Disability is ubiquitous. It does not discriminate based on race or gender or ethnicity or socio economic status. It is something that many, many more people are affected by than you know. And so I don't want people to think about disability as this small minority of people that you have to do something special for, because if you acknowledge that, by valuing disability, by valuing diversity, you're truly valuing everyone. Why should you hire people with disabilities?
We are hard workers. And we're very good at solving problems, and we're not afraid to speak our mind when we see process improvement that could benefit the company and actually make it more inclusive and diverse.
We are really, really, really, really good at problem solving. And I would say that in my day, like I have to think 20 steps ahead of everything that I'm doing because things, for example, if I drop my cell phone on the floor it's going to take me 20 minutes to pick it up. So I'm really good at not dropping my cell phone.
I look at disability as just another aspect of an individual's life. It's another aspect of diversity. And I think we all see the benefits to having diverse staff, people who have different life experiences, different perspectives, and the richness that can bring to the organizations when we're working together.
Many of us, historically, have lived in organizations or communities or environments that are not necessarily built for us. And so we really do have to think ahead. And we have to be flexible. And we have to be able to adapt on the fly.
So I'll talk for a moment about why you might want autistic employees. We sometimes have a bad rap because we may not make a lot of eye contact, or the way we act may seem a bit different. But one of the defining traits of people with autism is an ability to focus. And that hyper focus has benefitted me a great deal at work. It's actually shocking how much work I can accomplish in a small amount of time because of this. That means that I'm already, when I see a problem, going to think in an innovative way that might not otherwise be represented by people in your workplace.
What should employers then know about their disabled employees?
Is that they want their work to be valued, and to be treated with respect and as an included member of your community.
Having that communication to be able to ask and see what your employee needs. And sometimes getting asked just kind of takes the burden off of you as the person with the disability to have to make that initial-- if you need an accommodation or something, to have to make that initial ask.
I think accommodations and working with any employee, it's a process and it's a relationship, right? And I think people just have to remember that, and again have patience.
Ask your disabled employees what works best for them. They tend to know. They might not always, but often they'll have a good idea. And remember, you generally do not need to know their specific diagnosis. I actually can't think of a time anybody's ever needed to know my specific diagnosis because I can communicate what I need without you knowing.
And I encourage you all to have the same sort of humility to acknowledge that, even as you're trying, you are still going to get it wrong. You are going to then find out things after that you've messed up. But if you have an honest and open approach to wanting to include everyone, then you will be on the right path. And realizing that solutions that you think you're creating just for disabled people are likely things that many other people can then benefit from as well.