Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a continuing effort for the majority of HR pros and those who work in the DEI sector. It seems like there is always some work to do to make the workplace an equitable and inclusive space.
DEI efforts need to include a disability inclusion strategy to make the workplace accessible and equitable. Despite their best efforts, some companies can unknowingly shut out some employees by focusing only on visible disabilities. Many strategies leave out others who require accommodations.
Those who are neurodiverse, who may have ADHD, autism, dyslexia or dyspraxia, are often left out of the DEI conversation and not considered when it comes to inclusivity efforts.
Neurodiversity at work
Neurodiversity is defined as “the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one ‘right’ way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits,” according to Harvard.
Neurodivergence is not talked about often and is still stigmatized and stereotyped, whether it be that those with ADHD are just “lazy” or workers choosing not to disclose that they have autism due to fear of being treated differently. Because of this, neurodiverse individuals and their needs often get left out of the DEI conversation.
Even if you don’t know anyone in your workforce who is neurodivergent, that doesn’t mean inclusive practices for neurodivergence can or should be skipped.
Not only can neurodiverse-friendly practices show that you’re a welcoming place for any future hires, but with 15% to 20% of the population considered neurodivergent, there’s a good chance you have neurodiverse workers in your company who just haven’t identified themselves.
Accommodations go far beyond those ensuring physical accessibility, such as wheelchair-accessible entrances or visual aids. Here’s how to make sure your workplace is inclusive to employees who are neurodiverse.
How to become neurodiverse-friendly
Making the workplace more accessible for neurodivergent employees can have many benefits, including:
- Innovative ideas and new perspectives
- Robust inclusion initiatives, and
- A broader talent pool.
Even though it may not be thought of as often when you think of DEI, accommodating neurodiverse employees needs to be a part of your strategy to be a truly inclusive workplace. Here are five steps that you can take to become a more neurodiverse-friendly workplace.
Begin before you hire. Providing a supportive experience for neurodiverse hires begins before day one of work. Making the hiring process accessible can help attract neurodiverse talent and provide a seamless hiring process without barriers. While this can mean providing accommodations for assessments and interviews, it also means making the job posting accessible with simple and direct language.
Offer accommodations when needed. Accommodations for those who are neurodiverse is not one-size-fits-all, and it’s essential to go through the interactive process with employees to figure out what the best option is for the company and the individual. Accommodations can include:
- Allowing employees with sensory sensitivities to wear headphones or seat themselves in a quiet place to prevent overstimulation
- Ensuring managers provide direct and straightforward instructions, and
- Making sure written communication uses accessible fonts and colors.
Create a sensory-friendly environment. Many people who are neurodiverse have sensory differences. A sensory-friendly environment may include giving employees the choice of an office space with reduced noise. But it can also include sensory-friendly alternatives to uniforms or the dress code and may even include a designated sensory-friendly area where there is lower lighting or reduced activity.
Provide education to neurotypical employees. One key element of inclusivity is providing education for the rest of your workforce to understand the needs, challenges and abilities of others. Whether you provide an online resource, a training course or a lunch-and-learn, ensuring your workforce is committed to inclusivity and diversity is a key element of making DEI efforts successful.
Make company-wide changes. Accommodations for individuals are important, but you can also make changes to your company that can benefit everyone. For example, allowing flexible working arrangements can be a great way to accommodate neurodiverse employees, but can also benefit other groups of employees such as caregivers. If an accommodation can benefit others, it can be a good idea to make the change company-wide.