006 – How to Create Autism Jobs While Keeping Your Own

Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, the COO and co-founder of Rising Tide Car Wash. In case you’re not familiar with what we do, we employ a fantastic team of individuals with autism, allowing us to empower our staff while offering a fantastic experience to customers. We believe that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many business, and this show is dedicated to proving that employing these people can create real competitive advantages.

My fantastic guest today is James Emmett, who is one of the world’s leading disability employment consultants. James is and has been the driving force behind many large corporate programs for people with autism and other disabilities at major companies such as TIAA-CREF, Best Buy, Walgreens, Pepsi, and Office Depot. He was also instrumental in helping us at Rising Tide Car Wash get off the ground.

In 2004, James met Randy Lewis, the senior vice president at Walgreens. Randy invited James the opportunity to help plan out the Walgreen outreach initiative that focused on people with autism. This experience helped James realize how much potential there was within corporate situations for people with autism. Since having learned about this incredible potential, he has taken that awareness to other companies and created opportunities there.

There are so many benefits for a company when it comes to hiring people with autism. James has seen an increase in morale among the incoming employees with autism, but also the current employees at a company that launches an autism-related initiative. Companies also experience their cultures changing to be positive and forward-thinking. These are just a few of the many great benefits that James describes.

I’m excited to have James on the show because he offers such a different perspective than many of our previous guests. Instead of having opened a new business geared toward employing people with autism, James’ extensive experience is with working within existing organizations to create employment opportunities for individuals with autism.

Don’t miss this great episode, in which we also talk about some of the specific advantages of employing people with autism, why hiring these people can help create systems that turn out to be better than the existing ones for neurotypical employees, how important it is to have community support, and much more.

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In This Episode:

[01:37] – What inspired James to work with large companies and help them harness the advantages of employing people with autism and other disabilities?

[03:18] – James describes what it’s like to work with these companies and create programs for employing people with autism.

[04:44] – We hear about the realizations that people come to in terms of the specific advantages of employing people with autism.

[06:53] – Tom draws out something unique about what James have said: that individuals with autism and other disabilities have faced barriers their whole lives, and have needed to learn to break through them. They bring this grit and resilience to their employers.

[07:23] – James talks more about how this familiarity with breaking through obstacles translates to the work environment. Tom then relates what James has said to the way that they hire people at Rising Tide Car Wash.

[10:28] – When James is talking to a new client, how does he communicate the specific benefits that he and Tom have been discussing?

[13:18] – James talks about how translating what happens at a few sites to the broader organization works.

[15:19] – Tom digs into how the ripple effect from making changes at one distribution center can change things for many more people.

[16:24] – We hear more about how James has convinced people that this will positively affect the daily operations of a business.

[19:38] – How would James recommend that someone who works at an organization that doesn’t currently have a disability employment program go about starting something and creating change at their company?

[21:42] – Tom elaborates on the advice James has been giving about getting support from the community.

[22:43] – James hopes that within the next ten years is that every Fortune 500 company will have a disability inclusion strategy.

[25:24] – How can listeners get in touch with James or hire him as a consultant to help them navigate their disability employment strategy?

Links and Resources:


James Emmett & Co

James Emmett on LinkedIn

@JamesEmmett on Twitter


Randy Lewis

Disability inclusion at Walgreens


Best Buy



Office Depot

Tom D’Eri

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

Autism Advantage

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

FAU Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Broward County Public Schools

The Dan Marino Foundation

Autism Speaks

New York Collaborates for Autism

The Poses Family Foundation

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