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Employable Me

Chances are you have probably never seen a documentary series quite like Employable Me.

As the optimistic title suggests, it profiles job-seekers with a difference: 9 Australians with a disability:  Autism, OCD or Tourette Syndrome.

Cameras follow them as they undertake job interviews -too often the end of the process for them as they seek a meaningful and sustainable existence. Filmed by Northern Pictures, who brought us the ground-breaking Changing Minds, this is an incredibly-supportive 3 part series, and full of insight into these private worlds.

Episode 1 begins by profiling 21 year old Rohan, who fears becoming a 40-year-old virgin living in his parents’ house.

“I want to live independently, contribute to society and be ‘normal’ I guess,” he says. “Scratch that. It was extremely hokey.”

Rohan’s autism means he has difficulty looking people in the eye, “It feels like they’re staring at my soul.” But he has boundless energy, and is eager to impress. A psych test will reveal a stunning skill that shows capacity beyond what you and I could achieve, and cameras will follow him on his first day of a very public role.

Next is 20 year old Kayla, who loves her music, but her Tourette’s Syndrome has equally been a barrier to work. Vocal and physical tics elicit ‘colourful’ language, which she sometimes describes as “annoying but funny.” It’s hard not to feel sympathy for someone who shows talent yet is being held back by uncontrollable displays.

“I’m not just a person with Tourette’s,” she will tell us.

The third subject is 28 year old Tim whose Autism has held him back from ever having a job. This timid young man is quietly spoken and averse to being physically touched. A form of “self-stimming” helps him block out sensory overload through stimulation. But he has dreams of work in the IT field, and younger brother Nathan will escort him to a work experience opportunity.

The families and employers participating in the series are all to be commended. Producers note whilst they did have a hand in arranging interviews and opportunities, the outcomes were all completely independent.

But the stars of the show are the subjects, who are overcoming all kinds of personal barriers to allow such intimate access. Even Rohan shows an awareness of public perception or whether anything is being manufactured for the series.

“Were you just saying that for the cameras?” he asks one employer.

The doco also includes expert psychological advice to help the audience understand each disability and appreciate how tasks as simple as catching a bus are magnified for those on the autism spectrum.

Northern Pictures and ABC continue to lead the way with their work in this field, debunking myths, avoiding tragedy and victim-blaming, and making challenging subjects broadly accessible.

My congratulations to all involved.

Employable Me airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on ABC.

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