Neurodiversity and Online Barriers
There is no factory standard when it comes to the human brain and how it operates.
Did you know that at least 15% of the population are neurodivergent, yet fewer than 50% may know it? And many people still don’t know what neurodiversity is at all!
So…What Exactly IS Neurodiversity?
The term neurodiversity was coined in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer, and refers to the variation in how we process information, think, act, move and sense the world we live in.
Differences in learning, attention, mood, literacy, numeracy and social skills have been broken down into sub-classifications and sometimes been associated with neurodiversity.,
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Developmental Language Disorder
- Tic Disorders ( including Tourette’s Syndrome)
- Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) also known as Dyspraxia
- Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC)
Some people have challenges in more than one area and these conditions often overlap with each other. In one study they found that 60% have more than one of the conditions listed. (REF)
It is important to remember that these conditions are not injuries or diseases. They are the result of a number of factors including genes that are part of natural variation. In other words, they are differences, not disabilities. Some people are disabled by the world they live in when there is an expectation of everyone having to do the same thing. In order to be included different approaches may be needed when it comes to learning and working.
“Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?”
Harvey Blume, Journalist & Autism Advocate
Neurodiversity and Online Barriers
Typical challenges faced by those with neurodiverse conditions include:
- Difficulty staying focused on a task
- Understanding the order and meaning of words
- Becoming overloaded by information
- Difficulty discriminationg some colour contrasts
Most e-commerce websites are typically very overwhelming for neurodivergent visitors. Between the banners, pictures, links, and many buttons, pages can appear incredibly ‘busy’. It is easy in this situation that potential customers become too distracted to buy anything. So website providers need to account for neurodivergent traits and preferences in their design, content, and layout.
Considerations should include:
- How much information is on each page? And is it all needed?
- Is there a clear hierarchy of importance to the content?
- Are visual elements relevant to the content?
- Are there alt tags on visual images that can be used with a screen reader?
How Recite Can Help Different Types of Neurodiversity Traits
Reading and processing on-screen information is difficult for neurodivergent website visitors. The Recite Me assistive toolbar removes these difficulties by allowing users to fully customise the webpage so it suits their own individual needs. Features include:
- A screen mask to help with focus and concentration.
- Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages to negate reading difficulties.
- Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud to allow for varying auditory preferences.
- Customisation options for text font, colour, sizing, and spacing, so that the look of the webpage can be tailor-made into the perfect format for every individual.
- A spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus to help with comprehension.
Recite Me assistive technology is the perfect solution to help businesses and organisations support their neurodivergent team members, as users can make singular or multiple adjustments to adapt the way web content looks.
We’ve been happy to witness growing support for the neurodiverse community in recent years. The dramatic increase in the use of our assistive toolbar last year suggests that we are helping more companies to reach a more diverse market.
In 2021 Recite Me saw toolbar users increase by 90% to over 3.4 million people being supported online.
Advocating for Inclusion in the Education Sector
Accounting for individual differences should begin early in life, as difficulties experienced at school can lead to low self-esteem and underperformance in later life. As neurodivergent conditions become more widely understood and accepted, increasing pressure is being put on schools and colleges to stop focusing on what students are unable to do, and put more emphasis on acknowledging and celebrating the many positive aspects that neurodiversity brings.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
Alexander Den Heijer, Leadership speaker, trainer, and consultant
Neurodivergent students are well known for being more capable of ‘thinking outside the box’ than other students. They are also normally more creative, better at problem-solving, natural innovators, and can often see situations from different and more unique perspectives.
The world has a lot to benefit from the neurodiverse community, but it is important that teaching methods are inclusive. In modern-day teaching models, it is vital that e-learning materials are accessible to neurodivergent students in both their design and delivery.
Advocating for Inclusion in the Workplace
Being neurodivergent shouldn’t mean not being able to find a dream job, although historically, the neurodiverse community has experienced unemployment rates as high as 90%. This suggests a problem within the application and hiring process, in that the definition of talent has been too narrow. Make no mistake, neurodiversity is not a marker of intelligence, and there is no shortage of talent in the neurodiverse employment pool. In fact, neurodivergent individuals comprise some of history’s most infamous pioneers, leaders, and change-makers, including Alan Turin, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
We are happy to have witnessed a significant upsurge in new employment opportunities for neurodivergent applicants in the last five to ten years. Industry leaders now see the benefits of teams that include neurodiverse members as they strive for more effective working strategies, improved innovation, increased productivity, and ever more progressive solutions.
“Our autistic employees achieve, on average, 48% to 140% more work than their typical colleagues, depending on the roles.”
James Mahoney, Head of Global Technology Diversity & Inclusion at JP Morgan
Other organisations that are vocal in their goals of employing neurodivergent employees to gain a competitive advantage include IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Deloitte, and Goldman Sachs.
Thankfully there are some fantastic resources for guidance on neurodiversity:
DO-IT Solutions: Trusted in Education, Training, Employment and Justice and endorsed by 25 years’ clinical and academic research, Do-IT can help organisations deliver inclusive approaches supporting the strengths and minimising challenges of all people. Recite Me is proud to list them as a partner.
“Our mission is to ensure that education and employment places are neuro-inclusive so that talents can be harnessed and maintained. We recognise a complementary neurodiverse world offers new solutions when we work together.”
Amanda Kirby, doctor, Do-IT CEO, and author
The Hidden Impairment National Group - Provides information and guidance to applicants, employers, and employees on all aspects of the application, interview, selection, onboarding, and workflow processes.
Are YOU Neurodiverse Friendly?
We hope so. Increasing engagement in learning and working environments for people with neurodivergent profiles should be a priority.
At Recite Me we believe in inclusion for all, which starts by creating awareness and helping others to understand the opportunities presented by improving web accessibility. By guiding our clients through this process, we can make a positive difference together.
Inclusion should be a ‘business as usual' approach, rather than a ‘tick the box’ exercise, so by adopting our web accessibility software combined with your neurodiverse-friendly recruitment, onboarding and retention policies, we can help you reach new levels of success.