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Companies Eye Workers With Autism In Lieu Of Outsourcing

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A Los Angeles company is looking to offer software testing at rates competitive with firms in other countries. The kicker — they want to employ people with disabilities to make it happen.

The company called Square One is looking to pay people with autism — who often have an affinity for detail — $15 to $20 per hour to test software for major corporations. American companies typically pay $25 per hour for the same work in India and other developing countries.

Chad Hahn, co-founder of Square One, says the concept is a win-win since people with autism often have few employment options. His company will offer a supportive environment where employees may receive assistance from a counselor, have access to a quiet room or other accommodations, he says.

The concept is not entirely new. A handful of companies around the globe have popped up in recent years designed to put people with autism to work in the software testing industry, but most of the initiatives are subsidized or rely on the nonprofit model.

Hahn, however, is hoping to function as a for-profit and says he already has interest from major corporations like Warner Bros. and LegalZoom, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. To read more click here.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. msamericanpatriot says:

    About time. Maybe more will do it.

  2. vmgillen says:

    Great: we can pay disabled less than the low prevailing wage in other countries, and much less than prevailing wage in the US. Someone tell me why this is outrageous where, say, people of the non-caucasian persuasion, or women are concerned, but something we should ‘celebrate’ if the disabled are the workers? Where is the outrage? It’s pitiable, how people feel they can’t say a word because they risk losing everything – and the entities pulling this stuff KNOW they have the upper hand: instead of “BOO!” they just say “JOBS” and we roll right over.

  3. Chad Hahn says:

    RE vmgillen’s comment — we have posted comments on several blogs clarifying several misrepresentations the BW article author made about our business model. I encourage you to read a comment clarifying most of what the author got wrong here — http://www.facebook.com/squareonesolutions/posts/10150758775615661 — but I wanted to respond directly to accusations that we’re attempting to pay people less than the prevailing wage because of their disability.

    I’d like to elaborate on this misconception that we’d like to pay people with disabilities less than those without disabilities because they don’t have a lot of alternatives. The author severely misinterpreted my thoughts on several levels, and I’d like to clear things up.

    For our endeavor to work, we feel we have to price the testing services to customers in such a way that it is attractive enough for them to switch from an offshore company to our new company. Right now offshore COMPANIES get paid roughly $25 / hr to perform software testing for businesses. The author misquoted me by saying offshore Indian EMPLOYEES make $25 / hr. In truth they make far less, since Indian companies have to account for overhead and profit. I never said our testers with developmental disabilities should make less than people in India, and even at $15 / $20 per hour in wages, they would likely make more than those in India.

    Even though the average offshore testing rate is roughly $25 / hr for businesses to pay, the effective rate is usually much higher. This is because offshore testers tend to be less productive than local testers, mostly due to timezone and cultural differences. This means it might take an offshore tester longer than a local tester for the same task, making the effective hourly rate for a business somewhere around $35 / hr.

    Therefore, we believe the price point of $35 / hr is what we might be able to charge businesses for our testing services. With these fees, we will pay for continuous training, specialized office space with facilities catering to special needs (my wife is thinking about putting healthy food in the kitchen, setting up social activities, quiet rooms, 20 hour work weeks, etc).

    With the rest of the money, we will offer the highest wages possible. Our assumption is the wage will be $15 / $20 an hour, which is what you read in the BW article. The author made it sound as if we could pay our disabled testers more, but were choosing not to simply because the wage would be higher than what they get paid today. I explained the entire pricing and cost breakdown to him, and he completely misrepresented it.

    Let me be clear—our expectation on the wage we can pay our testers is not based on how little we think we can pay them because of their condition. It is based on the highest amount we think we can pay them based on what businesses might be willing to pay for their services.

    We haven’t even gotten our first client yet. Until we do, we won’t know exactly what we can pay the testers, so all of this is speculation.

    When I approached people in the disabled community about this model, none of them thought it was exploitative. The parents I spoke to had autistic children who either weren’t working at all or were working for minimum wage. Their children had no good options, so our model sounded promising because it would a.) teach their children a new skill and b.) pay them a higher wage than they would otherwise expect. Here again, the BW author botched what I said, making it sound like it’s okay to pay someone a lower wage because it’s better than the alternative.

    If there is any question about what we’re trying to do, I invite you to talk to our trainees, their parents, or even come and visit us to see what we’re doing. You are more than welcome any time.

  4. Russell Morgan says:

    @ChadHahn…. As the owner of a progressive day program servicing folks with developmental disabilities, I often find it difficult to navigate the political v/s the practical, to everyone’s satisfaction. My experiences tell me that while many people love to debate, few are innovative enough and/or willing to get outside of the box, sidestep the status quo, and look for ways to initiate real opportunities that are beneficial for EVERYONE involved. You almost certainly step on toes when going against what people are used to, but I personally applaud what you guys are trying to do, and would love to know how some of the folks we support could get involved….

  5. Chad Hahn says:

    Russell, feel free to email info@squareonesolutions.net and we can connect about how we might be able to get your folks involved in what we’re doing.

  6. Whitney A. says:

    It is far more generous most companies have with some of their employees. I am being honest with I rather work $15 an hour than $9 because most jobs are offering that for regular workers. I applied for such positions and learn what is required to software testing.

    america is land that based upon slavery to get high quality of work. They take great pride in exploiting workers.

    For instance prisoner is force into labor at .25 cents an hour. People make excuses on cheating the labor force a lot work for a pittance.

  7. Melissa Hua says:

    As a long-time support person for a very high-functioning autistic young adult, I see programs such as this as a huge benefit. Getting anyone on the autistic spectrum to succeed in a job interview situation is extremely difficult and this is a great way for them to gain experience. I know that I will be recommending your company to my job-seeking client.

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