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Episode Summary

Our guest on this episode of the All About Kids podcast is Haley Moss, the first openly autistic lawyer admitted to the Florida bar. Haley spent her early career working in litigation before deciding to start her own business where she consults with companies on their inclusion practices and policies. She points out that many things that could be put in place to accommodate employees or customers with disabilities could, in fact, be beneficial for a broader population. She is also advocating for companies to hire more employees with disabilities and helping those that are concerned to be more educated and learn the facts before defaulting to discrimination.

In the current environment where most business is still being conducted from home, Haley explains that the flexibility provided by this set up is very helpful for folks like her who need to be able to adjust their sensory inputs throughout the day. She is hoping that more employers will allow for flexible work schedules and working remotely now that they have seen that business can still get done, and perhaps in a healthier and more productive manner. This could help employers who are hesitant to hire people with disabilities be more willing to do so without having to worry about providing the appropriate accommodations. Overall, Haley has found that the legal industry is not one that is particularly accepting of diversity and inclusion because lawyers are supposed to be viewed as strong and stalwart and anything different than the expectation is viewed as weakness. Haley is doing her part to change these perceptions and make the world a more accessible place for people with disabilities.

Episode Notes

How the current shutdown is impacting the autistic community:

  • (2:15) – “For autistic people, routine is something that we take very seriously and is a huge part of how we thrive.”
  • Transitions and big shifts in routine can be anxiety-inducing
  • So many people working from home fills Haley with hope, though, that there could be a way to be a more remote workforce
  • (2:58) – “I think it opens the workforce for us as well once jobs start coming back and people are hiring again.”
  • Working from home is more sensory-friendly and requires fewer accommodations from workplaces
  • Haley encourages employers to trust their people to get their work done in the ways that work best for them

While she is a licensed Florida attorney (the first openly autistic Florida attorney, in fact), Haley has recently started her own business:

  • Employers are afraid of litigation when hiring people with disabilities
  • Haley has a unique opportunity to be a consultant on workplace inclusion
  • She also does some public speaking on the topic
  • (9:21) – “I think the digital thing is good because people have more access to the education when it comes to disability that they want.”
    • Employers and employees are able to join online webinars on diversity and inclusion when they might not have previously wanted to travel to a conference
  • Haley’s business aims to address employer skepticism
  • (10:51) – “When companies hire people with disabilities, the public has a higher and more favorable public perception.”
  • Part of inclusion is recognizing that some of the accommodations suggested would be beneficial for everyone to have access to
    • Closed-captioning, for instance, helps the deaf and hearing impaired, those learning to speak English, and those with sensory issues

Speech is important to Haley:

  • She was nonverbal until age 3, which is when she was diagnosed with autism
  • Haley is often reminded not to take speech for granted, as she was by the judge when she was sworn into the bar
    • (15:19) – “I don’t take having a voice for granted and that’s why I try to use it for the most good that I can in my life and for other people.”

Haley is also a writer, and her two tips to aspiring writers are:

      • Know what you want to say and your own messaging
      • Edit other people’s work
        • (16:14) – “You notice things in other people’s writing that you either wish you had incorporated or see what not to do sometimes too.”

Haley talks about her other interests:

    • She loves to play Pokemon and Sonic and she got a Nintendo Switch over quarantine
    • She enjoys writing nonfiction and reading both fiction and nonfiction
      • (19:17) – “I like to read everything I can.”

If there was one thing that bugged her about the law industry it would be the stigmas associated with disabilities and mental health:

    • Haley was surprised to find that there aren’t very many lawyers with disabilities
    • She wishes that there could be an understanding that lawyers are people too
      • (20:04) – “We’re told now, especially, to take care of yourself and at the same time you’re held to these standards.”
    • She says it would be helpful if there could be discussions about why there are stigmas and also how the industry can combat them

Along those lines, Haley sees some attitudes that need to change in the industry:

    • There should be higher levels of understanding and inclusion when it comes to disabilities and mental health conditions
    • Stigmas are seen as weaknesses in professions like law
    • (21:40) – “I think having access to the resources that people need and also having a culture of care would be really helpful for many lawyers.”
    • (22:48) – “A lot of the issues in the industry have to do with diversity and inclusion.”
    • Haley says there should be more conversations about healthy outlets, experiencing everything in moderation, and changing culture

Haley outlines the main mistakes that business owners make and her advice for those starting out:

    • She says that many people jump into launching their business without considering what they need to get started first
      • (24:40) – “Know the basics of how to get started and the biggest thing you can do is stay organized.”
    • Haley’s keys to successful business ownership are networking, building relationships with the community, and setting boundaries (especially when working from home)
    • Along the way, she has realized that there is a disconnect between the theoretical concepts she learned in law school and the practical application

When it comes to interacting with people with autism, Haley has a few insights:

    • Everyone with autism is not a super-computer
    • (28:19) – “There are things I’m really good at and there are things I’m not, just like everybody else.”
    • Many people are very opinionated about vaccines and early intervention
    • Here are a few people with autism who are making a difference that Haley follows:
      • Lydia Brown
    • In order to restore her lost focus, Haley tries to find something she enjoys doing
      • (31:12) – “In every day, find something you enjoy.”
    • If you want to invite someone with autism to an event that you feel like might be too much for them, ask them anyway and see if they are comfortable with it or if there is something you could do to make it a better experience for them
    • Haley says that people who are not a part of the autistic community will never understand what it is like to try to be a part of a society that doesn’t accept you for who you are
      • (34:10) – “Be yourself, but not like that.”


Lydia Brown: