An estimated 70% of Americans of working age with disabilities are not working, and this increases poverty and other societal problems. People with disabilities have more access to high-quality education than ever, and technology has evolved to the point where people with disabilities are better able to show how much they can contribute. Most Americans with disabilities want to work, and they can help employers reach their goals too.
People with autism spectrum disorder (ADS) often have skills that are uniquely suited for certain types of work. Many adults with ADS possess an uncanny skill for accuracy and laser-like focus. In jobs that require meticulous attention to detail, such as software debugging and even hedge fund investing, people with ADS can excel. Furthermore, people with ADS tend to be loyal to their employers and tend to stay out of office politics.
Autism spectrum disorder is usually diagnosed in young children and causes problems like difficulties with social interaction and communication. People with ADS, like everyone else, have a broad range of intellectual ability. Many high-functioning people with ADS develop particular excellence in fields like mathematics and art.
Companies Realize Strengths of Workers with Autism
The US has lagged behind European countries in employment for people with ADS, but American companies are now realizing that this pool of workers is an untapped resource that can be very valuable. The software giant SAP announced in 2013 that they planned to hire 650 software testers with ADS. Mortgage finance company Freddie Mac created a paid internship program for people with ADS to learn data analysis, and Semperical, a company in San Jose, plans to hire software testers with ADS to work from home.
The main problem employers have, however, is simply finding adults with ADS. Traditional job boards are not yet capable of helping connect adults with ADS and employers who want to hire them.
Shannon Nash and Autism Job Board
Shannon Nash is an attorney in Atlanta and also the mother of a young man with ADS. As her son reached his teens, she realized that helping him find gainful employment would be a challenge. Traditional job boards aren’t great for matching people with ADS and jobs, so she decided to change things by starting a new one: Autism Job Board. Unlike most job boards, Autism Job Board is designed specifically for adults with ADS and employers seeking people with ADS as employees. On Autism Job Board, employers can locate candidates according to skill set and profile information.
Benefits Extend to Society in General
There are around three-quarters of a million adolescents with ADS on the brink of adulthood, and many of them are unprepared to leave the safety net afforded by the school system. Many will remain unemployed or underemployed and may live with family members rather than becoming independent. This is an inadequate scenario on many fronts. Not only does considerable talent go unused, but when adults with ADS are capable of gaining independence and do not, another crisis down the road will occur when parents or other relatives with whom they live die.
At the same time, many American companies are off-shoring detail-oriented jobs like software testing. If job boards were better able to match people with ADS to employers, more adults with ADS could gain independence, and American employers could keep more jobs here.
Finding Professionals with Disabilities
Employers who would like to hire people with disabilities can have a hard time finding these people through traditional job boards. They may have to go by personal references or search through professional organizations for people with disabilities, and these are not very efficient processes. Companies interested in hiring people with ADS can now use the job board Shannon Nash developed, but there really aren’t yet any major job boards focused on placing people with disabilities in meaningful employment.
Could niche job boards for people with disabilities become important in coming years? It’s entirely possible that once more companies realize what a largely untapped pool of talent is represented by people with disabilities, they will push development of job boards in this direction. If so, it could benefit employees, employers, and society at large.