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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 2 April 2014

World Autism Awareness Day: EU projects help people with autism get a foothold on the employment ladder

A series of European Commission pilot projects have helped around 100 Europeans with autism from five EU countries to get into the job market, a new report released on World Autism Awareness Day (2 April), shows. The projects aimed to boost the employment prospects of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Poland and Italy. People with autism can be empowered and thrive in structured and well-organised job environments. The European projects shed new light on the challenges and obstacles facing people with ASD in entering the labour market while identifying best practices that can help them overcome these challenges.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner said: "People with disabilities face barriers getting into the workforce. They often find themselves cut off from the opportunities enjoyed by others. We are taking action to change this. The EU projects reported today show what practical steps can be taken to improve the work prospects of people with autism. I want to see these good practices replicated in more countries so that people with autism across Europe can benefit and considered fit and right for the job."

People with autism are a diverse group that includes people with an intellectual disability as well as those with average or above average cognitive abilities. Existing barriers put them often in a complex situation as their symptoms – impairments in social interaction and communication or restricted interests – put them at a disadvantage in the many service sector jobs in today’s job market. At the same time they often have strengths such as accuracy, a good eye for detail, reliability and meticulous application of routine tasks, making them particularly well-suited to specific work environments.

The EU-sponsored pilot projects ran from 2011-2013 and focused on assessing the needs of people with autism, offering targeted training and support to improve skills and overcome the challenges identified, and finally placing the project participants with employers.

Examples include:

  • Training and placement of 20 people with ASD in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Bulgaria;

  • Integration of 17 young adults into the labour market in Germany, with the assistance of job coaches who helped with job applications and following recruitment;

  • A five-month programme which places people with ASD as consultants performing specialist tasks such as software testing and ICT programming in around 30 businesses and non-profit organisations in Denmark and Poland;

  • Training of 18 tutors to support the placement of 27 people with ASD in work with a variety of small businesses and public sector employers in Italy.

The Commission will continue to work with the European Parliament and with Member States to raise awareness to autism in order to improve their access to the job market. Autism-Europe, an organisation benefiting from EU funding, is conducting a campaign to raise awareness across Europe about the needs of Europeans with autism in the fields of education and employment. The good practices developed under the pilot projects will also be made available for use in other projects around Europe.

Background

Access to employment is recognised as a fundamental human right in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to which the EU is a party.

According to the Academic Network of European Disability experts, the proportion of people with disabilities not participating in the labour market is at least twice as high as that of average EU citizens.

According to statistics from Autism Europe, incidence of diagnosed ASD in children in Europe appears to be in a range of 6 to 20 per 1000. In recent decades the number of people diagnosed with ASD has increased significantly.

The EU’s Disability Strategy runs from 2010-2020 and aims to break down barriers to people with disabilities in areas ranging from employment to transport and services. The strategy focuses on empowering people with disabilities to enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others and on removing obstacles in everyday life.

For more information

Report: Results of four pilot projects on employment of people with autism:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/report_pilot_projects_empl_autism_2014_en.pdf

European Commission – People with disabilities:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/disabilities/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

Autism Europe:

http://www.autismeurope.org/activities/world-autism-awareness-day/


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