Diversity inclusion is disability inclusion


Every April, we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, otherwise known as World Autism Month. The United Nations declared World Autism Awareness Day to be sanctioned on April 2 as the kickstart to this monumental awareness month. The theme for this year is “Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World.”

It is crucial that as a community, we address the inconsistent and harsh realities that people with autism face in our present day. It is unfortunate, but the challenge is that inclusion remains a utopian dream as discrimination, stereotypes, and the negative stigma of people with disabilities still exist. However, this is just another barrier that our community must get through, not individually but together in order to move toward diversity inclusion in the society, especially in the workforce.

Oftentimes, employers are hesitant to hire an individual with a disability. The reasons may vary, but what is most commonly believed is that hiring people with disabilities will somehow increase business costs. This is NOT true. There are agencies that can provide reasonable accommodations that assist the employee but also support the employer, so that the business operations are not affected. These agencies provide education and training for the employers, as well as cost-effective reasonable accommodations based on the specific disability and what the employee is seeking. Working together provides these opportunities for people with disabilities and is another step closer to diversity inclusion in our community.

Many people assume that individuals with autism cannot positively contribute to growth in workplaces and result in less employment opportunities. I believe that this stereotyping is not true as disabilities are not necessarily just inabilities. Underemployment has great impacts on the mental and physical health of people with autism; leaving them idle makes them vulnerable to comorbidities like depression, sleep disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Therefore, I plead for to you to look beyond the challenges and the needs that people with autism live with and include them in job selection in the post-pandemic world. Even though autistic people may need more time and planning to maintain and complete assigned tasks on time and as required, their contribution in workplaces greatly impacts their personal and organizational development. Employment will also help them offset the economic cost that comes with autism.

The advocates of the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. aggressively charge through barriers of employment for people with disabilities. The advocates work with different agencies such as the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Medicaid, the Assistive Technology Center, and many other Disability Network Partners to assist the employers and employees in providing support in the workplace. It is time to acknowledge, accept, and advocate for the end of discrimination, stereotypes and stigma surrounding hiring individuals with disabilities. As we prepare for Autism Acceptance Month, let’s remember that diversity inclusion, is disability inclusion. Together, we can work toward building an inclusive community for all.

For more information on disability inclusion please call NMPASI at 670-235-7273/4 (voice); 670-287-0652(text message); or visit us online at www.nmpasi.org.

Cleo Nening (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Cleo Nening is program coordinator at the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc

Cleo Nening (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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