The India Autism at Work Summit recently concluded, leaving its mark on how companies embrace neurodiversity. This summit was a blend of inspirational stories, innovative strategies, and impactful initiatives. It focused on the untapped potential of neurodiverse individuals, particularly those on the autism spectrum.
The event was painted with the vibrant hues of the neurodiversity spectrum, as highlighted by Ashiish V Patil (one of our speakers). The room was packed with corporate leaders, DEI practitioners, educators, NGOs, parents, caregivers, doctors, medical helpers, and individuals from the spectrum.
Here are the highlights of the summit!
A journey beyond boundaries
The summit began with a briefing by a senior leader from JPMorgan Chase & Co., shedding light on their 'Autism at Work' program. This initiative has been providing opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum for many years and highlighted the significance of global and local partnerships to address underemployment in this demographic.
Breaking the silence on neurodiversity
Our lively hosts, Khushi Acharya and Asha, launched the event by introducing the summit's theme, "Empowering Neurodiverse Voices Through Technology." Khushi, an intern at Thomson Reuters with a learning disability, and Asha, a full-time employee at SAP, shattered the myth that non-speaking equals low functioning. How? They made it clear that technology is the superhero in this narrative, amplifying the voices of nonverbal neurodiverse individuals. Communication apps, text-to-speech software, and assistive devices aren't just tools but bridges to empowerment.
The sound of silence
Elizabeth Bonker, Executive Director of Communication for All, took the stage, and it was nothing short of a mic-drop moment. As an advocate for non-speaking autistics, she challenged stereotypes and emphasized the need for communication access. She shared her journey, using the Spellers method to communicate, and gave us a treat by playing a song she wrote during her exclusion from school – "Hey Principal, I am gonna kick your a*" – with Tom Morello.
She's not just talking the talk; she's leading the charge with 'C For A Academy' and leaving a mark on civil and disability rights movements. To sum it up? Inspiring and enlightening.
Turning vision into reality
The highly anticipated moment arrived when Mr. Ferose V R, the person behind SAP's Autism at Work program, unveiled his book 'Shelf Aware.' This book features 100 thought-provoking essays and extraordinary artwork contributed by neurodivergent talents associated with Akshayee Shetty's Sense Kaleidoscopes: Autism Life Academy.
Sharing his insights from the 'Autism at Work' program, Mr. Ferose, father of a child with autism, emphasized the role of leadership in fostering inclusivity in the workplace.
The 'Shelf Aware' book launch celebrated diversity, creativity, and the incredible stories woven by neurodivergent voices.
Leveraging tech for an inclusive world
Prateek Madhav, CEO of AssisTech Foundation, brought the magic of Assistive Technology to the event. His company is on a mission to impact the lives of 5 million people with disabilities positively. Prateek dived into the latest tech buzz, especially focusing on neuro inclusion. He laid it out simply: hiring is just the beginning; the real action kicks in afterward.
In tune with inclusion
Mr. Ashiish V Patil, former MTV India CEO, shared his journey of being diagnosed with autism later in life, enlightening us on the lack of neurodiversity representation in Indian cinema. As an advocate for neuro inclusion, he discussed the potential of the "purple economy" and highlighted his involvement in impactful projects like the Six Pack Band and Ishanya. Ashiish highlighted the role of media and brands in supporting neuro-inclusion with humor and insight. He had the audience on their feet, enjoying a song from the band he produced, the "Six Pack Band," featuring extraordinary talents from the spectrum, including his son.
Diverse minds, numerous possibilities
The summit is led by SAP, JPMorgan Chase & Co., IBM, Ishanya Foundation, Nagarro, nasscom, and Thomson Reuters, who showcased an unwavering commitment to neuro-inclusion.
During the conference, in one of the video messages to the audience, Manas Human, Co-founder & CEO (Custodian of Entrepreneurship), and Shruti Tandon, Managing Director of HR, talked about the positive impact of diverse teams on company culture, work environment, and customer relationships. They spoke about TestingPro, a neurodiversity initiative led by Nagarro and its partners designed to train people with autism and help them become professional software testers. The program helps build a world where labels don't hold us back.
A unified call for support and change
The summit ended with a powerful message, highlighting the need to support neurodiversity and the positive impact of technology. Thanks to the organizers, partners, and volunteers for making it happen.
The India Autism at Work Summit wasn't just an event but a call for companies to embrace and support neurodivergent talents. With the right opportunities and tech, neurodivergent individuals can bring unique perspectives and skills to any workplace.
Hope many minds and hearts, and potentially doors, were opened to the possibilities and opportunities that need to be created for the neurodivergent talents.