Autism Speaks, an American non-profit organization dedicated to promoting solutions across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan of people with autism and their families, has launched the Autism Employment Connector Challenge.
The goal of the challenge is to increase accessibility to employment networking and career development opportunities with solutions that support autistic job seekers with navigating the employment search and application process while effectively communicating skills and abilities to prospective employers.
Canadians can participate in the challenge if they partner with an eligible American individual or organization.
Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication. A combination of genetic and environmental factors influence the development of autism, and it’s often accompanied by medical issues such as gastrointestinal disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances.
For the estimated one in 45 people on the autism spectrum, finding a job can have unique challenges. While many people with autism have talents and skills that employers desire, some autistic job-seekers have difficulty navigating certain interfaces, understanding abstract language and communicating their abilities using traditional text and talk.
"At Autism Speaks, we've witnessed the communication mismatch that is causing a structural problem in the hiring process and creating a barrier to employment for hundreds of thousands of adults with autism," said David Kearon, director of adult services and support at Autism Speaks, in a media release.
"With the power of a big idea, we hope to find an accessible, inclusive job-sourcing solution that will connect job seekers to open roles and employers to candidates outside of traditional talent pools."
The Autism Employment Connector Challenge is being launched with HeroX, a platform and open marketplace founded in 2013 to crowd-source innovation and solutions for business and world challenges.
"Current employment platforms operate under cultural rules that might not be inclusive to everyone," said HeroX chief executive officer Kal K. Sahota in the release. "The HeroX community is filled with disruptive thinkers who can re-envision how applicants with autism find jobs, making sure we can all benefit from the skills they bring to the table."
Those wishing to take the Autism Employment Connector Challenge must register on its web page and then submit an idea that could identify and remove structural biases that currently exist in the hiring process for autistic people. Detailed descriptions of the design, how autistic people and employers will interact with it, and more must also be provided.
The top three solutions will receive $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000 (all dollar figures are U.S.).
The challenge is open to individuals aged 18 years or older who are American citizens or permanent residents of the United States, as well as organizations that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the U.S., and private, public and collegiate teams comprised of otherwise eligible individuals or organizations that are led by an otherwise eligible individual or organization.
Again, Canadians can enter, if they partner with an eligible American individual or organization.
Autism Speaks Canada shares the same goals as its American counterpart, which is involved with advocacy and providing support to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and advance research into causes and better interventions for autism and related conditions.