Autism Spectrum Australia

Working 9 till 5

  • Posted: 21/08/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hey ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Aspire. What has happened this week for Thomas? Oh nothing. Mum and dad returned for their two month holiday, only to see that hurricane Thomas had made its mark on the living room. I also gave a talk at Nova Employment’s open day in Springwood, where I met some key people who work for Nova. After hanging out there I was thinking more about what it means to be differently abled in today’s world and looking for work.

The world we live in today is one of standards and expectations. When it comes to hiring people for work, bosses are looking for the person best positioned for that job. The most relevant qualifications, the right amount of experience and if someone comes along with anything that may come as a deficit, they will be turned away.  Now this isn’t something that happens all the time, but it happens very regularly. So what makes things harder for us, “disabled” people to get our foot in the door? What can be done to the community to make it a more equal environment for disabled people looking for work? How much has the price of saying no to people who are disabled cost Australia?"

A Professional Opinion

As I scaled up the corporate ladder of success, trying to find an answer to my questions, I met up with Martin Wren, the general manager of Nova Employment. Here’s what he had to say on the matter.

“There are all kinds of Barriers that ‘disabled’ people face when facing employment. The most common obstacles are issues of access, a stereotype of the ability or limits of anyone labelled as ‘disabled’, the fears and/or expectations of family members and the person seeking employment, and the fears and/or expectations on the part of employers.

The biggest aid to changing attitudes is education – Nova has spent many millions of dollars showing what is being accomplished by people with disability – Television advertising, radio advertising, billboards on freeways and railways station, advertising ‘skins’ on buses, many millions of pie bags with positive stories of success, a television series and the ‘Focus on Ability’ film awards, newspapers articles and more. – working to adjust attitudes and raise awareness.

The cost to the tax payer of not employing disabled people who want to work is billions of dollars. The Disability Support Pension alone costs more than $300 a second, and yet tens of thousands of pension recipients indicate they would love to work if suitable employment could be found.

That said, I believe that the direct costs are minor compared to the lost opportunity costs of excluding such a large potential pool of talent from ‘strutting their stuff’.  Who knows but that the worker turned away because of a perception that they are not capable of contributing isn’t that same person that would have otherwise found a cure for some dreadful disease, a cheaper form of energy or created the most moving film?

My Two Cents:

What can I say about my experience being on the spectrum and having to find work? Well when it came to finding a part time job, it was relatively okay. I did start off as a dish monkey working at a café in Glenbrook. I will say I smashed more plates than a Greek festival. With the help from one Employment Company I got a job at Woolworths. There I was Tony Stark, cracking wise and having fun, whilst also providing a service to the company and its customers. I worked there for 3 years until an opportunity arose in my desired field, which at the time was film production.

When I first started working for an internet tv streaming company I was ecstatic. This was a dream job, but became a nightmare.  I was forced into situations like the following.

  • Filming equestrian events where I almost got trampled
  • Getting my hand crushed before going on a 12 hour ride up to Brisbane without medical attention
  • Filming boxing matches under a strobe light as blood sweat and spit was hurled into my face. 
  • Being hounded day and night, while working without pay for months.

The cherry on this dungpile was when I was asked to film a pub crawl; a pub crawl that had more than a thousand drunk and rowdy people, being loud, brash and physical, whilst dealing with bright and flashing strobe lights, people that have no sense of personal space and drunken buffoons yelling at me to film them, all while I was hungry as all hell. There have only been a handful of times I have gone into shock/survival mode. That was the biggest time I went into both – meltdown and shut down.

I wasn’t working for a year. In that year I went to a seminar called ‘Pathways to Employment’, run by Nova Employment. There I met the legendary Temple Grandin, as you can see by the picture below. After the conference I was greeted by someone from Nova. After learning how great they were at helping people that were disabled I leapt at that opportunity like a cheetah chasing down a gazelle (geez the second week where I attack the gazelles…).  At the same time I was also talking to a lovely person called Vicky Little (now our employment specialist at Aspect). She helped me get an internship before I hit the big leagues at AUTISM SPECTRUM AUSTRALIA. Sorry for getting dramatic.

The people here at Aspect have been very welcoming. Being a company that specialises in autism, they managed to hit the hammer on the head of any problems I might face.  The thing is, there were very little problems. It’s just the P word that is the problem, and I am not talking about Piña coladas, or getting caught in the rain. But when it comes to work we aren’t talking about a song where people aren’t into yoga or have half a brain. We are talking about simple problems that can be easily fixed. It is up to employers to realise that whatever it may cost them, it is an investment. An investment that will be worth it in the long run. But if you like making love at midnight, No!  I’m sorry, that song is just so catchy.

In conclusion

Finding work when you have a disability can be hard. But to quote another classic, ‘Someday, yeah, we’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done’. We all need support in our lives, whether we are disabled or not. Some projects in life sometimes just can’t be done by one person. Some people can manage this, but with great struggle.

 Just like the quote above I know that life is much easier when people help out so they can get things done together. So when it comes to looking for work, don’t try and do it all yourself. You might find it a bigger brain puzzle than what you thought. Help isn’t a bad word and two heads are better at looking for work than just one.

So as I leave you guys here today Ill share with you a job application I almost made.

If you like Punny writers, and a book on the train

If it’s advised by Oprah, or the plot is insane.

If you like reading until midnight, with your mouth agape

I'm the writer that you've looked for, email me, and escape

For those who don’t know, we here at Aspect have 4 films in the Nova Employment Focus on Ability Competition.  View them below and vote for your favourite!


Until next time folks, don’t forget to Aspire so you can inspire before we all expire.

Some people say I am a big screw

Especially from T’s that you drew

I have been known to be like a key

I make things constricted or set them free

What am I?

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Working 9 till 5