When discussing disability as it relates to employment, it is important to separate ability from employability. There are plenty of adults who go on Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income because their disability does not allow them to work in any meaningful capacity.
But there are also plenty of adults who have lived with a disability their entire lives and have developed special skills in spite of or because of it. Unfortunately, many of these workers are unable to find jobs because of disability discrimination.
Consider the 1.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum, for instance. About 80 percent of adults on the spectrum are unemployed, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are unemployable. In fact, there are an estimated 400,000 adults on the autism spectrum classified as high-functioning. They often have above-average intelligence and unique talents such as strong spatial and visual relations skills.
Unfortunately, the one thing that spectrum members commonly lack is social skills, which can mean the difference between getting hired and getting turned away. It can also make it harder to hold down a job because interpersonal communication problems can get in the way.
Thankfully, some companies are finding ways to take advantage of the unique skills high-functioning autism spectrum members often have. Some are particularly suited to specialty work in computer programming and software testing because of their fastidious attention to detail, pattern recognition, logical reasoning and enjoyment of repetitive behaviors.
Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion. We’ll talk about one for-profit company that actively seeks to hire workers on the autism spectrum.
Source: Slate, “Why This Startup Hires Employees With Autism,” Aaron Taube, July 27, 2014