Almost every company has neurodiverse staff without even trying. According to research, 15-20% of the population has been diagnosed as neurodiverse.
Organizations must do more to let everyone shine. Diversity is more than a marketing ploy or the proper thing to do; it boosts company performance. There is lots of evidence to support this, for example, a Harvard Business Review analysis found that diverse teams produce 60% better results and make better judgements in 87% of circumstances.
Compared to other types of diversity, employers require better guidance on how to help neurodiverse workers. Organizations cannot make informed decisions until senior decision-makers receive neuro-inclusivity training.
We’ve all seen job postings with outrageous requirements. Consider yourself neurodivergent and unable to comprehend these job descriptions. This creates an additional barrier to entry. Then, once in a job, the chances of inclusion often aren’t much better, particularly when it comes to learning and training.
All digital and eLearning programs should adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.1). However, these criteria are too low for true inclusion.
According to the City & Guilds Neurodiversity Index Report 2023, 32% of neurodivergent respondents felt as if they can’t disclose their neurodivergent condition in the workplace. That equates to 1.8 million neurodivergent workers who may not receive any workplace assistance or adjustments.
What are the reasons for this? After disclosing their condition, 10% of neurodivergent respondents received negative replies. Other explanations include fear of discrimination or career injury, as well as a lack of concessions or modifications in previous or current circumstances.
There is also evidence that people from certain socioeconomic backgrounds have had less opportunity to navigate systems and that neurodivergent traits have not been considered.
According to the survey, only 58% of neurodiverse individuals who declared in the workplace had an “OK” or “positive” response.
A Typical Day in the Life
In certain workplaces, there are no onboarding processes. Many companies have clearly invested in their onboarding courses, but have not addressed diversity and instead have created something within budget.
Consider giving someone who is neurodivergent secure devices that lack a headset and require admin credentials to alter or enable browser add-ons, such as screen readers.
Consider a virtual or eLearning course that was created with only neurotypical people in mind. Individuals with eyesight impairments or stress disorders, for example, may not have been considered. Too many people simply believe that a training vendor’s assertion that their course is “accessible for all” is true.
Policies on the online or eLearning course will typically just meet minimum accessibility requirements. This forces someone to ask for assistance and isn’t inclusive.
Accessible Onboarding and Training
Mainstream training often simply requires our brains to retain information delivered in a mainstream way. Think about it: Nobody can learn to drive by studying theory. Some objects can be mended by reading a manual, but the rise of YouTube do-it-yourself videos shows that a physical demonstration is sometimes required. Some people just learn best through doing, generating lasting memories from a multisensory experience and completing a practical task.
Standard eLearning is not right for everyone; it often teaches us something only for as long as we need to know it, as well as how to game the system. It can only teach useful practicalities if we have a brain capable of visualizing them from the words on paper or a screen.
Any mandatory training must go beyond knowledge-assessed eLearning courseware. If training is to meet the needs of the learner and make a lasting impact, practical exercises that can be evaluated, audited, and assessed must be incorporated.
Tips for Designing Accessible Learning
- Create materials with contrast between text and background colors.
- Provide transcripts for audio files, as well as descriptive captions for videos.
- Avoid activities that challenge motor skills. For example, the requirement to use a mouse for drag and drop interactions.
- Where an image is necessary, and not for decorative purposes, use alternative (Alt) text to describe the content and how it links to the written text.
- Allow learners to control their own time limit and provide the facilities to pause or stop moving elements.
- Never use any content that flashes at a rate higher than three times per second.
- Avoid backing music or sound effects behind speech, unless it doesn’t cause a distraction; you’ll need to test that with a wide group to gain a consensus on the possible distraction level.
- When creating text content, utilize headings and subheadings. Screen readers can distinguish between these and help the learner to understand the flow of the content.
- If you use color to indicate the meaning of something, label its meaning, in a clear and contrasting color.
- And most importantly, put the control in the hands of the learner. Allow them to adjust the volume, or speed, pause the content, replay it before taking a quiz.
- Continually test, research and improve your learning materials, to ensure they meet the needs of your staff, and are up to date with current guidelines.
Take Care of Your Most Valuable Asset
Humans are referred to as representing both a company’s weakest link — or its strongest defense. Clearly, humans are its greatest asset. People are the reason why any business succeeds.
Every employee has a mutually beneficial relationship with their employer. They provide a service for compensation. Anyone who fails to contribute as expected will be supervised or disciplined. Employers, on the other hand, frequently disappoint by failing to provide what they require to succeed.
Genuine inclusivity equips everyone with the tools they need to thrive in an environment free of prejudice, stigma, misunderstanding and damage to their career.
It’s all about simple tweaks to training, privacy, not forcing people to disclose, and providing a level playing field for both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals: That is the bare minimum any organization should strive for.