I think the private sector, now, needs to know that PwDs have skills to compete.

The FOUND project has already partnered with several organizations, and we have been able to find jobs for PwDs. When we talk to the private sector, they say that they receive only a few applications from PwDs. Hence, awareness campaigns are a must. Still, more than 90 per cent of the private sector’s infrastructure is not disabled-friendly. This is another challenge.

What’s more, employers should always make placements after analyzing PwD’s skills. They should be placed in the right branch and the right department. Our project searches persons with disabilities and provides training to those in need. We make them fit for a job. We have also developed a site, “inclusivejobs.com”, where PwDs can update their information. This information will help us help them. The project has already found jobs for 100 PwDs and helped 300 others become self-employed.

Ramesh Thapa
Prabhu Bank, HR Head,
Prabhu Bank also has a few persons with disabilities and plans to increase their number. They [PwDs] are recruited through open vacancy announcement, and there is no discrimination. We place them in the branches where they feel comfortable. If we hire a wheelchair-bound person and place them in a branch far from their home, that’s injustice. We keep everything in mind and analyze their competence before giving a placement.


Lekhnath Paudel
Sangri-La Development Bank, HR Head
The bank doesn’t have any separate policy to hire persons with disabilities, but when they come to open competition, there is no discrimination. We currently have five PwDs working in various departments, from the junior level to the manager level.

Lately, two-three PwDs working with Sangri-La Bank have already left for other banks. We have a PwD who is leading the Kalimati branch of the bank. When we hire PwDs from open competition, we make sure they are placed in right department and right branch.

Shristi Bhatta
Nepal SBI Bank, HR Head
There is a policy of the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) that staff should present medically fit certificate before joining the bank. How will persons with disabilities join banks when there is such policy of the central bank? I think the banks, themselves, have their own definition of being medically fit. This might be the reason why a few PwDs are working in banks despite such policy. The nature of job in the banking sector is that you only have to be mentally fit. You should be physically fit too because jobs in banking sector is tiring and one has to work extra hours.

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