I AM ABLE, an employment platform for those with special needs and their story

Published on May 17, 2022 03:42 PM IST

In conversation with I AM ABLE and JinShiksha - on how they employ those with special needs, educate them and make them future-ready.

Members and makers of I AM ABLE, an employment platform for those with special needs, based in Mumbai. 
Members and makers of I AM ABLE, an employment platform for those with special needs, based in Mumbai. 
BySohini Sengupta

A handicrafts store on Instagram, named I AM ABLE, recently found itself in the spotlight after a Reel of theirs went viral. And, they certainly deserve all the recognition they’re getting. I AM ABLE is an employment platform for those with special needs and/or intellectual disabilities. All their products are not only prepared but also billed and managed entirely by people with special needs.

“'Don’t see my disabilities, see my abilities.' This quote perfectly describes our Abled Mates as shown in their journey of completing their First Big Corporate Order of 70 jars!” reads the caption of their video that has gone viral. The Reel shows the team creating and packing the order.

Since it was shared on April 6, the video has received several appreciative comments on Instagram such as, “Their smiles are priceless” and “You all are doing great work, keep up the spirit.” “This is just wow. Everyone is able,” aptly wrote a third.

In a conversation with Hindustan Times, the women behind this initiative shared details about the journey of I AM ABLE.

At the peak of the pandemic, the job market looked quite dull for most. JinShiksha, a school based in Mumbai for specially-abled children, started discussing options through which they could help their students with employment opportunities.

Some happy members of I AM ABLE with a bulk order of handcrafted jars they made.
Some happy members of I AM ABLE with a bulk order of handcrafted jars they made.

"Initially, the idea was to start a café or a supermarket. But due to those requiring a lot more upfront investment, handicrafts looked like the best way to go," explained Jinisha Chheda, the Founder and Director of JinShiksha. She wanted people to know that her students are able and this is what led to the naming of the store which was launched in December 2021.

Meher Motwani, the Creative Head of I AM ABLE, explained that the folks involved in the process of making the products are also involved in selling them. They often require more time for calculations, billing, etc. But they make sure to put them on the frontline at a relaxed pace to get them acquainted with a real-life work environment.

A jar in the process of making, by a member of I AM ABLE.
A jar in the process of making, by a member of I AM ABLE.

The space is also open to the families of the individuals so that they can help them as well.

It all becomes worth it at the end of the day when the people who put so much effort into making handicraft products receive their payments. “Even a payment as low as Rupees 250 has been so meaningful to their families,” Chheda added.

Aarti Parikh, Marketing Head and Job Coach at I AM ABLE, revealed that while they are currently based in Mumbai, they hope to expand to other cities as well. “We plan to make this a pan-India effort soon as we see our currently-running pilot programme with 20 people taking off.”

I AM ABLE provides members with some leisure time on Saturdays with the IFT (I Flock Together) initiative.
I AM ABLE provides members with some leisure time on Saturdays with the IFT (I Flock Together) initiative.

“We would require people to provide opportunities or outsource their work to us. Employing them will support our community to grow and sustain in society. We train our people based on the job requirements and assist in the working program,” she added.

I AM ABLE store and JinShiksha can be contacted through Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

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