Kris is a member of the Autism Society’s Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism and is the founder and president of Queerability, a national LGBTQ and disability rights advocacy organization run by and for LGBTQ people with disabilities that works to strengthen inclusion of LGBTQ people with disabilities in conversations regarding the disability and LGBTQ communities.
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, only 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed which means that employment is a significant challenge for people with disabilities, including people on the autism spectrum. A common barrier that people on the autism spectrum encounter with employment is attitudinal barriers from employers who do not appreciate the diversity and perspectives that people on the autism spectrum bring to the workplace through noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to reasonable accommodations throughout the hiring process. The majority of jobs require a candidate to pass an interview which causes a disparate impact on people on the autism spectrum who do not communicate the way candidates are expected to in interviews and have difficulty picking up on the hidden social cues that interviewers give with their questions.
My story with employment is not that much different from other people on the autism spectrum. I became separated from my family when they would not accept me as a transgender man who is also autistic a year ago so I had to find out how to support myself. The process of finding a job for myself was challenging. One of the first jobs I applied was to an autism organization, and I managed to land an interview. Fortunately, I had some coaching from a mentor for the interview so I was able to pass the interview. However, I was only their second choice for the job, and their first choice accepted the job interview. I managed to get other job interviews, but I was not able to pass through to the next round. I knew I had the skills they needed for the jobs, but I was not able to communicate in the way they were expecting well enough to answer their questions.
Thankfully, I have been able to find a part-time job with the American Psychological Association with the Office on Early Career Psychologists. The APA is very accommodating, and I’m glad that my supervisor was able to see what I am able to bring to the APA. My supervisor is seeing me as an asset to the workplace, and, because of their accommodations, I am meeting or exceeding expectations for my job responsibilities.
As a member of the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism (PSA) with the Autism Society of America, I am committed to ensuring that all people on the autism spectrum, including LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer) people and people of color who are also on the autism spectrum, are able to be independent and included in the community, including in employment. Most recently, I have worked with the PSA to provide guidance to our fantastic affiliates on how to be inclusive of diverse autistic people in their affiliates so that everyone can be engaged in supporting access to meaningful, inclusive employment.