“It's like a ramp for a person in a wheelchair”: Workplace accessibility for employees with autism

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Background, aims and methods: Participation in employment by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) remains restricted despite their high motivation and evident abilities. Challenges to employment result from personal characteristics and environmental barriers. This phenomenological research explores the accessibility of a competitive work environment according to the perceptions of adults with ASD. Procedures and outcomes: We conducted in-depth interviews with 19 employees with ASD, followed by a thematic content analysis. Three themes emerged: (a) the employees’ motivation for employment, (b) challenges and abilities at work, and (c) workplace accessibility (types of accommodations, implementation process). Results and conclusions: The findings contribute a classification of accommodations that addresses the core characteristics of autism—challenges as well as abilities and motivations for employment. Four types of accommodations were identified: job-performance communication, attitudes and interpersonal communication, daily workplace routines, and physical and sensory environments. Hence, this study supports the centrality of environmental factors in successful employment of individuals with ASD. Implications: This study presents an evidence-based foundation for autism-related workplace accessibility. It offers an approach to enhance employees’ abilities, strengths, and motivation for employment, as well as to decrease barriers and challenges. The findings may expand organizational policies regarding accessibility and thereby anchor workplace accommodations within organizations’ corporate cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103959
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received a grant from (blinded).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Accommodation
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Employment
  • Labor market
  • Working environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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