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SAP - Autism to Increase Workforce

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DateWednesday, May 22, 2013

SAP - Autism to Increase Workforce

Software Company to Employ People Affected with Autism in Roles of Software Testers, Programmers and Quality Assurance



130522_Lisa_Domican.jpgEnterprise software company, SAP AG, has announced its intention to employ 1% of its workforce with people affected with autism to work as software testers, programmers and quality assurance specialists.



SAP's announcement to employ autistic people globally follows a successful pilot project in SAP Labs India where, partnering with Specialisterne, a company that harnesses the talents of people with autism to work in technology related jobs, six people with autism were hired as software testers. SAP claim that the project led the SAP Business Suite applications team to increase their productivity and cohesiveness in key areas, and demonstrated the positive impact of empowering people with autism to excel in their areas of strength.



According to, there are three autism spectrum disorders which share many of the same symptoms, differing only in severity and impact. Classic autism is the most severe, whilst milder variants are Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes called high-functioning autism, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), both accounting for 80% of people who fall into the autism spectrum. SAP say that recruits will be on the higher level of the spectrum so that they can meet demands of job and integrate easily with the business environment suggesting that those with classic autism will not be employed.



In Ireland a pilot is currently completing the screening phase for five positions to be filled this year, and SAP say they will expand the program globally, starting in the U.S., Canada and Germany later in 2013.



Having produced Grace App (more) with iPhone App developer Steven Troughton-Smith, Lisa Domican (pictured above), is recognised as an authority on the merging of autism and technology. Talking to today, she said people with autism in Ireland tend to be institutionalised with little or no vocational training, and SAP's intention is welcomed as it wedges the door for other organisations to give people with asperger's an opportunity to enter the workforce. "There is a big cultural difference in Ireland to say Australia, where the state will pay for austistics to go to university with a one-to-one carer. The investment in education allows people to enter the workforce rather than rely on the state for lifetime assistance."


Lisa continues: "People with autism have a sensory disability which may lead to them finding work environments very challenging. Yet they are extremely strong systemisers. Whilst they may lack social skills, they are 'detailed orientated' making them ideal candidates as, for example, software testers and coders."


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Furthering its engagement with the local community of people and families affected by autism, the project in SAP Labs India recently developed a consumer iPad application called "Bol" to assist with the education of children with autism. This learning program helps children learn and comprehend simple, everyday objects and processes, using auditory, visual and instant feedback functions.



According to figures estimated by SAP, one percent of the world's population is affected by autism, and they see a potential competitive advantage to leveraging the unique talents of these people, while also helping them to secure meaningful employment. Luisa Delgado, SAP AG, Human Resources, said that by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will enable SAP to handle the challenges of the 21st century. "By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents. With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the ‘edges."



Specialisterne, originally founded in Denmark in 2004, is a socially innovative business that uses the characteristics of people with au

tism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help people with autism secure employment. The majority of the employees in Specialisterne have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and work as consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming and data-entry for the corporate sector. It has operations around the world, including offices in the U.S., UK, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Iceland and Poland. As part of the partnership, Specialisterne will extend its operations to support SAP's global expansion of the program up to the year 2020.



Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne, said: "We are very excited by this opportunity to enable SAP global access to a huge pool of untapped talent and therefore, help strengthen SAP's position as a global leader in innovation," said . "SAP is the first multinational company to partner with us on a global scale. The partnership will position SAP as thought leader and motivate the ecosystem to follow its example."








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