For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, finding a job that suits their skillsets and has a work environment that takes their needs into account can be immensely challenging. The recent years, however, have seen a gradual shift in this trend. Several start-ups, as well as international corporate groups, have taken positive strides towards achieving workplace inclusivity and tapping into the pool of talent and skills that neurodiverse people bring to the equation with neurodiverse hiring.
Many such initiatives were set in motion all around the world in 2021. As the year comes to an end, we are looking back at a few of them:
Autistic Pride Day 2021
Every year June 18 is celebrated as the Autistic Pride Day across the world. Since the theme for this year’s Autism Awareness Day chosen by the United Nations was ‘Inclusion in the workplace,’ the same gained a lot of traction in Autism Pride Day discussions too. As covid protocols were still in force in many countries back in June, most of these events were held online and #AutismPrideDay was trending on all social media platforms. Parents of autistic children and autistic youth took the occasion to reiterate that autistic people are not ‘broken’ and that they don’t need to be ‘fixed.’
University of Delaware’s Spectrum Scholar program
Working towards creating better career opportunities for autistic individuals, the University of Delaware launched its Spectrum Scholar program in 2019. Managed by the University’s Center for Disabilities Studies, its aim was to create a fair and impartial learning environment to help autistic students succeed in careers of their choice. In the summer of 2021, its first-ever batch of five students completed their internships with the University, JPMorgan Chase, and Friendship House.
EY’s focus on neurodiverse hiring
The UK became the sixth country worldwide where the global consulting firm, Ernst & Young (EY) is focusing on neurodiversity hiring. This year EY launched a Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence in the UK, furthering the company’s diversity and inclusivity agenda. The plan is to hire 150 individuals with conditions like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia in artificial intelligence, data analytics, automation, blockchain, and cybersecurity over the next three years.
Brain Badge for neurodiverse hiring practices
Brain Badge, a New Zealand-based company run by The Observatory Charitable Trust is offering training and certification to companies in becoming more neurodiverse-hiring friendly. Founded by Richard Rowley, who is father to four autistic kids, Brain Badge offers a comprehensive neurodiversity awareness and education program. During the training, companies are also made aware of all the research and experiments that have proven how beneficial a neurodiverse workforce can be for an organization.
Google and Stanford University’s joint neurodiversity project
Google and Stanford University School of Medicine’s Stanford Neurodiversity Project are working together to create a pool of neurodiverse individuals to boost neurodiversity hiring by the tech giant. Together they have launched Google Cloud Autism Centre, an initiative meant to provide support and expertise to corporates looking to work on neurodiversity hiring. The goal of this program is to empower hiring managers in Google Cloud to understand the needs of neurodiverse individuals and introduce the necessary adaptations in the hiring process.
Israel’s induction of autistic soldiers
In a landmark step, fifty-three autistic soldiers with high functioning autism were inducted into Israel Defense Force (IDF). IDF believes that a neurodiverse workforce will be a valuable asset to the organization in fields like cybersecurity, quality assurance, and system development among other disciplines. The new recruits spent months preparing for their induction like working alongside experts to make necessary changes to their uniforms and customizing the training and mentoring programs to suit their needs.
Slowly but surely, organizations are recognizing the competitive advantage that neurodiversity can prove to be. Here’s hoping that the year 2022 sees many more such initiatives where companies team up with local governments, NGOs and help the world realize the dream of workplace inclusivity with fervor.