REMOVING BARRIERS TO EMPOWER A NEURODIVERSE WORKFORCE: A Panel Discussion
NEXT for AUTISM and The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation hosted a panel event in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 14, 2023, to raise awareness about the importance of businesses offering clear and actionable hiring opportunities for neurodivergent adults.
There is a myth that it's cost-prohibitive for businesses to provide accommodations for people with disabilities. In fact, 58% of accommodations cost absolutely nothing, while the rest typically cost only $500. If it's not cost, what is it? Why don't more businesses remove the current barriers to employment for neurodivergent individuals?
The benefits to removing barriers to empower a neurodiverse workforce are many, benefitting both businesses and job seekers. The downside to not addressing this critical, and time-sensitive issue, is the high unemployment rate among neurodivergent adults.
The panel was moderated by NEXT for AUTISM CEO Gillian Leek. The panelists were Patrick Bardsley, Co-founder/CEO, Spectrum Designs, Diane Delaney, Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader, People with Diverse Abilities (PwDA) Community, IBM, Ferose V.R., SVP/Head of SAP Academy for Engineering, SAP, and Jhillika Kumar, CEO/Co-founder, Mentra. Their full bios are below.
A full video of the panel discussion will be made available shortly. Email marketing@NEXTforAUTISM.org to be notified when the video is available.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE DAY
CEO, NEXT for AUTISM
Gillian guides the organization’s mission to positively impact the lives of the estimated 5.4 million adults with autism nationwide, especially in the critical areas of home, work, social, and overall health and wellbeing. She leads with the vision that everyone deserves to lead a productive and fulfilling life.
We are excited to bring together four individuals who are actively making an impact on both sides of the hiring process for neurodiverse individuals. They will share their personal experience as a DEI-friendly employer or supporting neurodivergent adults with their employment opportunities.
Co-founder/CEO, Spectrum Designs
As Spectrum Designs Foundation's CEO and Co-Founder, Patrick oversees the day-to-day running of Spectrum Designs and Spectrum Suds. He holds a Masters in Special Education, with a concentration in Behavior Analysis through Long Island University. A natural leader and born innovator, he spends most of his time securing future growth and relationships for the betterment and expansion of the social enterprises. Under Patrick’s leadership Spectrum’s businesses have generated annual revenues of over $6m and created more than 50 jobs for those on the spectrum in a team of 80+ employees.
Patrick brings an enormous skill-set that spans many disciplines, as well as over 15 years of experience working with people adults with developmental disabilities. Outside of his work at Spectrum Designs, Patrick is a board member of New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID) and a member of the invite-only Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader, People with Diverse Abilities (PwDA) Community, IBM
As the Global D&I Leader for the People with Diverse Abilities (PWDA) Community, Diane advises Talent Acquisition on strategies for diverse hiring, consults with IBM business units on their own D&I strategies and leads and supports programs and policies designed to educate, develop, and enable employees and leaders. She builds upon IBM’s legacy of excellence, empowering employees, and leaders to be their authentic selves at work while accelerating IBM’s business growth.
Prior to this role, Diane was the ND@IBM Global Program Manager, leading this “New Collar” skills first initiative focused on enablement, advocacy and neurodivergent hiring with a goal to move from awareness to acceptance and finally advancement.
She has over 38 years of technical, management and HR experience with IBM.
SVP/Head of SAP Academy for Engineering, SAP SE
Ferose heads the SAP Academy for Engineering in San Ramon, CA. The mission of the organization is to create the next generation of engineers who are involved in solving some of the most complex problems in the world.
Ferose is the founder of the India Inclusion Foundation a Bengaluru based nonprofit that aims to bring the topic of inclusion to the forefront in India. The India Inclusion Summit, The Inclusion Fellowship, Art For Inclusion and The Inclusive Walkathon , Everyone Is Good at Something, are some of the initiatives under the nonprofit.
Ferose co-authored the #1 Bestseller The Invisible Majority: India’s Abled Disabled. He co-authored the best-selling book GIFTED: Inspiring Stories of People with Disabilities. He has co-authored “Innovating the World: The Globalization Advantage”, the graphic novels “GRIT: The Major Story” and “GRIT: The Vishwas Story”. Ferose is a regular speaker at conferences and give guest lectures on “Personal Leadership” at Columbia University, New York.
Jhillika is the founder and CEO of Mentra, Georgia Tech grad, and honorary degree recipient, and previous Grace Hopper Keynote speaker for neurodiversity empowerment.
Kumar is a neurodivergent whose passion for neurodiversity advocacy stems from her life experiences growing up as the sister of a nonspeaking autistic individual named Vikram. After 27 years of being unable to communicate his thoughts, Vikram learned how to type through an accessible letterboard. Uncovering his vast intelligence and eloquence inspired Kumar her to search for a solution to the need to empower those who society has overlooked.
Jhillika Kumar partnered with Conner Reinhardt to found Mentra: the world’s largest neurodiversity employment network. Following the recent launch of Microsoft's Unlocked article, and Jhillika’s main stage speech at Disability:IN with Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, there has been significant interest from large Enterprises to hire and retain neurodivergent talent, at scale.
ABOUT THE HOSTS
NEXT for AUTISM builds national programs that enhance the lives of autistic adults.
NEXT has been transforming the national landscape of services for people with autism for 20 years. From founding the first charter school in New York to exclusively serve children with autism, and the establishment of a professional training center with Hunter College to the creation of the renowned Center for Autism and the Developing Brain with New York-Presbyterian, Columbia and Cornell, NEXT for AUTISM has always been at the forefront of building programs that enhance the lives of people with autism and their families. As we look ahead, we remain laser focused on ensuring a bright future for autistic adults because we believe that we all deserve to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation, founded in 2006, is a private family foundation established by Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia.
The Foundation is dedicated to making an impactful change around the world by funding innovative solutions and programs that enrich communities and serve the common good. The Foundation's grant making focuses on local, national, and international organizations that support medical & healthcare research, education, mental health, intellectual and physical diversities, human rights & social justice, women & girls empowerment, and emergency responses.