A Diversity Issue
Although there are still plenty of ignorant managers who rarely hire employees with disabilities because they think it's an expensive act of charity, more people are starting to realize that this attitude is prejudiced nonsense. Companies have been providing reasonable accommodations to maintain a diverse workforce for many years. Accommodations are made for women who become pregnant or who have child care responsibilities, for religious employees who cannot work on the Sabbath, for minorities who celebrate ethnic holidays, and so forth. As employers make more accommodations available, they directly benefit from the increased morale, loyalty, and productivity of their female and minority workers, as well as the ability of their workforce to better understand the needs of customers from all walks of life. The same is true with respect to workers with disabilities. There's nothing charitable about a diverse workforce; rather, it's an asset to employers.
Autistic workers, and others who fall into our society's ever-expanding disability categories, aren't asking for charity. We know that we are capable of producing excellent work, and we don't need (or want) anyone throwing us their crumbs. Like anyone else, we just want equal opportunity to succeed in our careers.
Here's an excerpt from a letter I got from a British reader last week, describing his successful struggle against employment discrimination:
I applied for a place... I got through the online application, online situational judgement test and telephone stages without issue. At the assessment day, I mentioned that I have Asperger's syndrome. I was told that I would hear by the end of the following week if I had been successful or not. I didn't, so I called them up. They said I was successful, but they wanted to call me in for a discussion about reasonable adjustments. I attended this. The sponsor turned up over a quarter of an hour late and I asked him what research he had done on the subject of Asperger's syndrome, to which he replied that he hadn't done any: - very professional of him, given that I had come in just to talk about Asperger's syndrome! I was told that I would hear by mid-September whether they would offer me the job. They had openly admitted that my performance in the assessment day had been very good and that it now only hung on the reasonable adjustments question. The deadline passed and so I e-mailed them to find out what was going on. The following day, I was called by one of the H.R. people who said that the sponsor had sent him an e-mail merely saying something along the lines of, "we regret we will be unable to offer him the position". I thought this was extreme discourtesy and cowardice. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, an employer who wishes to deny employment on the grounds that reasonable adjustments can't be made has to offer reasons why not. As they didn't do this, I said I was contacting my solicitor. Over the next 6 weeks or so, I sent several polite but icy e-mails to them. I also sent them a Questionnaire (this is a proforma available on a government website that you can print off, fill out and send to the company saying what you allege and asking them if they agree with it or not and if not, why not). The day before the deadline after which I would commence legal action if I hadn't received all my documentation from them, they conceded defeat and offered me the position. Currently, I am waiting for the paperwork to arrive and I will send it off confirming my acceptance.
That's the way to fight back against prejudiced employers! Bravo!