A long-overlooked player in the American workplace is finally getting some extra attention: The disabled worker.
In March 2014, the Department of Labor updated its requirements regarding the recruitment, hiring, promotion and workplace retention of individuals with disabilities. The legislation, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, sets a utilization goal of 7 percent and aims to meaningfully change the prospects of disabled workers in the U.S.
But the increased recognition isn't all about affirmative action. Some disabled workers with specific neurological capabilities are becoming increasingly valuable to employers for a different reason: global competition. Traits like extreme mathematical, scientific and mechanical aptitude are so coveted by certain industries that accompanying conditions, such as social anxiety, have become an accepted part of the equation.
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"The number of strengths that are common to the autistic brain is something that can be leveraged toward vocational advancement," noted Ari Ne-eman,president of the Autistic Self-AdvocacyNetwork (ASAN) in Washington DC and a member of the National Council on Disability. "Our society has come to recognize different kinds of brains from a strength-based perspective, rather than a challenged-based perspective."