Paper Development Session – Monica Figueira - From disability to ability: Overcoming stigma and integrating high functioning autism into organisations
One way inequality can manifest in organisations is around integrating atypical workers in the workforce. This paper focuses on the under-researched group of high functioning autism (HFA) employees, who face great challenges trying to adapt to workplaces that have not been designed for them. We integrate stigma literature, research on autism, neurodiversity literature, and organisational literature to develop theory explaining how the perception of a stigmatised label, autism as a disability, can dictate how HFA individuals manage their autism identity, influencing their disclosure decisions, and impacting on organisational responses towards employees holding that label. We further develop our theorising by suggesting that a shift from perceiving autism as a ‘disability’ to perceiving it as ‘ability’ can transform individuals and organisations through a process of overcoming stigma about autism in the workplace, which shapes organisational practices to better include these employees within organisations. Lastly, we make the case for considering HFA as a new talent pool. By doing this, our paper offers a response for tackling this type of inequality in organisations.