ISAW had the pleasure of talking to consultant Jay about his work experiences. Jay is semi-verbal meaning that he needs prompts and writing before he is able to verbalize his thoughts. He has autism and has a direct support worker to help him at times. He currently works at a coffee shop in Lexington and was formerly employed at the University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing. He found the College of Nursing to be an ideal workplace because it was a small quiet office with friendly people. Here are a few of the questions we asked:
ISAW: Have you ever asked for accommodations at work? If so, what were they? Were those accommodations provided?
Jay: “One of the accommodations I need when I work is the ability to take a 15-20 minute break after an hour or hour and a half of working. This motivates me and helps me get recharged! When I worked at UK, I was able to take breaks when I worked. Another accommodation I need when I work is space. I need space to walk around if I need to for a minute or two. Sometimes I need to move around and I need a place where that is okay.”
Jay also had his support worker on hand to help him communicate with co-workers. She was able to fade out after a while, as Jay and his colleagues adjusted to one another.
ISAW: How has your experience with interviewing been?
Jay: “When I worked at UK, I filled out an application to work at the job and turned it in. This helped me because I need written words and questions when I’m talking with new people for a new experience. So, it would help me to have questions ahead of time to look at and prepare answers so I can read it back. I struggle with coming up with sentences on my own. I need help from my parents or caregivers…and I need time to brainstorm and come up with answers to questions before they are asked to me on the spot in an interview.”
ISAW: What else would you like employers to understand?
Jay: I can do/think in a way that is unique. There are other things about jobs that I struggle with, yes. But there are ways I can contribute to a job and use the special skills I have. I am able to. I just need a little help with the challenging things.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines reasonable accommodation as any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations are considered “reasonable” if they do not create an undue hardship or a direct threat.
For businesses seeking to employ autistic workers, ISAW can provide strategies for interviewing, accommodations, and many other facets of employment. Let us know how we can help you support workers on the spectrum.
For more information about reasonable accommodations in the workplace, visit: https://adata.org/factsheet/reasonable-accommodations-workplace