Earlier this week, we began a discussion about disability and barriers to employment. Many adults who have lived with a disability their entire lives may need to be on Supplemental Security Income because the nature of their disability makes them unable to work in any substantial capacity.
But there are also those who are unemployed but not unemployable. In many cases, their barriers to employment take the form of disability discrimination in hiring and retention. By overlooking and discriminating against employees with disabilities, companies are not only breaking the law (in many cases), they are also missing out on workers with unique talents, skills and perspectives.
A recent news article profiles a New York-based software-testing firm that started in 2012. Since it was founded, the small company has grown from three to 10 testers, all of whom are on the autism spectrum. The company was not founded as a charity but rather as a for-profit business. The entrepreneurs who started it just happened to realize the untapped potential of high-functioning autism spectrum members.
Software testing is essentially a quality assurance job. It requires employees to test software on different web browsers, operating systems and devices. Repetitive behavior and a fastidious attention to detail are important components of the job. These are also skills and behaviors commonly found in those with autism and Asperger’s.
Thankfully, the founders of this company knew that the workers they were looking to hire might not be comfortable with the traditional work environment and the traditional job interview. As such, many applicants are allowed to do phone or Skype interviews and employees are typically allowed to work from home if they want to.
By broadly classifying workers as “normal” or “disabled,” employers miss out on a pool of incredibly talented job candidates. Moreover, this discrimination dehumanizes those living with a disability and sends the message that they are unemployable. For these and many other reasons, it is time for companies to start paying attention to what members of the disability community can do rather than what they cannot.
Source: Slate, “Why This Startup Hires Employees With Autism,” Aaron Taube, July 27, 2014