It’s great that we’re hiring five or 10 or 15 people, but to really drive that inclusive culture, we’ve got to figure out how to get a lot of these things into the mainstream.
While the program is currently open to everyone in the US, it is actually not easy to find candidates for the program as there is no established pipeline of autistic people with programming abilities. Furthermore, the social stigma around autism often leads autistic people to hide their condition to potential employers.
“The unemployment rate is chronic, which is not a reflection of the talent pool, it’s just a reflection of these people not getting through the door” added Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer.
To find more candidates for its pilot program, Microsoft has started reaching out to autism organizations as well as universities’ disability offices, but the company is still struggling to find the more skilled ones. During this year’s April hiring session, the Redmond giant had 13 open positions for autistic people but only five candidates met the company’s high expectations.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life.