Specialisterne: diversity as an asset

Stella Arcà - Specialisterne

Stella Arcà, Business & Marketing Manager di Specialisterne Italia

Last September, I was invited to the presentation of the latest issue of “Divercity” magazine, which included, among the other articles, the interview I had granted to Elena Belloni about disability and work. That event gave me the opportunity to get to know many companies and associations committed to inclusion at all levels and in every field.  Among them, the one that impressed me more was Specialisterne, a staffing company that trains and helps people with autism spectrum disorders or Asperger syndrome finding a job and effectively integrating into the company environment. Then, at the end of the presentation, I immediately got in touch with Stella Arcà, Business & Marketing Manager of the Italian branch, asking her to tell more about the company she works at on Move@bility. Here you have our chat.

How did the idea to found Specialisterne arise?

Stong perseverance, extreme precision and a great memory are valuable skills for the IT industry, and they are peculiarities that distinguish people with an autism spectrum disorder. Thorkil Sonne, who was employed at an IT company in Denmark, first realized it back in 2004, when, coming back from a journey in Europe with his family, saw his Asperger son drawing the map of it, completing it with 150 boxes and 500 alphanumeric types without having the original one under his eyes. Deeply impressed by that event, Sonne decided to go all-in on this incredible unexpressed potential: so, he resigned, mortaged his house and founded Specialisterne, “The Specialists” in Danish, a staffing company with the ambitious goal to value the great skills of people with autism and give them a concrete professional opportunity.

Which services does the company offer to candidates with autism?

Specialisterne a ful-time four-months training path, totally free and customized, to  build up a specific profile, aligned with the needs of companies working in administration and information technology. The training has two goals: a technical goal, teaching subjects such as software testing and whatever can be useful at work, and a social-professional one, with individual and group interviews designed to help the candidate overtaking difficulties and get used to the working context. The main goal of the course is to offer the candidate a professional career. Once the candidate is hired, the tutor becomes a bridge with the company and manages all the obligations needed to guarantee quality and top class performances.

How do you contact the companies that are potentially interested in hiring them? 

We mainly speak to the companies HR departements to offer our talents. Sometimes they directly contact us after having read about us on an article or having met at an event; sometimes we tempt the first contact, offering them the opportunity to take part in this diversity and inclusion project.

How long has been Specialisterne operating in Italy and how many people have you helped finding a job, so far? 

We’ve been working in Italy for two years and, so far, we’ve helped 25 people with autism starting a professional career at 8 different customers, including Everis or Flex.

Un consulente Specialisterne al lavoro

A Specialisterne consultant at work

What industries do the companies you present the workers who reach out to you operate in? 

We partner with all the companies that need IT or administration services. Then, they mainly operate in information technology, but we also have customers in banking, pharma, insurance that need our talents.

Once the candidate is hired by the company, how do you support him or her?

The onboarding of the consultant in the company is the first, important stage of a path that we design on the way. On a weekly basis, the coach meets the consultant, his/her manager and the team, supporting them with the goal to accompany the consultant all over his/her career, contributing to create in the environment a growing awareness, providing both the worker and the company with tools enabling to design a path that can be  functional to everyone.

How can the interested candidates or their families directly contact Specialisterne?

They can contact us sending an email to contatto.it@specialisterne.com, so that, based on the individual, his/her needs and specific case, they can be reached back by the right person in our Team, who will provide them with all the useful info.

What are the main “resistance” reasons from the companies, when you offer them people with autism to hire? 

The first resistance reason is fear, since autism is still poorly known and there are many stereotypes sorrounding it.  Changing the perception of autism  is an essential part of our mission and, to us, it represents a very important challenge we are committed to every day.

How did you succeed helping companies overtaking these resistances?

Many times we offer the companies to start hiring one or two workers to test their talents, so that they can realize by themselves their skills. Most of the times we have started with this approach, the customer company has asked for more resources after a year, realizing the success of the project.

Un consulente Specialisterne al lavoro

A Specialisterne consultant at work

Can you share a “success case”  with us?

Everis is the company in Italy that has hired more people with autism through Specialsterne. So far, our partnership with Everis has helped 11 people starting a professional path. The managers say that including these people has helped the company changing its culture.  Differences are eliminated, respecting the individual peculiarities and evaluating neurodiversity.

Looking more widely to the society we live in, what can be done, in your opinion, to change the -almost always distorted- perception of autism spectrum disorders? 

We first nee the society to be more informed about autism: that’s why we work on the awareness of the companies talking to their employees. Moreover, those who work with our candidates can realize by themselves that people with autism can work with a high quality standard.

Which advice would you give to someone with autism reaching to Specialisterne to find a job?

Rather than advices, we constantly try to provide concrete and individual feedbacks about different aspects, from attitude to strong and weak traits, with a focus on  social and professional topics, since feedback is often lacking in the previous educational and working experience od these workers. We also try to design ad hoc strategies with the individual, aiming to his/her personal and professional growth.

 

Once again, many thanks to Stella Arcà for her time and best of luck to Specialisterne for its truly important mission!

V.I.S.O.: a project of sharing and inclusion

One of the main reasons why I created Move@bility is to raise awareness towards existing and effective examples of accessibility and inclusion. This is exactly the case of the V.I.S.O. project  (its acronym stands for Viaggiamo Insieme Superiamo Ostacoli, i.e. “Travel Together Overtaking Obstacles”), created in Padua in 2018 by the Centro Studi l’Uomo e l’Ambiente and funded by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo. The main objective of the project is to promote the social inclusion of people with physical or cognitive disabilities, through travels  and sharing cultural and leisure experiences, at the moment in Padua area, but with the ambition to gradually expand all over Italy.

V.I.S.O. - Foto di gruppo durante un'uscita

A group photo during a tour

what does v.i.s.o. do in practice?

The project leaders of V.I.S.O. organize and propose guided tours, day trips and experiences to know new places and meet new people, do sport and have fun together in an accessible way for everyone. They prepare practical guides and design customized paths, based on the participants’ specific needs, to visit museums, monuments, buildings, churches, parks, squares and know arts, history, social events, customs and traditions. Both guides and paths report  architectonical barriers (for instance, the presence and height of stairs, to facilitate who moves using wheelchairs or other aids) and other peculiarities, such as intense noise or potentially crowded locations, so that people who are particularly sensitive to these cases (for instance, who has a sensory disability or suffers from a autism spectrum disorder) to avoid unpleasant surprises once on site or, if possible, to choose an alternative path.

All the available guided tours are announced well in advance both on the V.I.S.O. project’s website and on its social profiles. The offered activities  also include the opportunity to spend time in sports and leisure activities, but, first of all, to socialize. This is a particularly important trait for those who, due to their own condition or the situation they live in, risk to get isolated.

V.I.S.O. - Sport

A moment of sharing focused on sport

Do you like the V.I.S.O. project? You can even financially support it, donating on Rete Del Dono. Would you like to get more info about the project or about how to participate in the next guided tours? You can get in touch with its leaders through the contact details  specified on its website. Is there anything similar in your city? If so, please inform me through a mail and I’ll be happy to share and raise awareness towards them on Move@bility: after all, that’s exactly how I got to know the V.I.S.O. project! 🙂

 

Baskin: when inclusion goes to the hole

If you’ve been following Move@bility for a while (or you’ve gone over the articles of this site with a fine tooth comb ), you’ve probably realized one of the greatest passions of mine, basketball! At a time when I thought I only had to be happy with watching it on tv or from the bleachers of an arena, I discovered the existence of baskin, a variant of basketball that, since its name, brings the rules and the spirit of this sport and inclusion together. In fact, the baskin teams are made up by able-bodied and disabled people (with different tyoes and levels of disability) playing together regardless their gender and age, each one according to his own capabilities, to pursue the typical goal of basketball: score a basket more than their opponent.

THE ORIGIN OF BASKIN

Baskin was invented in 2003 in Cremona by the engineer Antonio Bodini and the gymnastics teacher Fausto Capellini in a school context, aiming to give all the students the chance to express at their own best and contribute to the success of the team. Putting together in the same team people different for age, condition and sex allows to create a real inclusion, going beyond the pietism typical of a certain way to deal with disability. Since then, this sport has spread at a national level, attracting a growing number of people of all ages.

THE RULES OF THE GAME

The rules of baskin are the same as the traditional basketball, plus some variants that help ensuring everyone the a chance to play it.  For instance:

  • There are 4 baskets, the two usual ones plus two smaller baskets on both sides of the field
  • The players on the field for each team aren’t 5, but 6 and each of them has the chance to play in a role that’s compatible with his own physical capabilities and his familiarity with the game and, simultaneously, to man-mark and being man-marked by an opponent in the same role (and, hence, condition)
  • The players who need it can have a  tutor assigned, that is another member of the team who can help them during the game
Campo da baskin

A baskin field – Di Giamaico – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72156422

But baskin isn’t good only for athletes with a disability. In fact, all the members of the team learn to integrate in a mixed group and to organize themselves consequently, promoting everyone’s abilities and looking at their respective diversities as enriching elements, not as weak points.

Campus Party: digital, innovation and diversity

On July 27th, I had the pleasure and the honor to take part as a speaker in the Job Factory organised by HRC Digital Generation during the third Italian edition of Campus Party, a global event focused on innovation and creativity and mainly addressed to young people, communities, universities, companies and organizations that, for some days, had the opportunities to discuss and build the future together, using technology as a tool to change tomorrow, in an aware and responsible way. The subject of the 2019 edition, that took place in Milan from July 24th to 27th, was “Diventa Div3rso”  (Become Different): below, you can see one of the pictures used on social media to advertise the event.

Campus Party 2019 - Frida Kahlo

Then, it was the best occasion to “officially” introduce Move@bility, particularly talking about di work and, therefore, social inclusion of people with a disability, wasn’t it? Here below, you can watch the video registration of my speech, that launches Movea@bility’s YouTube channel.

It was really exciting and valuable to have the chance to meet at Campus Party so many interested young people, who carefully listened to my speech and shared their views about such an important topic, that’s often overlooked even when talking about diversity. I hope I was able to spread the idea, that is also the Move@bility’s starting point: despite our respective diversities and peculiarities, we all are people and, then, have the same dignity, the same rights and, obviously, the same duties. Not only at work.

Would you like to have a look at the presentation I shared at Campus Party? Here you have it! 🙂

I hope to have further opportunities to discuss these topics with a “mixed” audience, not necessarily made up by people who are directly involved it them. Since I believe that a real “disability culture” can only be established involving the whole community, not limiting to look at our own backyard. What do you think about it?

“Diritti e inclusione delle persone con disabilità”

Are you interested in topics such as inclusion and, generally speaking, the rights of people with a disability? Would you like to turn this passion into your job or your professional specialty? If you answered “yes” to this questions, maybe you are interested in the “Diritti e inclusione delle persone con disabilità“(“Rights and inclusion of people with a disability“) specialization course organized also in 2019 by the University of Milan (Department of public Italian and supranational rights) with the patronage of the Municipality of Milan and LEDHA, the association that, since 40 years, supports the rights of people with a disability.

"Diritti e inclusione delle persone con disabilità"

The “Diritti e inclusione delle persone con disabilità” specialization course is addressed to lawyers, judges, public health professionals, public administration operators who work in social services,  associations, foundations and NGO operators, staffing company workers, as well as all the professionals who, for any reason, work in sectors linked to disability, plus all the graduated people who are interested in specialize in it.

Inclusion and rights of people with a disability are increasingly popular topic, luckily.  But, as it often occurs, a very complex and articulate legislation doesn’t make it easy to apply what laws foresee. As a consequence, the most important goal of the “Diritti e inclusione delle persone con disabilità” specialization course is to help whoever  wants to work in this sector to have an as much thorough as possible picture of this topic and of the laws that regulate it. So, it will go from the analysis of the social-cultural perception of disability to the various types of disabilities, to understand the main issues linked to each of them, to pass to examine in depth the laws against discrimination and the legal principles that regulate this area. The other five modules will be devoted to analyze the issues people with a disability face in various contexts: society, family, school, work, hospital, jail. Always adopting a multidisciplinary approach, that will enable to acquire not only technical-legal, but also medical, social-educational and psychological know-how.

The course, that will last 50 hours, will take place from February 1st to May 17th 2019, with the possibility to attend part of the classes in e-learning mode. The entrance fee is € 416,00 and the applications for admission must be submitted by 2:00 PM of January 10th 2019, as specified on the announcement  available on the website of the Milanese university.

Would you like to learn more? Have a look at the flier!

Inclusive Job Day: an opportunity for talents

Are you part of the so-called “protected categories” and are looking for a job? Save this date on your agendas: the Inclusive Job Day, which will take place in Milan, at the Acquario Civico, on March 19th, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The event, organized by Inclusive Mindset partnering with Comune di Milano, offers to people who are part of the “protected categories” (due to disability or other reasons) and to the foreigners the opportunity to meet prestigious businesses, even having job interviews.

Inclusive Job Day

The companies which have already confirmed their participation in Milan Inclusive Job Day include: Apple, Alten, Ferrovie dello Stato, Mapei, Costa Crociere, Pirelli and Percassi. The event is addressed both to people who have a diploma or a degree and/or a master’s degree, since the profiles the companies are willing to meet range from the most suitable for operational or administrative positions to those with a higher seniority, with managerial skills.

how to participate in the inclusive job day?

To participate in the Inclusive Job Day, you need to register for free on Inclusive Mindset website, create your profile filling all the required info (the same you’d be required by a job board) and confirm. Then, to sign up for the Inclusive Job Day, logout from the platform and login again and, selecting the “Eventi” folder, click on “Iscriviti” on the same line as the Inclusive Job Day.

Inclusive Job Day

As you can see on the above picture, to get prepared for the event, you can also particapate in a training session (always signing up online), on March 15th  at Fondazione Adecco per le Pari Opportunità: during this session, experts from Adecco will guide the candidates with tips on how to properly prepare to the Job Day.

It’s an important opportunity, at a time when, as some conventions I had the chance to attend in these weeks confirm, it seems that businesses are paying more attention to topics such as inclusion  and empowerment of diversity, in all its meanings: gender, ethnic group, religion, sexual preference, age, origin. Furthermore, a study by Boston Consulting confirms that businesses which are more willing to embrace diversity are also the most innovative ones.

Inclusive job Day - Boston Consulting

Then, update your resume and sign up now! See you there!

“Vorrei ma non posso”: among dreams and barriers

Verona: the city of Romeo and Juliet, fascinating, rich in art, history and magic.  How wonderful is walking around its streets, tasting its beauty, giving yourself a rest in a café or going shopping in its city centre… But is Verona accessible for who has mobility issues? Alessia Bottone and Valentina Bazzani tried to answer this question. They are, respectively, author/director and “sitting” main character of the short film “Vorrei ma non posso: quando le barriere architettoniche limitano i sogni” (“I’d like, but I can’t: when architectonical barriers limit dreams”), which describes a day in the life of Valentina, a disabled journalist, going around her city, Verona precisely, among architectonical (and cultural) barriers.

Vorrei ma non posso” was presented in September and, since then, thousands of people have been watching it, including myself. Since I found it decisively interesting, I decided to get in touch with Alessia and Valentina to let them directly tell me how this interesting (and very useful!) project arose.

-How did the idea of “Vorrei ma non posso” arise? 

Alessia Bottone - "Vorrei ma non posso"

Alessia Bottone

ALESSIA – I’ve been dealing since a long time, also for my job, with human rights and the direct experience of my family has led me to be particularly sensitive to topics such as autonomy and accessibility referred to people with a disability. Two years ago, I presented a draft of the film at the Massimiliano Goattin award for Young Journalists, getting a financing that allowed me to take action. Meanwhile, I had gotten in touch, through Facebook, with Valentina, reading a post where she told about the umpteenth work discrimination she had been subjected to. From virtual, we passed to real life (we both live in Verona and this made things easier) and started to film the documentary, together with Elettra Bertucco, who took care of shots.

-Which was the biggest issue you had to face while filming “Vorrei ma non posso”? 

Valentina Bazzani - "Vorrei ma non posso"

Valentina Bazzani

VALENTINA – Lots of architectonical barriers: from steps, that, for people moving on a wheelchair  and having a limited autonomy like me, represent an often impassable limit, to the lack of ramps on sidewalks or platforms (even removable) to access shops and public places. Not to mention the lack of dressing rooms equipped with sliding doors in clothing stores: it, de facto, forces who is on a wheelchair to try the clothes in front of the other clients, regardless of our privacy… But, above all, cultural barriers: stereotypes and clichés about disabled people are still too entrenched in our country. I dream an equal opportunity life, so everyone must be granted with the same rights and opportunities, so that everyone can demonstrate his own resources, peculiarities and potential. Unfortunately, now, it isn’t so.

-What was people reaction while you were filming “Vorrei ma non posso”?

A. – While filming, not to influence them, we didn’t refer to the documentary, talking with involved people. Of course, we covered their faces with pixels, to ensure their privacy. The way the documentary has been welcomed has, frankly, surprised me: usually, when you deal with such topics, unfortunately, you find just a few people willing to listen to you. On the contrary, both during its presentation and in these months, we noticed a big interest towards the topic we chose: is it a sign that something is moving towards the right direction?  

-What is still missing to reach full accessibility, that is urban spaces designed to be suitable for the needs of all citizens (including those with a motoric – both on wheelchair and not- or sensory disability)?

V. – As of now, to get the full accessibility we lack, on one hand, wisdom even during the designing phase, the effort to think spaces also like disabled people would do, or, when possible, directly involve them. But, on the other hand, we also lack the will, from the institutions, to create truly accessible environments for all, at least in public spaces. A lot has been done, but there’s still a lot to do. We disabled people can keep on creating awareness and become “active protagonists”, showing that, thanks to our commitment and our resources, we can live a normal life. It isn’t easy, mostly when, due to your own condition, you depend on someone else’s help. But we must do it.

-What has changed, after the documentary came out, in Verona?

A. – Verona was among the first Italian cities to adopt the PEBA, the Plan to Remove Architectonical Barriers. Sure, passing from intent to practice is slower than we’d like to, and the law vagueness doesn’t help: for instance, the paradox that, to equip your business with a removable platform, you must pay a tax to occupy a public area is, at least, a nonsense, isn’t it?

-How much do issues linked to accessibility weigh on the full (both social and work) inclusion of disabled people?

V. – After the middle school, even though I was keener on scientific subjects, I chose a technical school because it was the only accessible one. Over the years, things have improved: our community is more inclusive and there’s an increasing attention to spaces, to ensure they are accessible and comfortable. The biggest issue is, still, mostly cultural: we cannot accept, in 2017, that a disabled individual, a professional with an impressive resume, has a large amount of job interviews and is rejected just due to his disability! I fought so many battles to live a normal life, studying, getting graduated with top marks, collect working experience (for free), and then I’m rejected? No, I disagree! But we need institutions, associations establish a network and boost awareness, to create a really inclusive community.

Alessia and Valentina at "Vorrei ma non posso" launch event

Alessia and Valentina at “Vorrei ma non posso” launch event

Thanks a lot to these two wonderful women for having spotlighted again on a topic where we don’t do enough to translate intent into practice. Let’s hope to see soon the sequel of “Vorrei ma non posso”. Maybe, this time, the title could be: “I’d like… and I can!

Diversity Day: businesses meet workers

We are all aware that, despite laws and measures aiming to facilitate the inclusion of disabled people in the world of work, for the so-called “protected categories”, it can be very hard to be attractive to businesses, apart from tax facilitations. So, I’m very pleased to talk about an event whose declared goal is to help disabled people and the “protected categories” access the work market through a direct contact with hiring managers: the Diversity Day, a career day exclusively addressed to these professional profiles.

Diversity Day 2017

diversity day: the event

The event takes place, on a yearly basis, in Rome and Milan, to cover the full Italian territory. The Milan phase, this year, will take place on Tuesday, June 5th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, at the Bocconi University, in the building in via Guglielmo Röntgen 1. During the day, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the businesses representatives, but also qualified recruiters, who can provide you with tips on how to build up an effective cv or get ready for a job interview. Furthermore, deaf people will have the chance to be supported by a LIS interpreter (to reserve this service, please send an e-mail request to info@diversityday.it).

Participation in the Diversity Day is free, upon registration (you can do it here). Those who will attend the event- always supported by Jobmetoo– will have the opportunity to meet representative of many top companies, operating in various industries: from Accenture to A2A, from Bayer to Capgemini, from Generali to Intesa San Paolo, just to mention some examples (you can find the complete list on the event website).

DIVERSITY DAY: the project

But the Diversity Day doesn’t end with the career days. The project goal is pursued all the year long, through a series of integrated services, ranging from the issue of job opportunities addressed to disabled people and protected categories to tutorship, from support for bureaucratic compliance and tax facilitations to financed training.

Diversity Day project

An important initiative, then. We hope it can grow, involving more and more companies and efficiently supporting the work inclusion of disabled people, not only in “low” positions, but also in roles requiring bigger responsibility. Because disability doesn’t necessarily mean inability and access to qualified and qualifying jobs is essential, as we’ve often stated, for the effective social inclusion of people with disability.

So, update your CVs, register to the Diversity Day and good luck!

“Pagaiando abilmente”: kayak for everyone

We’ve often talked about the importance of sports to include people with disability. In the last years, there’s a growing number of initiatives whose main goal is, precisely, overtaking architectonical and cultural barriers through sports. For instance, “Pagaiando abilmente” (“Ably paddling”), the project by “Teocle” yacht club in Giardini Naxos (ME), that, throughout its 60 years of story, has contributed to make many young and very young people interested in rowing. Its commitment has been rewarded also with the “Bronze Cross for sport merits”.

"Pagaiando abilmente" - poster

“Pagaiando abilmente” rises from the idea to attract all the young people to this sport, without any difference, to give them all the opportunity to fully experience the relationship with the sea, through sport practice, with countless benefits in terms of psychophysical development and, therefore, to effectively contributing to the growth of the community they live in. This will be done not just through classes with instructors specifically trained to interact with kids with various disabilities, who will use kayaks and aids complying with their specific needs, but also through a process of refurbishment of the club location, on the sea of Giardini Naxos, to remove architectonical barriers and make it fully accessible.

But this has considerable costs. That’s why the “Pagaiando abilmente” project is among those that crowdfunded on the OSO – Ogni Sport Oltre platform,  promoted by Vodafone Foundation precisely to let projects aiming to widespread the sport culture and the social value of it be known and supported. You can contribute to fund the project donating at least 5 € through the page dedicated to “Pagaiando abilmente” on the OSO website. We still have a few weeks to help the project reach its goal to collect 6,000 € needed to adjust the ramp to access the beach, build a mechanical lifting system, delimit a pool in blue water and buy kayaks adapted to the disabled people needs. Let’s try it, ok?

World Usability Day: design for inclusion

 “User experience” is increasingly important for who works in  development and design, at all levels.  It is confirmed by the 2017 edition of the World Usability Day, the event that will take place, for the fourth year in a row, in Rome on November 8th and 9th, gathering Italian and international experts in workshops and talks. The World Usability Day was established in 2005 by the Usability Professionals ‘Association (UXPA). Since then, every year, on the second Thursday of November, all around the world there are events aiming to boost awareness towards the importance of thinking and designing taking into account, first, the main character: the user who what you’re working on is addressed to.

World Usability Day 2017

The subject of this edition of the World Usability Day is user experience as an inclusion promoter. The goal of design professionals, as a matter of fact, must be contributing to shape a better future, taking into consideration the specific needs of all the people, seen in their own uniqueness. In a world that changes quickly, also under a political and demographic perspective, we can’t keep on designing keeping in mind just a part of population, forgetting about the remainders.

How to reach this ambitious goal? The speakers who will alternate on the World Usability Day stage will present different perspectives and food for thought: design thinking to create technologies and products for all, services accessibility and usability, empathy as  a starting point for a designing process focused on the individual.

This initiative underlines, once again, the increasing awareness towards the unavoidable need to think according to the “Design for All” logics, developing products and services suitable for the specific abilities, attitudes and needs of the users. As the insiders say, designers are often reluctant towards change. Then, it’s important to help them approaching their job using something we all, as human beings, have: empathy, that is the ability to “put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes”, feeling his needs, spirit and life as ours.