People often ask whether autism (or another neurodivergent condition) is a disability. I’d argue that it is more helpful to ask whether autistic people are disabled (to which my answer would be: in most cases, yes). It may seem a semantic distinction, but it is important: it locates the disablement not in the autistic person’s brain, but in the society they live in and the way the individual and society interact. Autism is not our disability: it may be an impairment, a difference, or some combination. Our disability is the difficulty that arises in our interaction with the specific society in which we live.
Have you ever heard a seemingly successful and ‘high-functioning’ Aspie try to explain how exhausting a day at work can be, or say that Asperger’s ‘ruined’ their career? In this article, I will provide just one detailed [real-life] scenario along with a commentary and analysis from an objective standpoint. Aspie’s and neurotypicals (NTs) both can benefit from having a deeper look inside to gain an understanding of what’s happening on both ends.
How we are failing autistics through autism hiring initiatives:
Using and misrepresenting a marginalized minority. Creating a disabled people campaign to increase a company’s brand awareness and appeal to investors and clients. Repeatedly depicting stereotypical autistic Caucasian male who is tech savvy, and not depicting autistics of color, LBGTQ autistics, and autistics across the gender and age spectrum. No representation of autistic individuals who are nonverbal/mute or physically disabled.
Promoting the (stereotypical) strengths of autistic for public relations, without addressing autistics challenges, and how challenges affect job performance and job retention and quality of work life. Not publicly sharing the pitfalls and dangers of diversity hiring initiatives, such as employee turnover, employee depression, employee isolation, and employee suicide, nor offering ideas and solutions to these pitfalls.
• Limited support once an autistic sets foot through the workplace door. The at-risk autistics, with coexisting conditions of PTSD, mood disorders, and suicidal thoughts, being swept into the workplace without forethought to how they might respond, what supports will be needed.
• Discrimination in equal representation and opportunity: Disabled population as low wage earners, while high wage earners are not disabled. Management positions frequented by non-autistics employees, while employees on the autism spectrum are in lower-tiered positions. Not having any autistics on the advisory board or board of directors. Not making job opportunities for autistics available in the fields of leadership, human relations, and communication.
Neurodiversity Hiring Initiatives: Are They Failing Autistics?