Autistic People Are ‘Not Valued in Employment’

“I have autism and ADHD,” explains Louise O’Reagain, who works as a lifeguard. “And the most disabling part of my conditions is other people’s reactions to them.”

In her recent DisruptHR Channel Islands presentation, O’Reagain talks about how many people continue to equate being autistic with being a loser. Now, sure, many talent pros will claim to be “autism-aware,” but O’Reagain says we must all move beyond that to become actually “autism-friendly” in employment.

What does that mean in practice? O’Reagain cites simple ways to re-examine parts of the hiring process, particularly applications and interviews. (For example, don’t expect autistic candidates to make eye contact.)

This is all especially important, for as O’Reagain points out, people with autism are the most unemployed cohort of all disabled groups. Indeed, just 16% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment, a figure unchanged since 2007. As she laments, “We’re not just unwelcome in society; we’re not valued in employment.”

Article Continues Below

For more insights, view O’Reagain’s presentation, “The Disability Employment Gap: If It Was Your Smile You’d Fix It“:

Vadim Liberman is editor of and a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows.