Monday, June 19, 2006

21st century employment for persons with autism and other cognitive disabilities: The Mechanical Turk

Emily has been reading 'Send In the Idiots', an exploration of several high functioning adult autistic persons by an insider. As she described the work they can do, and the limitations they face, I thought about one of the more fascinating recent innovations: Amazon Mechanical Turk.

A system for defining tasks, complex or modest, then distributing them to bidders, seems to have obvious applications to "high and low" functioning persons with cognitive and/or social disabilities. I know of a gentleman with fairly severe cognitive disorders but extraordinary visual processing capabilities. Such "savant-like" abilities are not sufficient to retain conventional employment, but they might be well suited to some of the tasks sold on the 'Mechanical Turk' sites. High IQ persons with autistic disabilities could have a quite wide range of tasks to bid on and execute.

eBay may play a similar role for a group of persons who, for one reason or another, cannot find or do not wish conventional employment.

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