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Scholar in Spotlight: Autism-Ready Workplace - Creating and Sustaining Autism Hiring Initiatives

  • Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) 4801 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, Suite 610 Washington, DC, 20016 United States (map)

Dr. Hala Annabi, an Associate Professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. She is coming to the Institute of Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) to present her research on ways in which we can make the workplace inclusive by involving persons with Autism.

Dr. Annabi earned a B.S. in Business Administration and Management Information Systems and an MBA from Le Moyne College. She earned her a Ph.D. in Information Science and Technology from The Information School at Syracuse University in 2005.

Her other research also focuses on creating and maintaining inclusive learning organizations. Dr. Annabi investigates diversity and inclusion interventions in the technology industry aimed at retaining and advancing women, as well as recruiting, retaining, and advancing autistic technology professionals.

Focus of the Talk

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While employment is essential to one’s quality of life, only 14% of autistic adults are employed for pay.    This leaves them vulnerable to social isolation as well as suboptimal physical and mental health. Recent studies suggest that a significant number of autistic individuals pursue careers in information technology (IT). Recognizing the untapped technology talents of autistic individuals, leading IT firms such as SAP and Microsoft have recently deployed Autism at Work employment initiatives to meet the growing demand for IT professionals. The potential social impact as well as business benefits of these initiatives are attracting attention from industry, government, and the autism community. Currently, there is a dearth of research on how to create and sustain Autism at Work programs. Furthermore, due to the novelty of such programs, there is limited research to assess their impact on the autism community.  In order to scale Autism at Work initiatives across industries, and fully realize the potential social benefits for the autism community, more empirical work is needed. In this talk, Dr. Annabi will review the state of employment in the autism community and discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by Autism at Work initiatives in IT.  Dr. Annabi will report on a study of four leading Autism at Work programs where she identified organizational and program level characteristics that enable the programs’ creation and sustainability. The talk will include theoretical and practical implications of Autism at Work programs as catalysts for social inclusion in the IT industry.