• Sam Melnick

There needs to be a way to objectively measure whether or not an employer is truly autism-friendly

Good morning, conference. I’m going to focus on lines 34 to 43, on employment for disabled people. As anyone who heard me speak on the first resolution on Saturday morning will already know, I am autistic. As an autistic person, there are so many barriers towards finding paid employment. Interviewers expecting constant and “normal” eye contact patterns; job applications which filter out people with employment gaps; employers who directly discriminate despite the laws in place to prevent it.

This resolution calls for an accredited autism scheme, which is sorely needed, as there needs to be some way of objectively measure whether or not an employer is truly autism-friendly. I would also like to ask the Scottish government to consider involving actually autistic adults in the design and implementation of such a scheme; as autistic people ourselves know our own needs, and know what we require to thrive in a work environment. As the popular disability rights slogan goes, nothing about us, without us.

Disability employment schemes often focus on one area where people with a certain disability are stereotypically expected to excel, for example autistic people and computer coding. Well, conference, I’m autistic and quite to the contrary of stereotypes, I prefer public speaking to coding! I welcome the call for large employers to report the number of disabled people they are employing, but numbers alone are not enough. There are so many different disabilities, and people with some disabilities are less likely to be employed than others.

There is a self-replicating circle which people fall into; where they don’t have a job, and because of this, they can’t get a job because of their employment gap and/or a lack of references. This is even more the case for disabled people, who may have times in their life when their health doesn’t allow them to work, and who may have lost or left jobs in the past due to discrimination on the part of their former employers, who then will not provide them a reference for future jobs.

Autistic and other disabled people deserve the right to work, and to have working environments that enable us to feel comfortable and be productive. But, conference, not all disabled people are able to work and this has to be acknowledged. We must also note that the effect of someone’s disability on their ability to work can change throughout the course of their life. Fluctuating abilities can lead to employment gaps, so we need to design a new system for assessing the capabilities of someone applying for a job that doesn’t systematically create barriers for certain disabled people.

So, conference, there has been a common theme over the past couple of days of supporting a resolution, but also calling for more, and this is one more example of this. I urge you to support this resolution, but also to not become complacent, and to recognise that the very way our society is structured disadvantages disabled people and makes it harder for us to find paid employment. Conference, please support this resolution, and support disabled people.