Why Microsoft, Chase and Others Are Hiring More People With Autism


Chargeback loves obsessive employees. The Utah-based company investigates and documents credit card disputes — every time someone claims a card was used without their permission — and so its analysts must be persistent and nitpicky, with a sharp eye for detail that not everyone has.

That’s why its president, Khalid El-Awady, recently hired a 36-year-old analyst named Carrie Tierney. She breezed through training and handles technical data, computer requirements and repetitive tasks with ease, in about half the time new analysts usually take. “We’ve been very, very impressed,” says El-Awady. The experience has convinced him to consider more employees with Tierney’s abilities — and, by medical textbook standards, disabilities.

Tierney is on the autism spectrum. But her hiring is not unique. She represents a vanguard in the war for talent, in which American companies — mostly large, but some small, too — are increasingly recruiting what they now call neurodiverse workers. It’s still the early days, but more and more companies say these individuals have proven to be a competitive advantage due to their creative, detail-oriented and technically adept traits. “It’s fertile ground,” says Susanne Bruyère of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University.

As companies discover the value of having autistic employees, many are making major changes to their hiring practices. Today, roughly 50 companies in the U.S. have a workforce that’s primarily made up of autistic workers, says Michael Bernick, a former director of California’s labor department who is now counsel to Sedgwick law firm and writes about neurodiversity.

Software giant SAP plans to make 1 percent of its workforce (about 650 positions) people on the autism spectrum; Jose Velasco, head of SAP’s autism program, calls these workers “underutilized” and says they “bring diverse thinking to fuel innovation.” JP Morgan Chase has an autism-hiring program, and Microsoft has hired 31 such workers full-time over the past two years.

Companies stress that they aren’t acting out of a sense of social responsibility. Microsoft says autistic candidates are an “untapped pool of talent.” The director of JP Morgan’s program has described some characteristics of autism as “ideal assets in the workplace, particularly in industries like tech and engineering.”

“We’re not doing this as a diversity and inclusion program; it’s actually filling a very specific business need,” says Hiren Shukla, national process improvement leader at EY, an accounting and professional-services firm. The company launched a pilot last year in its Philadelphia office, hiring a few autistic employees to explore how best to work with them; it was so successful that it’s since been expanded to the Dallas office as well. Now EY has 14 neurodiverse employees working in areas including cybersecurity, automation and data analytics. “These aren’t specialized roles we created for them. We put them into existing roles,” says Shukla. “We think this is a very innovative way to help with the war on talent but also, more importantly, to bring creative talent.”

Continue onto Entrepreneur to read the complete article.


Meet Arthur Edge of GSK


Arthur Edge is a biopharmaceutical Technology Manager at GSK and his challenge at the company is to strengthen GSK’s manufacturing processes and launch new products in the fight to cure Lupus.

He is proud to be a part of the team to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new self-injectable formulation of Benlysta (belimumab), which treats systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in adult patients.

This became a really personal matter to him, when a close friend was diagnosed with Lupus.

For Arthur, recruiting and retaining a diverse team is important, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there’s a lack of diversity.

Arthur Edge GSK headshot
Arthur Edge GSK-Glaxo Smith Kline

At GSK, he had the most productive and rewarding career experiences working on global teams where each individual is unique and their uniqueness is recognized.

He has a passion for learning and a desire to continuously improve. He believes he is bigger than his career, and his life is bigger than himself. GSK helps him to live this reality through its Modern Employer culture.

Arthur is active in leadership roles within the biotech community and in community service. He is the president of the Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology advisory board for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, and he has leveraged GSK employee volunteers to work with him and support student success.

Finally, Arthur list three points of advice for young professionals: find an area of expertise and build a career platform around that area; be mentored and be a mentor; and work on problems that interest you.

Friendship Over Business’: Coffee Shop Owner Helps Competitor Stay Open During Hospice Treatment

coffee shop owner is pouring a cup of coffee alongside competitor

OAK GROVE, Ore. – After the owner of an Oak Grove coffee shop was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his cross-town competitor is stepping in to help cover his medical expenses.

Dave McAdams runs The Local Coffee Company with his wife, Tina McAdams. He’s currently in hospice care with a terminal cancer diagnosis.

December marks the couple’s first full year of business in the parking lot outside of The Bomber, just off of SE McLoughlin Boulevard.

Sadly, Dave will be celebrating the occasion from hospice care.

“He was diagnosed with cancer for the third time– this time unfortunately was in operable. Unfortunately, he’ll be leaving in a few weeks,” said Tina McAdams.

Dave’s a Rotarian, is involved with a non-profit, and coaches youth baseball. He’s a well-known and well-loved member of the community.

In an incredible act of kindness, the owner of Moonlight CoffeeCoffee shop owner and his wife are pictured smiling next to their drive thru coffee shop stepped away from her own business to help the McAdams family keep their stand open.

“It’s supposed to be friendship over business, community over competition,” said Pixie Adams of Moonlight Coffee.

She is working at the stand with Tina – for free – to help them cover medical bills and expenses.

“I am here supporting them trying to generate attention for their business,” she continued, “to help make sure that after Dave is gone, they still have the ability to keep the coffee place open.”

Continue on to KATU to read the complete article.

With ‘Drama,’ Victoria Canal Could Raise Bar For Disabled Artists In Pop Music

Victoria Canal is on stage singing in to mic with a male guitarist by her side

The ever-evolving entertainment industry can be daunting for any young, up-and-coming artist in pursuit of creative fulfillment. For her new song and music video, however, Victoria Canal found herself looking inward to address the most formidable obstacle of all: herself.

HuffPost got an exclusive first look at “Drama,” viewable above. In the video, Canal plays both a “light” and “dark” version of herself. Each persona, she said, “casts a different energy and puts out a different reality into the world.”

“The concept came about as I was starting to enter the music industry space more and really putting myself on display more than ever before,” said the Spanish American singer-songwriter, who is based in Los Angeles. “I sat down to write a song about the inner voice in my head, the self-critic who tries to make me feel small and tries to make me feel like anything other than what I know is my highest self. I wanted to really brush off that voice.”

Canal is hopeful that the self-empowering message of “Drama” will encourage all listeners to “embrace the best version” of themselves. The song also speaks to the 21-year-old’s personal experiences as a bisexual woman who was born without her right forearm.

The singer-songwriter ― who lived in Germany, China, Japan, Dubai and Spain before settling in the U.S. ― said her global upbringing has influenced her music as much as her disability and sexuality have. At the same time, she’s also conscious of the fact that mainstream pop has been slow to spotlight both LGBTQ artists and artists with disabilities.

“I’ve always seen [my identity] as a unique opportunity, really,” Canal said. “I used to shy away from the word [‘disabled’] and all the things it implied. But as I’ve grown up and lived a few more years, I’ve met a community of people who embody strength. ‘Disabled,’ to me, actually has a totally different connotation. To me, it means strong or resilient, determined, hopeful.”

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Teen With Asperger’s Named Time Person Of The Year


NEW YORK — She inspired a movement — and now she’s the youngest ever Time Person of the Year.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old activist who emerged as the face of the fight against climate change and motivated people around the world to join the crusade, was announced Wednesday as the recipient of the magazine’s annual honor.

She rose to fame after cutting class in August 2018 to protest climate change — and the lack of action by world leaders to combat it — all by herself, but millions across the globe have joined her mission in the months since.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” Thunberg told Time in the issue’s cover story. “That is all we are saying.”

The Person of the Year issue dates back to 1927 and recognizes the person or people who have the greatest influence on the world, good or bad, in a given year.

Since her protest, Thunberg has spoken at climate conferences across the planet, called out world leaders and refused to waiver in her quest to make an impact on the future.

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal acknowledged Thunberg as “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet” in an article explaining the 2019 selection.

“Thunberg stands on the shoulders — and at the side — of hundreds of thousands of others who’ve been blockading the streets and settling the science, many of them since before she was born,” he wrote. “She is also the first to note that her

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” Thunberg told Time in the issue’s cover story. “That is all we are saying.”

The Person of the Year issue dates back to 1927 and recognizes the person or people who have the greatest influence on the world, good or bad, in a given year.

Since her protest, Thunberg has spoken at climate conferences across the planet, called out world leaders and refused to waiver in her quest to make an impact on the future.

The selection of Thunberg was praised by Hillary Clinton, who tweeted that she “couldn’t think of a better Person of the Year.”

Continue on to Disability Scoop to read the complete article.

Stepping into the Limelight

Verizon's collage of disability images

By Kat Castagnoli, Editor, DIVERSEability Magazine

Seeing people with disabilities on a TV series, the big screen or even in commercials hasn’t always been the norm. Actor portrayals have been more typical than an actual person with a disability playing a role. But no more. DIVERSEability Magazine is giving a standing ovation for those with a disability who are proudly stepping into the limelight so that more youngsters can point to a television or movie screen and say, ‘hey, they’re like me!’

Like Ali Stroker, our cover story, the very first actress who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony Award. The 32-year-old, who won for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, says it’s “really cool” to see herself represented. “It didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, you did something to overcome being in a chair,’” Stroker said. “It was actually, ‘We’re recognizing you for being at the highest level of your field.’ That’s what I’ve always wanted.”

And what about America’s Got Talent’s latest winner Kodi Lee? The singing phenom—who is both blind and autistic—stole the hearts and minds of millions who were cheering him on through Season 14, including AGT judge and actress Gabrielle Union, who declares, “Kodi has literally changed the world.”

We here at DIVERSEability can think of nothing better. Because when people with disabilities are represented, it changes the way we think about disability and inclusion in all walks of life and business. The 2,000 attendees at Disability:IN this past July can definitely testify to that. Read the jam-packed Wrap-Up on page 16, and you’ll see “life-changing” as an overriding theme.

In addition to our Best of the Best list of disability-friendly companies, we’re seeing even more jobs for people with a disability (page 46). Also, take a look at ways to create better experiences for all your employees (page 40) as well as how to make your business even more successful (page 66).

Finally, we are thrilled to see companies like Verizon shattering stereotypes by launching their new Disability Collection of images (pictured above). The company says the new image library aims to shed light on how the world views the disability community.

We challenge all companies to step into the spotlight and follow suit to create a more inclusive, visible and well represented workforce. Can you imagine a world where we can all say, ‘hey, they’re just like me!?’ We can.

Bank Began Hiring People With Disabilities 20 Years Ago, And It Paid Off

Patricia Saucier is seated at her desk at Bank of America

When Patricia Saucier was a teenager, she felt as if her life story would be defined by what she could not do.As a child, she was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. By the time she was 16, her parents signed her up to receive Supplemental Security Income from the government. They wanted to make sure she would be financially OK, but it made her feel different — and not in a good way. (Pictured: Patricia Saucier)

“I felt like they were saying I couldn’t do anything,” she said. But Saucier, now 43 and living in Searsport, has found a way to rewrite her story. For 20 years, she and her twin sister, Latricia, have worked for Bank of America’s 48-person Support Services team in Belfast. Nearly 40 of the team members have an intellectual disability — the others are managers — and both sisters have thrived there. They are paid well, get along with their coworkers and like the work. Patricia Saucier was even named employee of the quarter this year.

“I love working here. Even though each of us has intellectual disabilities, the managers never talk down to us. They talk to us. They know we’re adults — we just learn differently,” Saucier said. “I wish there were more jobs like this out there.”

The idea for the Support Services team began 30 years ago in Delaware. That’s when Charles Cawley, the founder of credit card giant MBNA, learned that one of his managers was concerned about the future of his son, who had a disability.

“Mr. Cawley said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” and started the program, Brian Bragg, the head of Support Services in Belfast, said. There was a need. According to Special Olympics, approximately 6.5 million Americans have an intellectual disability, such as autism, Down syndrome or limited intellectual capacity. Most such adults are unemployed or underemployed, with about a third working full time, according to a 2014 survey by the sports organization. But the study also showed that people with disabilities can stick with competitive jobs.

Continue on to Bangor Daily News to read the complete article.

Making a Difference and Influence through Diverse Abilities at TIAA

TIAA employees pose for a group photo in an office setting

This October, TIAA employees celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month by giving back to the community and candidly sharing the triumphs and challenges of living with disabilities and helping those with disabilities.

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities Business Resource Group (BRG), formed for associates with disabilities and caregivers of those with disabilities, held multiple events companywide in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, to grow awareness and support of diverse abilities and how it affects colleagues and people in the community. The events educated TIAA employees on diverse abilities and how to be more inclusive to everyone.

One of the events included a visit from Hendrick Motorsports’ Richie Parker, who shared his unique story of overcoming obstacles and facing adversity. Richie Parker was born with bilateral amelia, a non-genetic birth defect in which limbs are not formed. He is a renowned speaker on overcoming adversity, and has been profiled by ESPN. Parker is the contributor to six NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, and currently serves as a chief engineer of government and military projects.

TIAA is also passionate about making a difference in local communities, and additionally in recognition of Disability Awareness Month, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team partnered to facilitate a community service project with seven local offices. The teams assembled sensory kits for children with autism and other similar developmental disorders. The Diverse Abilities BRG office chapters came together via video conference in offices to pack sensory kits that included ‘squeezy’ and fidgety type toys and kinetic sand designed to calm children.

“We’ve had a need for things like this particularly in the eastern part of North Carolina these past few years due to hurricanes,” said Jessica Otto from the Autism Society of North Carolina. “As you can imagine, it’s very traumatic for a person with autism to deal with the power going out.  These kits will be a comfort for lots of kiddos!”

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities BRG virtual coast to coast event began with a Kinetic Sand Packing Race, where each site selected two members to pack the small bags of kinetic sand the fastest. In total, they packed 50 small bags of kinetic sand.  In Jacksonville, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA Bank employees brought the effort full circle by volunteering at the Mount Herman Exceptional Student Center to hand out the sensory kits to the students, and helped with other tasks at the center. TIAA employees from Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Iselin, Jacksonville, New York and Waltham packed over 930 kits for four local nonprofits that support and help with autism.

TIAA values and practices diversity and inclusion, as well as philanthropy and giving back. Providing numerous opportunities for employees and their families to learn, share, and help those with diverse abilities advances inclusiveness in the workplace and in communities.

Lyft is Giving Free Rides to People On Their Way to Job Interviews and Training

pink Lyft logo pictured in an iPhone

Affordable transportation can be a huge obstacle for low-income workers pursuing new employment—which is why Lyft is now offering free and discounted rides to passengers who are starting at new jobs.

The company’s newly-launched Jobs Access Program will help to facilitate free transportation for unemployed people who are attending job interviews, job training, or their first three weeks of work prior to receiving their first pay check.

“Everyone needs access to reliable, affordable transportation—to get to work, visit the doctor, make it to school, or simply participate in city life,” the company wrote in a blog post. “In fact, a recent study pinpoints commuting time as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. Our own study shows that 44% of Lyft rides start or end in low income areas, and that our passengers saved 178 million hours compared to other transportation modes.

“So we’ve partnered with several leading national and local organizations dedicated to workforce development in order to deliver free or discounted rides to people making their way through the employment pipeline.”

With the help of various nonprofit partners, the $50 million program is launching in more than 35 US and Canadian cities.

The program will also pay particular attention to vulnerable populations such as veterans and people with disabilities.

One of Lyft’s program partners is the National Down Syndrome Society. According to Ashley Helsing, NDSS’ Director of Government Relations: “There are roughly two million people living with disabilities in the United States. Of those two million, nearly 30 percent, or 560,000 people, are unable to leave their home because of transportation barriers.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Verizon: Changing the Way People with Disabilities are Viewed

Verizon's collage of updated images that show way people with disabilities are viewed

By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

Verizon has created an employee resource group (ERG) that utilizes diverse perspectives to put out products that are critically needed in our world today and tomorrow.

DIVERSEability Magazine recently spoke with Verizon at the CSUN Conference in Anaheim regarding one of the products created by their ERG that has already begun to dramatically change the way the world sees the disability community.

For years, the disability community has been asking for a more realistic representation of images featuring individuals with disabilities. But now the wait is over. Verizon, in partnership with Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance, has created a solution—Disability Collection.

Over the years, Verizon puts out a tremendous amount of media, and when they tried to present people with disabilities using photos from stock image libraries, they had difficulty finding images and especially finding images that portray individuals with disabilities accurately.

“Any time we tried to find an image of someone with a disability, it would either be a pitiful image or a heroic image, neither of them really reflecting reality”, said Larry Goldberg, the senior director of media accessibility at Verizon.

Goldberg said he himself has a hearing loss and his career started with closed captioning on TV, “so this is my community. Currently, I am part of a great team at Verizon — a group within Verizon called Verizon Media — which is all about content and apps and how to make them accessible for people with disabilities,” he added.

Margaux Joffee, Verizon’s associate director of accessibility, went to Getty Images, one of the largest stock image libraries in the world, to jumpstart this solution. But first, she approached the National Disability Leadership Alliance to ensure that people with disabilities had a strong voice in how they are being represented. This led to the joint creation of the first ever guidelines for photographers on how to accurately represent people with disabilities in photography. Those guidelines have now been distributed to over 250,000 Getty Images photographers worldwide, resulting in set of truly accurate, diverse and dignified images.

“Getty Images, the National Disability Leadership Alliance and Verizon has put out this amazing collection of images. It has touched everyone in disability leadership groups, but also inside Verizon,” Joffe said. “When we launched this project in D.C., the disability community loved this, but what was really cool was that Verizon’s staff and executives fell in love with the project too because it was tangible and real. “The new Disability Collection is a culmination of the efforts of companies like Verizon who are focused on portraying people with disabilities by breaking through stereotypical images, and providing a more realistic picture of this community.

The development of this image library will continue to change how the world views the disability community, and will challenge other companies to follow suit in the future. Learn more about the Disability Collection and how to view and download the images at DisabilityCollection.com

How to Build on Being a Disability-Owned Business

Andy is pictured sitting in his wheelchair happily smiling

By Andrew Houghton

When I was 20 years old, I experienced a life altering motorcycle accident, which resulted in paraplegia and the need to use a wheelchair for mobility. In the years that followed, I struggled with my disability until being introduced to adaptive sports and recreation. Adaptive sports helped me to regain my self-confidence and created an opportunity to “pay it forward.”

Motivating others via public speaking engagements became a daily endeavor. My efforts were featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and, as a result, I was invited to help produce a series of short video segments on adaptive sports and lifestyle. This quickly blossomed into the start of a new venture, Disability Inclusion Solutions, for clients seeking high quality, accessible multimedia production.

Years later, in order to expand my opportunities and have access to greater resources, I became a certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) through Disability:IN, the leading national third-party certifier of disability-owned business enterprises.

Being a DOBE has created opportunities for direct dialogue with corporations interested in forming diverse supply chains, resulting in some fantastic professional relationships.

But while DOBE certification may open the door to supplier diversity channels, having core capabilities, scalability and established relationships is what lands contracts. Being a small business, I quickly realized the importance of collaborating with other small businesses, both to enhance my capabilities and to develop innovative services and products that meet the demands of prospective global customers.

For example, in 2013, I recognized an opportunity to expand our offerings and began the development of an enterprise-wide e-learning software solution to ensure employers at every level have the knowledge required to effectively communicate, interview, hire, accommodate, and engage with people with disabilities. The goal was to create a series of 15-minute disability inclusion modules that we could license to customers,

But after nearly three years of research and development, I realized we needed to expand our capabilities in order to offer the highest quality product to the broadest possible audience. Our ideal partner would have a strong brand with extensive reach across the corporate landscape and expertise in digital accessibility so our product would meet prevailing accessibility standards.

Fortunately, I knew another certified DOBE—longtime friend and colleague, Joyce Bender, founder and CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc.—who became our partner. In 2016, Disability Inclusion Solutions joined together with Bender Consulting Services to develop iDisability™, an enterprise-wide e-learning solution. iDisability™ provides 15-minute fully accessible vignettes that can be viewed across multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. It’s very gratifying to be able to say that our partnership has already benefitted nearly 2.5 million users across a variety of professional industries.

The business case for employing people with disabilities has never been stronger, thanks in part to recent research by Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), that reaffirms the fact that companies benefit when they prioritize strategies that embrace disability inclusion.

I never imagined during the fragile aftermath of my accident that I would one day embrace my disability, have a family and be a small business owner. Building Disability Inclusion Solutions and partnering with other DOBEs allows me to advance disability inclusion, equality and belonging—all while growing the bottom line in my business.