How can the tech industry be more accessible and inclusive to young people with autism?
Last month, I attended an event organised by Liverpool Tester Gathering about autism accessibility and inclusion. The purpose of the event was to discuss how this can be improved upon, to provide more accessible and supportive opportunities in the tech industry, for young people with autism.
Held at Avenue HQ based in Liverpool’s Mann Island, this event featured three different speakers. These included Paul Davenport, Matthew Parker and Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, who each talked about different aspects of autism accessibility and inclusion, from showing young people in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) schools about how the tech industry works, and of the opportunities available to them.
Being autistic and working in the tech industry myself, I had a personal interest in attending this event. I was keen and very curious to find out about what more can be done, to give others the same opportunities that I have had and taken, which has allowed me to follow my passion, for working in this exciting and challenging industry. By attending this event, what I learned from the speakers certainly gave me plenty to think about.
I was greatly impressed with how Paul, Matthew and Rachel talked about autism acceptance and inclusion from different angles. Paul and Matthew gave their own insight into what autism is, and how the industry can be more accessible, in supporting young people in education, increasing autism awareness, and encouraging greater collaboration between education and industry employers. I was also seriously impressed with Rachel talking about her own background with living with autism, and how she embraces it and works with helping others.
I also learned other points from the event, which include the following below:
- No two people with autism are the same.
- Inclusion and diversity drive accessibility.
- Industry employers need to work with schools, colleges and universities, to see what they can offer by working collaboratively together.
- Engage with existing staff, managers and partners to learn about autism.
- Build an inclusive and positive approach to recruitment.
- Embrace everyone’s differences.
I enjoyed the discussion very much. By listening to the speakers, I could relate their understanding and experiences to my own background, and I also felt this was an interesting and necessary discussion. It also reminded me about my own experience with living with autism, and of how I embraced and used it to work hard to get into the tech industry, through determination and with the support of my family, friends and many others.
Listening to the speakers also reminded me of what I have achieved, and hopefully inspires other people with autism, that there are opportunities out there for them to shine. However, a positive, inclusive, supportive and diverse environment is needed, to encourage both autistic and other disabled people, that they can get into the tech industry.
I would like to thank Paul, Matthew and Rachel for sharing their insights and experiences. My thanks also go to Leigh Rathbone and Duncan Nisbet for organising the event, to Avenue HQ for hosting it, and to Equal Experts for their generous sponsorship.
In conclusion, I shall leave you with the words of the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Being different is a superpower!