We often talk about work inclusion of people with a disability, a topic that, most of all in these specific times we’re living due to the pandemic, may seem sort of utopia. But it isn’t so: even nowadays, we must commit together- organizations, businesses and workers with a disability- so that these “utopia” could turn into real for as many people as possible. On October 9th, I had the pleasure to share my personal experience of professional with an evident physical disability during the digital conference “Inclusive Revolution“, organized by the European University of Rome partnering with companies including Alstom, Auticon, Avio Aero, Divercity, IBM, Intesa Sanpaolo, Tim, UniCredit.
The poster of the “Inclusive Revolution” conference
The “Inclusive Revolution” conference, that took place online complying with the current regulations to contrast the spread of the infection, not only represented an opportunity to think about this topic, but also to get to know best practices already applied by some businesses, as well as the point of view of those directly involved: workers with a disability. My speech aimed exactly to share my own professional experience, all in all a success case, mostly if compared with that of many others, also offering food for thoughts to the business representatives who participated in the event, about the selection process, as well as the prejudices that often negatively impact the employability, but also the career opportunities of workers with a disability, no matter how qualified they can be.
Below you can find two videos of my speech during the “Inclusive Revolution” conference. In the first one, I shared my own experience, while in the second one I answered some questions emerged during the conference.
As I always do, I wanted to offer food for thoughts aiming to achieve, all together, a different way to look at disability, that doesn’t focus on limitations anymore, but leaves room for the abilities and the specific skills and experience of people, regardless of their specific condition.
What do you think about it? Do you want to share your own experience?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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!
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.
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?
Today, I’m pleased to host on Move@bility Chiara Cavenago, a professional with a solid background in career consulting and professional orientation, as well as owner of the website “Le Faremo Sapere”, a real compass in the world of work. I asked Chiara to talk about a totally free initiative that, in my opinion, can prove to be useful to who’s looking for a job or already spurs and motivation: “L’Autostima di prima mattina“. Now I turn the floor to Chiara, for more details!
Even before starting to look for a job, it would be good to have the right tools to offer yourself on the market. But before writing down an effective resume and a cover letter, you’d need to understand what to write on them. To do that, there are two fundamental tasks to carry out: a skills assessment and a reflection to define your own professional goal. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t make sense to write down a bare anti-chronological list of our professional experiences, if you don’t know what you want to tell about yourself to who will handle this resume.
You need a little bit of effort to start extracting from your own story your skills and knowledge and, starting from them, analyzing what you like, what you need, what you expect from a job, you’ll be able to identify a goal. But the difficulty lies in the time when I hear my clients say: “But I can’t do anything”. Sure, so far you’ve just been sitting there watching a monitor, closed into a a storage closet without contacts with anyone…
Sure you can do something!!! Everyone can do something, and you don’t need to be able to save the world to find a suitable job. Indee, everyone noted the Avengers when they defeated the flying monster in New York and saved the Earth, but then other indispensable little men with no name have been working hard to fix the disaster. Have you ever thought about it? As you can see, the world needs everyone of us, and each one can do things that, ok, maybe everybody can do, but not everyone does. Then, without any value judgement about the exceptionality of what you can do, the first step is to realize what you can do.
The second step is to understand that many of the things you take for granted, aren’t so for everyone and, just because they’re so natural to you, they become your strong points. Being aware of that can help your self-esteem and that’s why, in front of the nth “But I cannot do anything!”, I thought to create something that could help raise the self-esteem of who doesn’t feel that confident about his own skills.
L’AUTOSTIMA DI PRIMA MATTINA: the journey
I called it “L’Autostima di prima mattina”: I named it after the single by ICS/Morgan performed at X-Factor a few years ago and it’s a 4 email messages journey, one for week starting from June 21st, delivered to your mailbox at the coffee time. In each message, I introduce one or two exercises to think about yourself, your successes, your traits and understand how to use this new self-awareness to prepare an effective introduction of yourself towards your speaker. A “speaker” can be your prospective employer or a customer: in fact, I don’t only target who’s looking for a job as an employee, but also those who want to work as entrepreneurs or freelancers. For this, I’ve been supported by Silvia Gazzotti – CambiaMentor, a specialist in empowerment for those who have (or want to start) their own business.
I didn’t omit the importance of doing something as a group to support enthusiasm and motivation, then I wait for your contribution through stories or pictures with the hashtag #autostimacolcaffè, to meet and support each other.
how to sign up
In order to sign up for the “L’Autostima di prima mattina” journey, you only need to leave your name and email address here: https://www.subscribepage.com/y1m8j5. Should you want to know more, have a look at the post on my blog!
In this space, we often talk about work and how tricky it still is, despite legal obligations, for people with a disability or included in the “protected categories“, insert in the fabric of society and succeed also under a professional perspective (with all the social, psychological and economical consequences). Then, why don’t you try to take the leap and start your own business? This is the starting point of “More Than Dis“, the contest promoted by Fondazione Italiana Accenture, founded, as its website claims, to “transfer technologies, skills and expertise from the profit environment to the non-profit, to enable the development of abilitating conceptual and digital platforms in the scenario of digital social innovation and sustainable economical development”. For this initiative, it partners with Jobmetoo, a job board exclusively dedicated to job opportunities addressed to “protected categories” workers, and with the startup incubator specialized in highly socially valuable enterprises Make aCube. Auticon, an IT consulting business that exclusively hires people with autism spectrum disorders, and FISH (Italian Federation for Handicap Overtaking) also cooperate in this contest.
THE LAUNCH EVENT OF more than dis
All the details about how to participate in More Than Dis and the contest regulation will be communicated during its launch event that will take place in Milan, in the Community Room of Fondazione Accenture in Maurizio Quadrio street, near Garibaldi metro station, on Tuesday June 4th from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. The registration to the event is free of charge and can be done through this link. It will also give the opportunity to discuss and compare different perspectives about how to promote diversity and self-entrepreneursphip opportunities for people with a disability.
It sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Why don’t you take this chance and try to put yourself personally on the line, instead of keeping on waiting for others to pick you or give you an opportunity? It’s not easy, indeed. But, supported by experts who are also aware of the peculiarity associated to a condition of disability, it’s worth trying!
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.
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.
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.
Then, update your resume and sign up now! See you there!
As a woman and a worker with a visible disability, I often find myself in front of more or less evident “walls”, when it comes to access not just a job (that is, itself, very important, as we’ve underlined many times here, for the disabled people dignity and autonomy), but also career opportunities, just like everyone else, thanks to my background of experiences and skills. But, most of the times, I had to verify (not without some disappointment) that, when it comes to disability and career opportunities, it’s still a long way, mostly under a cultural perspective.
Gradually, also under the “push” of monetary sanctions, businesses are starting to accept the idea to include people with disability in their workforce. But let’s be honest: looking at the job opportunities issued on the specialized job boards, how many of those specifically addressed to “protected categories” refer to highly qualified and specialized profiles? Nevertheless, many disabled people have high levels of education, a relevant professional background and advanced skills. Then, why, not just in Italy, is it that hard to go beyond the prejudice that, at the most, a “protected category” (most of all if he has an evident physical disability) can carry out basic, low level tasks that, preferably, don’t require a direct contact with top customers? Why do disability and career seem to be still incompatible?
Many disabled workers, even though they have a job, suffer (more or less subtle) forms of discrimination every day, when not real blackmails. Many of them, in these months, have sent private messages to Move@bility to share their problems in (not to mention those who are now demoralized, after years pointlessly looking for a job fitting with their skills and experience). I’ve personally experienced as well, during my professional path, how it feels to be rejected from career opportunities because those were considered (a priori) “incompatible with my disability”. Cannot a disabled person be a credible leader?
It makes me think the fact that, too often, also associations that, in theory, defend the disabled people rights, when you point them out such cases of discrimination, reply, even somewhat annoyed: “Don’t make a fuss” and “You’d rather think about who’s still looking for a job!”. It’s true: the overwhelming majority of disable people, today, is totally left out the world of work. But is this a good reason to, even indirectly, support the opinion that disability and career are, as a matter of fact, seen as incompatible?
Only when we, for first, will start to overcome this “welfare-oriented” view and to demand, for everyone, the real equality of rights (and duties) and of chances to access job (and career) opportunities compatible with the experience, the skills and, of course, the condition of each individual, we can talk about real progress and inclusion.
Since a few weeks, citizens of Lombardy with a disability can enjoy the use of a brand new service: “Lombardia Facile”, the portal that will collect info, as the project’s name itself suggests, that could make the disabled people daily life easier.
From welfare to work and education, from tourism to sport and leisure: on “Lombardia Facile”, you’ll be gradually able to find info about laws, facilitations and services available for resident citizens and tourists with a disability in Lombardy.
Arisen from the companionship between Regione Lombardia and associations and organizations representing and defending the rights of various categories of people with motoric and sensory disabilities, the “Lombardia Facile” project wants to remove all the obstacles and barriers (both physical and informational) that, nowadays, complicate the life of people with disability or special needs.
The portal pays particular attention to subjects such as mobility and accessible tourism. On “Lombardia Facile”, you can find a search engine to access info about the accessibility of monuments, museums and other places of artistic and cultural interest in Lombardy.
Moreover, on the website you can find info about another service, active since 2001, dedicated to disabled people: SpazioDisabilità, offering consultancy services about various topics related to disability. SpazioDisabilità is addressed both to disabled people and their families and caregivers. These services has been redesigned as well and the goal is to create a front office system widespread all over the region, opening other info points in all the administrative centres, in addition to the one today available at the HQ or Regione Lombardia. Starting from next year, those who will turn to SpazioDisabilità will have another service too: the video-chat in LIS (the Italian Sign Language), that will give deaf people the opportunity to communicate with the front office operators intermediated by a LIS interpreter connected through videoconference.
In conclusion, important progresses are in place towards accessibility and inclusion of all the citizens. We hope similar initiatives will be activated in other regions too. Are you aware of some? Please, inform me!
Some days ago, after the approval of the so-called “Milleproroghe” decree, a real frozen shower struck the hope of more than 70 thousand people with disability to see, finally, recognized (even though through the help of another law) a right that’s sanctioned, for everyone, by the 4th article of our Constitution: the right to work.
The Republic acknowledges the right for every citizen to work and promotes the conditions enabling this right. Every citizen must do, according to his possibilities and choice, a work or a job that contributes to the material or spiritual progress of the society
Should it be approved also by the Chamber of Deputies, the “Milleproroghe” decree would delay to January 1st 2018 the entering into force, for businesses with more than 15 employees, of the obligation to hire (whether they want or not to hire new employees) workers with disability, in order to avoid the fines established through the Jobs Act. Of course (and luckily!), the obligation to hire them in the percentage fixed for new hires would remain. But it’s clear that, a new delay of a stricter obligation would determine another obstacle to the real inclusion of disabled people in the world of work, with obvious effects on their acknowledgement as full members of the community.
There are businesses that, needing to hire new workers, aren’t influenced by their possible disability, but choose people according to their skills or background, taking advantage of them and enabling those people to fully contribute to the growth of the business itself. But these represent still rare, although very praiseworthy, exceptions, compared to many other businesses that, rather than hiring the (supposed) “dead loss” (the prejudice that the “protected categories” work less than others and are “always off work” is a die-hard), pay the fine or hire “protected categories” (no way: I really don’t like this expression…), even qualified, to make them work on low-level tasks or, as a matter of fact, impede their professional growth and career advancement.
In these years, I’ve often been contacted by businesses or staffing companies offering a work to me as a “protected category”, without taking into account my educational and professional background (that, luckily, includes qualifications and qualified experiences). When I ask whether they have read my resume or not, their reply is always the same: “Ehm… They look for a protected category… and you are!”. That sounds, more or less, like: “I’m offering you a job and you still complain?”. The sad side of the story is that this attitude is often common also among associations and institutions that should defend the right to work (and to equal opportunities in that field too) of people with disability: “They offered to you/ You’ve a job, what else do you want? You’d better look at who isn’t as lucky as you!”
Well, such an attitude cannot be removed only through laws, for sure. As Daniele Regolo, founder of Jobmetoo has pointed out, we need to work a lot on the disability culture, spreading everywhere the message that disability is just a condition and isn’t, itself, conflicting with the ability to work, even in responsibility positions (who says a disabled worker cannot move forward in his career?). But, waiting for positive outcomes from the work carried out also in this (enormous) field, laws must guarantee this right (not a “gracious permission”). But the “Milleproroghe” decree doesn’t go in this direction.
We’ve stated it many times: having a disability doesn’t compromise your chances to find and carry out efficiently a job. Sure, who lives with a severe disability often needs continuous therapies, not always adaptable to the working hours. But, luckily, even in this case, the 104/92 law helps. Indeed, the measures aiming to guarantee the working inclusion of disabled people include the permits that are due both to who has a severe disability and who takes care of a relative with a severe disability.
what are those permits?
The 104/92 law permits consist of a monthly amount of working hours, usable as days (maximum 3 per month) or hours (1 or 2 per day, based on the working timetable), regularly paid by INPS, that enable to worker, if he is disabled, to have the therapies he needs and, if he has a disabled relative, to properly take care of him.
who is entitled to those permits?
The 104/92 law permits are due to employees with a severe disability or who have relatives (within the 3rd degree) suffering a severe disability, excluding homeworkers.
how to benefit from those permits?
To benefit from the 104/92 law permits, first, the proper medical commission must certify the status of severe disability of the disabled worker (or of the disabled relative of the employee who’s applying for them). This examination isn’t the same as the “standard” disability, so you must apply specifically for it, adding a digital certificate written down by your general practitioner certifying the status of severe disability of the interested disabled person, through the INPS website.
Using your PIN and fiscal code, login to the “Servizi al Cittadino” area and select “Invalidità civile: invio domanda di riconoscimento dei requisiti sanitari” and, then, “Acquisizione richiesta”.
Fill in the online form with the requested data, selecting the items “Riconoscimento” and “Portatore di handicap” in the section that immediately follows the personal data.
Insert the ID code of the certificate written by your general practitioner.
Specify your preferred way to use the permits (days or hours) and the end date (usually, the application must be submitted yearly, even though nothing has changed).
Submit your application and wait for the medical commission to convene you.
Starting from the moment you have submitted your application, you can benefit from the permits. If, after the examination, your application is rejected, your employer will deduct the hours used by the employee from his pay slip (or from his total amount of holidays, based on the agreement).
On the contrary, if your application for the 104/92 law permits is approved, both the employee and the employer will receive a communication from INPS, specifying the length of the benefit.
If the employee who benefits from the 104/92 law permits leaves the company for another, in order to keep on benefiting from them, he will have to submit another application once the new employment relationship has started.
Good luck with your work!
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