For Neurodviersity Celebration Week Austin blogs about how he has worked with autism and how it has shaped his career.
I started work in the Lord Chancellor’s Department of the civil service since 1991. I was diagnosed with Quasi–Autism from an early age, which is Asperger Syndrome. It wasn’t recognised till 1994. Owing to my condition, I had an unorthodox style of learning that was classed as a learning disability. But as I soon as I could acquire information through a mechanical method, I could perform in a job, successfully.
Unfortunately, as there were no reasonable adjustments before the Disability Discrimination Act became law in 1995, I was never given the opportunity to improve. Instead, I found myself stressed by trying to meet unrealistic targets at work. As a result, I was dismissed on probation for poor performance in 1992.
Through my trade union, I appealed and was re–employed in the civil service but down-graded to postal duties. It was a blow to my self–confidence after having been unemployed for 15 months, and did little for promotion prospects.
When the Disability Discrimination Act became law, reasonable adjustments were seen as a new phenomenon. Awareness on the many forms of disability were, still, seen as alien to mainstream society. Autistic people, still, did not have protection in employment law until the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling of “Hewitt v Motorola” case in 2004.
It was through PCS that I excelled. I started off as a distribution representative, recruiting people into the union during lunch breaks. Then I started representing members in personal cases. With the use of trade union facility time, I was able to read and memorise the workplace policies as well as employment law. I now represent members of all grades including senior managers in employment tribunals and Civil Service Appeal Board hearings. As a result, I have saved many jobs. In addition, I have successfully campaigned against compulsory relocations and redundancies by lobbying MPs.
I am on the group executive committee for the Ministry of Justice, the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee and was on the NEC between 2017 and 2019. I am a regular PCS conference delegate doing public speaking on platforms and even on TV at the TUC conferences.
In my official capacity, I work in the Office of the Public Guardian, looking after the money of mentally incapacitated clients. Adequate reasonable adjustments are being provided. I am continuing to promote awareness of Autism/Neurodiversity within the civil service.