World Autism Awareness Day 2021

Inclusion in the Workplace:
Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World

Virtual Event: Thursday, 8 April 2021, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. EST/16:00 - 17:00 p.m. CET

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The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and heightened glaring inequalities around the world, especially when it comes to income and wealth distribution, access to health care, protection under the law, and political inclusion. Persons with autism have long faced many of these inequalities, which have only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s a problem made worse by long  recognized discriminatory hiring practices and workplace environments that present major obstacles for persons with autism; all of which contribute to the unemployment or severe underemployment of a large majority of adults on the autism spectrum.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015 provide a blueprint for addressing the major challenges facing the world, including strategies for reducing inequalities that hinder prosperity for people and the planet. One of the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) – Decent Work and Economic Growth – is to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all, including persons with disabilities. Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also recognizes “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others,” and to a “work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.” 

Some employers have recently launched inclusive employment programmes, which  accommodate people with diagnoses of autism and related conditions, such as ADHD, OCD, etc., often referred to as neurodivergent persons. Based on the experience gained from these programmes, and motivated by the desire to both be socially responsible and to gain a competitive advantage by benefitting from the skills and abilities of a more diverse talent pool, an increasing number of employers are now creating  models to make the workplace and hiring practices more inclusive generally. 

The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the efforts of companies to implement these new models, at a time when the international economy is undergoing the worst economic recession since the great depression, with the loss of hundreds of millions of jobs. At the same time, new ways of working, including remote working and the use of new technologies, have created opportunities for employees on the autism spectrum that previously found it difficult to thrive in traditional workplace environments.

The 2021 World Autism Awareness Day observance will address these issues through a virtual event that will include moderated panel discussions with individuals on the autism spectrum who have themselves experienced the challenges and seen these new opportunities in the employment market.

The event is organized by the UN Department of Global Communications and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Specialisterne Foundation. 

The event is co-sponsored by the United Nations Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Italy, Malta, Poland and Qatar.

Support provided by Wells Fargo, WorkDay Foundation, IBM and Google.

As presented at the 2015 UN observance of World Autism Awareness Day, the mission of the Specialisterne Foundation is to leverage knowledge gained from the employment of autistic persons to support the creation of meaningful and fulfilling employment for one million persons, in a world where there are equal opportunities for all in the labour market.

 

Secretary-General’s message

 

2021 Event details

 

Programme Overview

10:00 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks

10:13 a.m. PANEL 1: Disparities and Discrimination Exposed by the Pandemic 

10:33 a.m. PANEL 2: Ensuring Inclusion as we Build Back Better 

10:53 a.m. Closing Remarks

 

Event Live Streaming

UN WebTV

UN YouTube channel

UN WebTV Twitter Live

UN WebTV Facebook Live

 

Benjamin’s Story

This video depicts young film-maker Benjamin Rosloff’s visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City and his interview with UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. Before the interview, Benjamin had the opportunity to explore and film the building including art and photo exhibits from all over the world. The video – produced for the World Autism Awareness Day (2 April 2016) – reflects on Benjamin’s future and how it relates to major global issues.

Child speaks in sign language with an adult.

Related Observances

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.