The Asperger’s Advantage

by Lauren Johnson

DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
10/9/2018

 

Not all heroes wear capes – some wear homemade costumes.

David Keenan, a staff associate in Corporate Real Estate, has Asperger’s - a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. While most people are diagnosed at a young age, David didn’t get his diagnosis until he was 43 years old. But living with Asperger’s doesn’t keep him from working full time or stop him from doing what he loves.

David makes his own costumes, spending up to 50 hours on each one. His favorite design element is a plastic bubble helmet with an air system. He calls it “Bubble Boy.”  

“I discovered costumes as a way to express myself and gain self-confidence” he said.

"Bubble Boy' space suit designed by David Keenan"

This passion is David’s way of showing the world what he can do. Being able to share his accomplishments, both big and small, is important to him - it’s part of who he is. And the best part? David says the people around him have been supportive every step of the way.

Embracing our differences

David has become a trendsetter – inspiring co-workers to join him in wearing costumes to work for Halloween and special events.

“Just last year my area manager came down in a costume of his own, and we went to lunch,” said David.

“David’s perspective and focus on inclusion is highly valued,” said Jim Lee, David’s area manager. “My advice to other leaders and managers is to be patient and open-minded.”

David’s story is a reminder that we should embrace and celebrate the things that make each of us unique. He believes that Asperger’s and autism are not limitations that define or debilitate someone but are instead great examples of the power of unique perspectives.

AT&T Inc. Diversity & Inclusion VP Melissa Corwin agreed. “Every day, thousands of employees with disabilities inspire us with their strength and courage,” she said. “They remind us that understanding starts with listening and show us what’s possible when we do.”

David said he is looking forward to continuing his career at AT&T and expressing himself through his costumes. His next big project? Transforming into Buzz Lightyear for Halloween.

Awareness and Inclusion

At AT&T, we take pride in our efforts to build an inclusive environment for all employees.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and just recently, we’ve been recognized as one of the 2018 leading disability companies by the National Organization on Disability (NOD).   

The NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal™ is a public recognition applauding organizations that leads the way in disability inclusion and tap into the many benefits of hiring talent with disabilities. These include high rates of productivity and dedication, and greater employee engagement across the workforce.

Providing support

Neurodiversity isn’t something that holds our workforce back. It’s a valuable tool that propels us into innovation, acceptance and a better understanding of our world. It’s the power of diversity in action, eliminating echo chambers and binary thinking. Here are some other ways we support employees with disabilities:

  • AT&T harnesses the talent of neurodiverse individuals like David through our partnership with LaunchAbility, an organization committed to empowering adults with  cognitive disabilities achieve their maximum potential at work and in our community.
  • Ability is AT&T’s employee resource group dedicated to creating a culture of understanding, awareness and advocacy for individuals with disabilities. Learn more and become a member.
  • AT&T offers many programs and benefits to help employees with disabilities, but our support goes beyond just these resources – it starts with hiring the right people for the right jobs. Employees with disabilities can find out the full range of benefits available to them by visiting the Your Total Rewards tab on the AT&T Benefits Center.

 

To learn more about neurodiversities register for the new disability training course: Ready and ABLE – Diversity Works! This course provides an overview of disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability etiquette and resources available, along with personal testimonials from employees.

At AT&T, we encourage you to bring your authentic self to work. Individuals with disabilities are a critical part of our workforce, and we strongly encourage everyone to share his or her story by Self-Identifying. There are over 200 conditions that qualify as a disability with iCount. If you or someone you know has a disability, text “iCount” to 5-0-1-5 and Self-ID with iCount today.

 

Watch the Short Film "Rising"