Change is happening right now. Organisations globally are seeing a new area of diversity that have so far been ignored.
Many have focused on the important issues of gender and race; yet disability, impacting more than a billion people globally, is now entering the picture.
Significant progress is being made in the US, where around 10% of companies have a neurodiversity strategy. This still leaves a 90% gap, but is still a major step forward compared to recent years.
Here are four such organisations, which we visited en route to speaking at the CASTconference in Florida.
Our first stop was Exceptional Minds, an incredible film training and editing organisation, with connections across the entertainment industry in LA. Their work has contributed to Marvel and Star Wars films including the recent Solo, and they employ autistic people who make up most of their staff.
Exceptional Minds was established by parents of autistic people and their work really inspired us. Most impressive was their focus on the strengths of their staff and they way they start from a place of competence. There are many similarities with what we are doing with Xceptional.
Auticon, is another group in LA. They have a local program previously called Mindspark and are now connected in with the global Auticon network. They also have many parallels with Xceptional as they are also working in software testing, employing autistic people and now placing people with other companies.
Following a fascinating tour of their facility, we were introduced to a number of their testers, working in manual and automated testing. The staff explained the work they are doing which included an incredible variety of customers and types of testing.
Next stop was New York, where we visited Spectrum Designs. Tim, COO, gave a tour of their impressive T-shirt printing business. Their team were all hard at work so we got to see the printing process in action.
They also have a bakery and a laundry service – lots of interconnected businesses that are all employing people with disability.
We were both amazed that we already knew all about each other; it seems that the autism hiring community is very interconnected.
Given the CAST conference was in Florida I headed down the road afterwards to Miami to get my hire car washed at Rising Tide Car Wash. They have 2 sites in the greater Miami region, and recently spoke at the autism at work conference in Microsoft.
Tom D’Eri, Managing Partner, Rising Tide Car Wash, talked us through their operations. They have some impressive metrics and systems for tracking their staff as well as their customers. For example, they track customer loyalty and use the net promoter score to track feedback. Their industry is around 60%; they are close to 90%. Personally, I was very impressed with the quality of their work!
All the groups were very willing to share their lessons learned with us and also wanted to hear what we are doing through Asia Pacific.
What encouraged us most about each business was the way they focused on the unique strengths of autistic people. Our hope and the mission of Xceptional is to lead change and inspire other employers to recognise the strengths of autistic people rather than focusing on their challenges.
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