Up to 85pc of people with neurodiversity are currently unemployed. Here are just some of the organisations in Ireland that help neurodiverse people access work.
AHEAD has been helping people with disabilities gain employment and training for more than 32 years. Their ‘Willing and Able Mentoring” programme has helped over 400 graduates into full-time, paid employment. Through six or nine month contracts, the graduates apply for positions advertised on the AHEAD website, and if accepted, they are then placed in an organisation and are given a mentor to ensure they are accommodated during their placement.
Few organisations have done more in recent years to reduce stereotypes and increase the publics education of neurodiversity and the autistic spectrum than ASIAM. For years, ASIAM has worked with organisations to provide autistic friendly workplaces. ASIAM also offers employer training, accreditation, workplace audits and supports for employers to offer a more suitable work environment for neurodiverse individuals in the workplace.
Aspire Ireland and Aspire Productions
Aspire Ireland “envisions a world where people with Asperger’s syndrome have the same opportunities to work, socialise and participate as everyone else”. In 2018, Aspire Ireland launched Aspire Productions, a full-service creative agency that only employs people with the condition. According to their website; “Our vision is to make the media industry an autism-friendly field and our mission is to enable people with Asperger’s syndrome to achieve their dreams by creating kickass media.”
Lisa Marie Clinton set up Avail Support in 2014 having previously had ten years’ experience working with people with autism. Lisa Marie could see that “there was a glaring lack of opportunities for children who were transitioning into adulthood and were being effectively ‘aged out’ of new opportunities, especially in the area of technology”. Having created the learning system, people with autism “now have access to a personal centred support that is transforming the lives of individuals with disabilities.”
The Context Factory
The Context Factory is a B2B SaaS with an initial product in the use of adaptive intelligence to optimise the engagement of every talent and remove the bias in how you engage them. “Our tech works like a Netflix for talent, in that we bring an understanding of someone’s digital signature so as to match a digital engagement to them,” explained CEO Sean Fay in an interview with ThinkBusiness last year. “We then use machine learning to understand the performance of every engagement, and from that we learn what works.”
Based in Co Kerry, Discover Spaces mission is to inspire the world to create more sensory inclusive environments. Discover Spaces work with employers to look at the lighting layout and sounds of the office environment and how employers can implement better solutions to make their environment more friendly to all people with neurodiversity.
The newest company in this space, Dyslex.ie is a company that was born out of the Enactus Games, which fosters entrepreneurship in third-level education. Dyslex.ie is the brainchild of DCU student Kevin Cogan, and offers people with dyslexia a solution that would allow them to change the colour scheme and fonts of the information there are reading on websites, so that they can maximise their reading and minimise mistakes. The team will represent Ireland at the upcoming Enactus World Games.
Ran by the Department of Social Protection, Employability provides coaching to people with disabilities in order to gain employment. Their support officers go through CV’s, cover letters, interview skills and much more. As a government run scheme, Employability can then access a wage subsidy grant of €10,748 (for a six month or more contract) to the employer so that this could contribute to the employees’ wages.
According to myAccessHub founder Gearoid Kearney, an estimated 85pc of degree-level graduates in the US with autism are unemployed. This, he argues, is a symptom of a lack of understanding of the needs and potential of employees with autism and other neurodiversities.
Founded by IT Tralee graduate Kearney, myAccessHub helps businesses and employees learn to be more inclusive of colleagues with autism and other neurodiversities. The company’s technology uses e-learning and virtual reality to immerse employees in scenarios that educate them in how small things within their workplace can have a huge impact on employees who have autism and other neurodiversities.
“It’s about using technology to enable companies to build autism inclusive workplaces. This means educating employees within the companies to understand what it’s like for an individual with autism in your workplace, and how you can actually make it better for them. That means reducing the physical barriers, like lighting and office layouts and sounds, but also basic communication and understanding the things that make it difficult for them in the workplace.”
Not actually an Irish company but started by an Irish man. David Coimin is the co-founder and CEO of Nook, which create hubs or quiet environments in offices and at events that allows employees to work in a more relaxed environment.
Not So Different
Not So Different is designed to bridge the gap between third-level and employment for graduates. As part of their ability programme, they bring people aged between 15-29 together in their creative hub in Blanchardstown. They then give support to individuals who are interested in creative industries. Together participants collaborate on projects before showcasing these projects to industry professionals.
Open Doors Initiative
In 2018, 14 of Ireland biggest employers came together to create an organisation designed to increase employment opportunities for people in marginalised groups in society. Since then, the Open Doors Initiative has been supported by the government and has been an enormous success working with businesses such as Business in The Community, Pobal, CPL and many more.
Peter Barbazon set up the Irish chapter of the global company to support people with autism to gain and maintain employment. “Specialisterne Ireland has developed hiring and management practices that facilitate the employment of our candidates by removing the barriers to once inaccessible industries and careers.” Since then, Specialisterne has worked with over 30 companies to provide employment to hundreds of people living with the condition.
Founded in Northern Ireland and now operating in more than 80 countries, Texthelp provides accessibility software to support employees with dyslexia and other ‘hidden disabilities’, or in their words; “Creating smart, inclusive technology that helps people read, write, express their thoughts and share information more accurately and fluently – across all stages of life.”
According to their website: “At WALK, we believe that everyone who wants to work, have a job and a career can do so. Our role is to facilitate individuals to their employment and career aspirations by supporting them to realise their potential, access opportunities and build their own natural supports.”
Other useful information:
The term neurodiversity is an umbrella term that refers to several different conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic and more. Often the associations connected with each condition has contacts across various industries who they may have worked with in the past. This will allow the potential employees to get to know people within the industry which will benefit their development.
College access programmes
Often as a graduate, your previous college can serve as a fantastic source of information about potential jobs. Through the college’s lecturers, alumni, access programmes or graduate programmes, certain colleges go above and beyond in assisting their former students to gain employment.
Companies for neurodiverse students
Companies such as The Reading Academy help students who are struggling to read in primary school with courses for the students, their parents and teachers. Coder Dojo is a welcoming community for neurodiverse people that want to learn how to code and develop that into a career.
CWIT is a company that organises Teen Turns, that allows any females who are in transition year from DIES schools apply to do a two-week internship in a major tech organisation. While companies like iDysleixic are creating a social network for Dyslexic people.
Main image: Hundreds of colourful umbrellas in Liverpool city centre last year, known as the Umbrella Project, celebrating neurodiversity and ADHD awareness.
By Barry Walsh
Published: 10 September, 2020