Why Accommodations Matter
August 31, 2023
By: Lindsay Kaine
In a recent Biospace article, John Ricco, the co-founder of Atlantic Group Recruiting, explained that autistic employees “often possess a unique skill set that employers can benefit from, including attention to detail, innovative problem solving, and a strong work ethic.” Even with these skill sets, unemployment rates for autistic adults are eight times higher than rates for those without a disability according to the University of Connecticut’s Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation. If neurodiverse employees are so valuable, why are they underutilized?
Manager of the Insights and Solutions team at Johnson & Johnson and autistic speaker Angela Andrews told Biospace that one of the main reasons autistic people may endure challenges at work “is a lack of accommodation.”
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the work environment to help individuals with disabilities perform essential job tasks. The benefit of an accommodation is that it gives autistic employees an equal opportunity to successfully perform their tasks to the same extent as their peers. These accommodations can be feasible changes, such as providing more secluded workspaces, flexible schedules, organization software, and clear written directions. However, accommodations can often be difficult for autistic employees to obtain if they are seen as special privileges by employers.
“If someone gets the courage to come to you and tell you they need an accommodation . . . believe them,” said Andrews.
By embracing diversity in the workplace and providing accommodations, employers can increase workplace comfortability as well as efficiency. Results have shown that increased diversity in the workplace not only assists the employees but also improves the company’s revenue by 19%. In a study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network, 58% of employers said the accommodations needed by employees cost the company absolutely nothing and 74% reported that the accommodations were extremely effective.
A multinational software corporation, SAP, has an Autism at Work program that operates across 12 countries and employs approximately 150 autistic individuals. The program focuses on leveraging the “unique abilities, talents, strengths, and perspectives of autistic people to foster innovation within the company.”
Microsoft built its own Neurodiversity Hiring program in 2015 to “strengthen a workforce with innovative thinking and creative solutions.” On its website, Microsoft details how diverse teams “positively impact our company culture, working environment, and how we serve our customers.” This program utilizes an extended interview process that focuses on workability, interview preparation, and skill assessment. This process allows jobseekers to show their real selves and skill sets.
The prominent finance company JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) has focused on hiring neurodivergent employees since 2015. Their programs have allowed job seekers to find employment in software engineering, application development, tech operations, business analysis, and personal banking.
“We are committed to creating more opportunities for qualified people with disabilities so they can draw on their diverse talents, grow their skills, and advance in their careers,” its website states.
A number of companies are embracing diversity in the workplace and utilizing the power of accommodations to increase efficiency and comfort. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers a list of companies and organizations that have hiring initiatives or partnerships.
These companies and many more have embraced neurodiversity in the workplace, leading the way for change. By creating programs and hiring initiatives tailored to autistic and neurodivergent individuals, companies not only nurture inclusivity, but they open the door for exceptional talent.
Lindsay Kaine is an English and communications student at Clemson University and was an intern for OAR’s Hire Autism team in June and July of 2023. She is a staff writer for her university’s newspaper and has assisted her sorority in raising over $70,000 each year for Alzheimer’s research. In addition to her schoolwork, she enjoys reading, writing, and going to concerts. Connect with her on LinkedIn.