Editor's Note: A tough topic
Last month, Safety+Health explored the issue of mental health in the workplace, and what role the safety professional plays. This month, we tackle another tough topic: autism in the workplace, and whether particular steps need to be taken to help keep workers with autism safe.
The subject has been on our radar for a few years. During that period, the assignment was taken off the shelf several times and then put back after information and sources proved hard to come by. We’ve learned that for many people with autism, simply getting into the workforce is a challenge – let alone deciding if they should disclose their condition so that they can get any accommodations they may need to make sure they’re working safely.
But Associate Editor Kevin Druley kept at it. It’s not an easy subject to write about because the autism spectrum is very wide, and we wanted to be careful about using labels to describe people who experience its various symptoms. Kevin and I talked numerous times, and he went back to his sources more than once for guidance on how to approach this article with sensitivity and respect. This included whether people in the autism community use the word “disability” (many do) and if they approve of the image of puzzle pieces to represent the condition (many don’t).
In the end, we decided to use a roundtable-type format that would let the experts Kevin interviewed – some of whom are on the spectrum themselves – use their own words. We appreciate their openness.
We’ll continue to follow the topic, and when more becomes known, we’ll share it with you.