United Nations Secretary-General Launches Call to Action to Businesses on World Autism Awareness Day

OBV/1453
2 April 2015

United Nations Secretary-General Launches Call to Action to Businesses on World Autism Awareness Day

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a Call to Action inviting businesses to make concrete commitments to employ persons with autism.

The Call was made at an event at United Nations Headquarters in observance of World Autism Awareness Day, 2 April, where the Secretary-General was joined by business leaders from Microsoft, SAP and Towers Watson, among others.

“Recognizing the talents of persons on the autism spectrum, rather than focusing on their weaknesses, is essential to creating a society that is truly inclusive,” said the Secretary-General in his opening remarks.

Research suggests that it is smart business — and better for the bottom line — for employers to take advantage of the abilities that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than “neurotypical” workers do — such as heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning and greater attention to detail.

“Yet even where awareness is high, more than 80 per cent of adults with autism are unemployed,” said the Secretary-General.  “That is why it is so important for companies to understand their unique and often exceptional skills and to enable work environments where they can excel.”

The Call to Action invites employers to publicly post voluntary commitments at business.un.org, the platform created by the United Nations Global Compact to enable businesses to make commitments in support of UN goals and issues.  The Call recommends that employers make concrete quantifiable pledges to increase the proportion of their workforce that is comprised of individuals on the autism spectrum.

A wide range of private sector initiatives to increase employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum were showcased at the event in observance of the Day.  In addition to Microsoft, SAP and Towers Watson, companies presenting included CAI, Ernst & Young, Freddie Mac, Hewlett-Packard, Oliver Wyman, Rising Tide Car Wash and ULTRA Testing.

The keynote address was delivered by Governor Jack Markell of Delaware who, as Chair of the National Governors Association in the United States, led a year-long initiative to increase hiring of persons with disabilities.  Other speakers included employees on the autism spectrum, leading academics, civil society advocates, public officials, diplomats and United Nations experts.  The event was moderated by Bill Blakemore, journalist and former anchor at ABC News.

For further information, contact Jon Herbertsson at herbertsson@un.org or tel. (+1 212) 963-7346.

For information media. Not an official record.