Autism Author and CEO Team Up to Share Top Tips for Inclusion in the Workforce
Bestselling Memoir Author, Monica Holloway, Joins Forces With Tom Everill, CEO of the Northwest Center, to Discuss Inclusion for People of All Abilities
ET | Source:Author Monica Holloway
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The innovative notion of "Social Enterprise," where a business focuses energy on creating a diverse workforce that employs people of all abilities working side-by-side with incredibly successful results, started small, and has grown into a $47 million per-year business. Thanks to inclusive hiring and workforce policies put into place by Northwest Center under CEO Everill's leadership, corporations and small business alike see major strengths in hiring people of all abilities. Together with bestselling author Monica Holloway, a recent article in Autism World lays out this very unique concept in greater detail.
Below are Everill's top tips for inclusion in the workforce:
Mutuality. People who experience the world differently evoke possibilities in the rest of us that cannot be accessed any other way. The benefits of inclusion are mutual, making inclusion a matter, not just of benevolence, but also of self-interest.
Diversity. The very word "disability" is often a red herring that takes us down the wrong path. It assumes that there is only one correct way to experience the world and that all other approaches are the result of disorders or pathology or brokenness. If we are to progress from a primitive life of fear to a more highly evolved life of rich human experience in a complex world, we must look beyond demeaning labels and embrace diversity for the generative, life-enhancing asset it is.
Ability. The word "disability" simply defines someone who is "not like me." Our experience at Northwest Center is that when we look beyond labels to focus on what people actually can do, amazing things emerge. For example, at Northwest Center we astonish customers by designing and manufacturing intricate magnetic components that only people with autism have the concentration and focus to assemble. We produce perfect quality scores for major global brands in our packaging business because of the unique capacity our employees have for repetitive work. Our businesses are successful not in spite of inclusion, but because of it.
Challenge. I am struck by how often life's challenges take people to a deeper place, not in spite of the difficulty, but perhaps because of it. Living a superficial life of mindless consumption, materialism, and popular culture is not an option when your daughter paints the walls with her feces, or when your son cannot move or speak, or when people in the supermarket are afraid of your child because she grunts and drools. These are searing experiences that tend to focus the mind on what really matters – lessons we can all learn from.
Courage. To leave behind primitive assumptions of survival of the fittest and to evolve instead towards diversity requires careful attention to assumptions and conditioning – of yourself as well as others. The world is filled with well-intentioned disability advocates who plead with employers to hire people with disabilities as "a way to give back," as if inclusion is some sort of penitential compromise, as if they themselves acknowledge that people with disabilities are inferior. The courage to see this charitable urge in ourselves as limiting and demeaning can be the most difficult part of the journey. Our own prejudice and assumptions often constitute a barrier far more difficult to overcome than the diagnosis of the person we call "disabled."
Love. How often have we heard the stories of unconditional love that cause a mother or father to know their son will learn to read, will attend college, will find a girlfriend, will get a job, will accomplish the impossible, despite his developmental condition and despite the dire assumptions of doctors, experts, family, neighbors, and friends? This is the power of love, to see beyond assumptions and to create a positive future through high expectations and faith – in them and in yourself.
Support. We often talk about people with "special needs" in a sort of hushed and polite way that suggests darker assumptions about what we really think of their status and capabilities. But as the father of children who have grown up without any of these terrifying diagnoses, I can safely say I have never met a child (or adult, for that matter) without "special needs." My kids required a ton of support for their unique qualities to flourish – in school, sports, arts, health, etc – and they got it. Why should any kid not get the support they need to flourish? I can also safely say that in more than 40 years of management experience in organizations large and small, I've never had an employee who did not have special needs, who did not have a unique way of experiencing the world, who was not a head case at some level. So get over it; no one thrives without support.
Embrace. The charitable urge to accept or tolerate all people is perhaps a good thing but does not go far enough. It somehow suggests darker assumptions that lurk beneath the surface of consciousness. I can "accept" you even though you are inferior or weaker than me – say because you are black or white or gay or straight or man or woman or Christian or Muslim or have autism or Down syndrome. In fact what other reason do I have to merely accept you other than because of my perception of inferiority? To accept an equal is an insult, a conditional quality that keeps its distance and suggests reluctance. People of real value deserve to be embraced, not merely accepted, to be celebrated for the worth they themselves bring and the worth they evoke in others, for the way they make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Says Holloway, "Tom Everill's ideas are a vision into a great future for, not just our families, but for society as a whole. He is a huge hero of mine for the way in which he has changed my own view of the world, and certainly for the world-changing work that he is doing."
ABOUT MONICA HOLLOWAY: Monica Holloway is the bestselling author of Cowboy & Wills, a Mother's Choice Award's Gold recipient, and the critically-acclaimed author of the memoir Driving With Dead People. Holloway lives with her son and husband in California.
ABOUT TOM EVERILL AND THE NORTHWEST CENTER: Tom Everill is president & CEO of Northwest Center, a nonprofit composed of many diverse elements that when combined, join to form a greater whole that the Northwest Center calls 'Social Enterprise.' Utilizing these businesses Northwest Center is able to employ and train people of all abilities and create inclusive environments where everyone is given the chance to reach their potential. The benefits from this diverse working environment are universal. Everyone contributes a unique expertise and point of view to allow unique and comprehensive business solutions to flourish.
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