Meaningful Employment for All

November 6, 2017

by Francisco Tobon

 In celebration of our 70th anniversary last year, FleishmanHillard announced #FH4Inclusion, an expanded global commitment to impact communities through a collective effort around social inclusion. Each participating office around the globe was tasked with selecting a non-profit organization or charity that embodies social inclusion, and to aid their mission by supporting and amplifying their call-to-action.

Here in Miami, my colleagues and I were fortunate to discover #Trailblazing2017, a national conference dedicated to a social inclusion topic we feel is often overlooked and misunderstood: meaningful employment for the developmentally disabled, also known as neurodiverse individuals. The Trailblazing2017 event was ramping up to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, FL on September 30 for a one-day business-to-business conference on meaningful employment. The event was designed to connect the business community to the neurodiversity community to create opportunities to learn, understand and appreciate how persons with neurological differences are assets to the workforce.

Our journey began with a project briefing and an immersion into the world of neurodiversity. We immediately learned that terminology is an essential part of educating the broader community. For example, we don’t say “disabled persons,” or mention “disabilities.” Instead, we say persons, people, individuals, entrepreneurs, innovators – with developmental disabilities. Addressing the individual first conveys the fact that the disability doesn’t define them. We learned countless nuances along the way that ultimately led to our most significant takeaway – meaningful employment should focus on what individuals can do versus what they can’t.

It was an eye-opening and emotional experience over the nine months of support that included corporate outreach for panelists, networking, media and influencer relations, development of the social media and content strategy, and onsite support at the conference.

We were inspired to hear the many stories of neurodiverse entrepreneurs –some of whom, with the support of their family, have built businesses from scratch and become community staples.

We were encouraged by the inventors and the developments in technology that aid the movement of meaningful employment through accessibility developments.  Among them was Susan Mazrui, Director of Public Policy for AT&T (client), who shared examples of how positive impact can be achieved through inclusion and adoption of accessibility technology.

We were moved when we learned of the selfless efforts of leading advocates in the space, such as Temple Grandin and Dr. Stephen Shore, and exemplary corporate visionaries like SAP’s (client) Jose Velasco and many others who are dedicated to shaping the guiding principles of meaningful work and  making disability inclusion a priority.

But most importantly, we were all impacted. We were impacted by the diversity trailblazers who have proven that inclusion is a good business decision and how important it truly is to change the mindset. Meaningful employment is not charity. It’s about seeing the talent neurodiversity can bring to the workforce.

We are now champions as well. FH champions of inclusion – because all people want to feel valued and important in the workplace, and should have the opportunity and the choice to contribute through meaningful employment.