Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Senator Dick Durbin Urges Employers to Hire Autistic Workers

As reported by the Justice for All disability rights blog, Sen. Dick Durbin, who currently holds the influential position of Senate Majority Whip, recently spoke at Illinois Wesleyan University regarding equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities. He discussed the high unemployment rate in this population and urged employers not to let myths and stereotypes affect their hiring decisions, pointing out that the cost of providing workplace accommodations is very low and that the most common request is for flex time, which costs the employer nothing:

...hiring workers with disabilities is not an act of charity. The companies that learn first how to recruit and retain talented employees with disabilities are going to have an advantage in the marketplace. They are going to have a wider choice of employees to choose from when it comes to filling critical vacancies.

Sen. Durbin went on to speak about autism in particular, mentioning that some characteristics of autism can contribute to professional success. He quoted economist Vernon Smith, who won a Nobel Prize in 2002 and who has attributed his success in part to the autistic capacity for deep concentration and willingness to explore unconventional approaches. While observing that not all autistics can achieve this level of success, Sen. Durbin stated that autistics and others with disabilities can contribute to society in various ways, and he further quoted Smith on neurodiversity:

Vernon Smith... compares the struggle for disability rights to the struggle for civil rights. He says: "We’ve lost a lot of the barriers that have to do with skin color and various other characteristics. But there’s still not sufficient recognition of mental diversities." He adds, "We don’t all have to think alike to be communal and to live in a productive and satisfying world."

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  • I think it scandalous that he has no Republican co-sponsors. Among the Democrat co-sponsors are some of the people I most despise, like Lautenberg, Kerry, and Kennedy.
    (I am a registered Libertarian who considers himself an old-fashioned, or pre-Bryan Democrat, and thus feels compelled to vote for Republicans most of the time.)

    By Anonymous Justthisguy, at 10:52 AM  

  • I was saddened to learn of Sen. Kennedy's death. Although he had his flaws, he was a strong voice for disability rights.

    By Blogger abfh, at 2:47 PM  

  • I'd love to know where Senator Durbin got those excellent Vernon Smith quotes from.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 2:45 AM  

  • Thanks for posting this. I am so used to going on line and finding the exact opposite of this post...this was a wonderful counter. Perhaps Sen. Durbin can take on the mantle that we are left upon Sen. Kennedys death? I didn't always agree with him either-but I agree, he was a strong voice.

    By Blogger kathleen, at 4:34 PM  

  • Lili Marlene, the quotes came from a CNBC interview in 2005.

    Ironically, Alison Tepper Singer was one of the contributing producers, and the experience of working on that story probably helped her to get her job at AutSpeaks.

    By Blogger abfh, at 7:28 AM  

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