Turning perceived “disability” into a capability


Capitalism and financial rewards have often been great motivators for corporations to get on board with good causes or diversity programs, but with the rising power of technology comes the increasing benefits of employing people with disabilities such as Autism or visual impediments.Diversity at the workplace has never been easy. While several other genres of diversity continue to fight an uphill battle in the workplace, including gender balance in boardroom meetings and affirmative action, the willing inclusion of people with disabilities comes as something unique and a refreshing change of circumstances.

In recent years international corporations of their own accord based on a mix of both ethical contribution to society and their own financial benefit are now hiring from minorities who in previous decades would have been unlikely to have found a job.

In the past people with disabilities like autism would have found it hard to find a even the most basic job and often be disregarded in the selection process because of their disability. But now with increasing awareness of the special abilities of people with disabilities a new era of workplace diversity is upon us.

The Walgreens story

A book launched earlier this year called “No Greatness Without Goodness”  by Randy Lewis is an autobiographical tale of one fathers discovery of his sons autism which led to him to foster the strength to lead an employment revolution in the USA.

Mr Lewis then a manager in Walgreen’s logistics department became one of the major pioneers in developing a business model around distribution centres with the specific goal of hiring people with disabilities to make for a more inclusive workplace. But this was not anything charitable or philanthropic because despite the initial teething problems Walgreens has seen major success from their initiative.

Mr Lewis is his book outlined why hiring people with special abilities like autism benefits companies financially and spiritually. He explains that autistic employees can endure long hours of concentrated recurring routine tasks which likely can bore people not on the autism spectrum. In today’s automated world this strength becomes a success factor. Also having a diverse workplace has brought workers from all different backgrounds together and made work cohesion better than ever.

We strongly recommend any manager or entrepreneur out there to read this inspiring book which also doubles as an advice guide for how to rally people around your cause. This book is as uplifting as it is informative.

Vodafone leading the way in Europe

This is not only an American tale of hiring people with special abilities, companies this side of the Atlantic have also been embracing people who are in fact born with innate skills needed for success in the 21st century. Vodafone in Germany is also recruiting people with autism and see real benefits in their abilities. Check out the below BBC Report on Vodafone’s new hiring initiative and how managers are being trained to spot the competencies.

Spotting things even doctors cannot see

In another development for those once seen as having disabilities blind women are now able to provide special abilities such as spotting breast cancer earlier than doctors potentially can. A program called “Discovering hands” was created by a German doctor – Doctor Hoffmann. The doctor created the program which deploys visually impaired women with their highly developed sensory skills to detect the early signs of breast cancer.

The nurses working in the Discovering hands program have examined over 10,000 women so far and turning a once perceived disability into a special ability.

The Future

As Randy Lewis said in his book once there was a time when people autism were hidden behind closed doors, but now the identities of people once marginalised have changed rapidly and are becoming active members of our society. The growth of the technology and online communication trends have helped paved the way for jobs suitable for people with Autism and medical studies creating jobs for blind women.

This is great news within itself, but even better if you consider the outlook for continued growth of these technologies and discoveries, the situation looks great for more diversity in workplaces for decades to come.

Header image credits: Royalty free

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