Over the years, Amazon has been relentlessly disrupting the workplace with initiatives to bring the disabled community into its workforce. Leveraging its technology and innovation infrastructure, Amazon is creating opportunities for these individuals throughout its network, empowering them with financial independence, and helping them realize their true potential.
From a pilot to a countrywide phenomena
In April 2017, Amazon piloted an initiative designed to create opportunities for persons who are deaf in its Fulfilment Centre (FC) in Hyderabad. The pilot started with a handful of deaf associates, who were trained to pack shipments at the FC. This initiative has now rapidly expanded to more than eight cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Indore, Mumbai, Pune, and Hyderabad. More than 350 associates with speech and hearing disability are part of the Amazon network across the country’s Fulfilment centres, Sortation centres, and Delivery stations. NGOs like Youth4Jobs and V-Shesh provide valuable support and resources to Amazon in this D&I initiative. The associates at the FC work in various process paths mapped to the nature of the job and their skill set. Amazon - in partnership with partner NGOs - trains the associates with the help of interpreters to help them understand their role and perform at par. Further, every deaf associate is assigned to either an interpreter or a fellow associate buddy, who assists them with select tasks. Processes and mechanisms have also been established to create a good and safe work environment for these associates.
Project Sakshyam – extending the impact to Sortation Centres
Having worked with the deaf associates at Fulfilment Centres for more than a year, Amazon India knew that it was time to extend the programme and drive positive impact in a much larger scale. Over the last year, the company has on-boarded more than 50 deaf associates along with those with speech disabilities at the Bangalore Sortation Centre. That is not all. In a small sortation centre in Pune, almost all the processing and operations is done by such part time associates. This is India’s first Silent Sort Centre.
Silent stations 'delivering' impact in Mumbai
One of the most far-reaching impacts of Amazon’s commitment to the inclusion of persons with disability within its network is in the form of ‘Silent Delivery Stations’ – or last mile delivery stations that are entirely managed by deaf associates. The first such silent station was launched in Mumbai in January 2017, in partnership with Mirakle Couriers, a Delivery Service Partner that already employed a number of deaf individuals and those who are hard of hearing. Today, the dedicated Silent Delivery Station is completely managed and run by these associates. Seeing the success of the first such silent delivery station, Amazon in continued partnership with Mirakle Couriers opened its second silent station in in Mumbai in June 2018. These two stations have provided opportunities for more than 30 deaf delivery associates in the city.
“I am happy to be in a place that doesn’t identify me by my disability, but by my efforts”
- Pack Associate Hari Krishna has been working at the FC in Hyderabad for the last 2 years. A skilled cricketer, Hari has represented India in national and international tournaments. But due to his family’s circumstances, earning a living had to replace his cricketing aspiration a few years ago. He began his journey of financial freedom in an electrical shop and then a friend introduced him to the skill development program by Youth4Jobs. Soon, Hari found the opportunity to work as an associate at the FC in Hyderabad. One of the most admired associates at the centre, not only is Hari a star performer at work, he is now also able to make the time to pursue cricket. “The support and training given by my hiring agency and Amazon has made me more confident and positive towards life. The managers and my peers always observe my work and encourage me to do better every day,” says Hari. (Read his full story here)
- 24-year-old Mantena Ravi Verma was born to a humble fruit-seller and an Aganwadi teacher in the city of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. He had to drop out of college some years ago because of a financial crisis at home. Today, with financial backing from his full time work opportunity as a Pack Associate in the Hyderabad FC, Ravi is back to school through a distance-learning programme in Andhra University. “I am happy to be in a place that doesn’t identify me by my disability, but by my efforts. There are procedures in place to ensure that I am always in a safe environment. I work diligently and look forward to become a manager soon,” says Ravi.
- 35-year-old Neelam Tanna is a formidable force at the Silent Delivery Station in Mumbai. “At my last job, I was the only hearing-impaired person at work. There was a sense of discrimination there. Things are very different here. I enjoy my work and the company trusts me with more responsibility. I have financial stability, and my pay increases steadily. But most of all, I have a computer - I always wanted to learn how to work on one!”