Yes, I know that software testing might be a good job for some people with autism and that it is good that some companies are looking to create opportunities for people with autism.
But, there is a right way to go about it and then there is the wrong way.
The right way is to present an accurate view of what autism is (and isn't) and to present the opportunity as a win-win for both the people with autism and the companies that employee them. The right way is to treat people with autism with the dignity and respect.
The wrong way, well, the article, "Outsourcing to the Autistic Rather Than to India", should be a case study in what the wrong way looks like. Even though the article is fairly short, there is something in there that is sure to piss off almost anyone in the autism community.
It start out with the autism as superpower myth -
Part of the reason autism has captivated Hollywood moviemakers more than other developmental disabilities is that, for all the difficulties it brings those who have it, it also gives some of them the ability to perform uncanny feats of brainpower: effortlessly memorizing train schedules or song lyrics, identifying the day of the week of any date in the past. Even among those who aren’t full-blown savants, many display an impressive ability, even a desire, to immerse themselves in what the rest of us would see as mind-numbingly boring, detail-oriented tasks.I really do love the phrases "it also gives some of them the ability to perform uncanny feats of brainpower" and "even among those who aren't full-blown savants". If you thought that all talk about the "benefits" of autism was harmless, well, there is your harm.
The idea that autism grants you "the ability to perform uncanny feats of brainpower" is getting embedded in the general public's view of autism and creating an expectation that most people with autism are not going to be able to live up to.
And the implication that savants are somehow common among people with autism? Classic.
Anyway, after you establish that people as autism have super-human brains and say they like "mind-numbingly boring" things, you move right into how those brains could be exploited -
A lot of software testing is done overseas by workers in India. The case Hahn makes is that his software testers will work for $15 to $20 an hour—pay comparable to, or even lower than, that of software testers in India, but right here in the U.S. After all, he points out, people with autism don’t have a lot of alternatives—when they do find work, it’s usually bagging groceries or sweeping hospital floors at the minimum wage.
Hahn, in other words, is proposing outsourcing to the developmentally disabled rather than the developing world. Asked whether it might be exploitative to pay people with a disability less than those without one for doing the same work, he says he doesn’t see it that way. For one thing, he says, Indian software testers aren’t exactly sweatshop labor; they make about $25 an hour. And if paying less makes the company able to hire the developmentally disabled in the first place, he doesn’t see a problem with it.Because, you know, it is OK to pay people with autism less because they "don't have a lot of alternatives".
In a way, I can understand the point - people with autism don't really have many opinions and if we can create higher paying jobs that they can do, that is a good thing. But if the person with autism is essentially doing the same job as another person, you can't really justify paying them less simply because they have autism. I believe that would be called discrimination.
The autism community certainly needs help to create a better future for our loved ones who struggle with autism, but we don't need help from anyone who wants to exploit then.