Louis* is from Miami, lives in the Netherlands, but wishes to return to his family, city, and friends. He hopes to build an independent and fulfilling career and life in his hometown as he did in the Netherlands, but we know Florida has a long way to go to build an inclusive government and society. Neurodiversity is not on the agenda yet.
Louis is 31 years old, and for the past years, he has been living in the Netherlands, not because he loves the place, has a family there, or prefers it over Miami. Due to their inclusion system, he decided to leave Miami and move to the Netherlands; it was easier for him to build a career and pursue an independent life there. Louis was diagnosed at seven years old with Autism. Doctors told his mom he was not going to be able to finish school. Against all odds, Louis graduates from High School and college, and he even obtains a Master’s in Hospitality Management.
Netherland is the place Louis has been calling home for the last years, is the country that has provided him with all he needs to thrive and build a career and an independent life. We could say it has also been a fulfilling one, but we wouldn’t tell the whole truth. Even though he found a system that supports and allows him to build a “normal” life, he sacrificed growing close to his family and friends. 2020 was the year when Louis knew it was time to start planning and packing; having a job, an apartment, and a supportive government in the Netherlands was great, but it was time for him to get back to his hometown and build the same successful career and life.
Louis knows he can do a great job and become a vital part of any organization. His work experience includes working for the Netherlands police, airports, and other companies; even though the language has been a challenge, he has grown professionally. Today, his two major fears of returning to Miami are not keeping his independent life and not finding a job to meet his needs.
Autism has the highest unemployment rate of all disabilities, and Florida is not the exception. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a checkbox. People with disabilities deserve a job that embraces their uniqueness, abilities, needs, and challenges, and that at the same time provides an ideal environment to grow and learn: prompt and constant feedback; special accommodations; an inclusive culture, and a place where they can be their authentic selves.
Louis has a bright future in front of him; he is aware of his strengths, abilities, challenges, and needs. He also knows that his hometown needs to work harder on the inclusion and diversity chapter. Still, he is confident that he will find a company that can offer him a safe space to work and challenge him to grow personally and professionally.
It is a story that will have a beginning if he is lucky enough to find a company that hires neurodiverse employees and that counts with an ethical culture and policies to provide them with a challenging and nurturing workplace. And if the government can give him a supportive network for when things don’t go as planned. And the story will have a happy ending if Louis founds here, his hometown, the resources, and support to build a life by his own means.
*Louis name has been changed for security reasons.
Author: Maria Alejandra Mejia