Universal design & neurodiversity in the workplace

Business and academic research on inclusive workplace cultures typically focus on race and/or gender. Disability and neurodiversity are often overlooked or excluded from this research and resulting policies and practices. A universal design approach is the way to take a holistic look at the issues and solutions for neurodiversity in the workplace. Indeed, these are good workplace practices for everyone. That’s what universal design is about.

Workplace employee groups can help marginalised groups feel heard, but they can also place an additional burden on individuals to seek workplace improvements.

five young people in the picture, two men, three women. Three are sitting on couches, and two stand behind. They look like they are having a discussion. Four are white, there is one black woman. neurodiversity in the workplace.

A short paper by Preziosa and Hill uses the 7 principles of universal design as a framework for implementing inclusive practices. The authors present the 7 principles in a matrix, and used four principles, briefly outlined below, as an example:

Equitable Use: Avoid the need for people with disability to have separate service or experiences. Eliminate label-based inclusion, such as targeted hiring programs for autistic people. This segregates employees into specific fields and requires them to self-identify any “special” condition they have.

Flexibility in Use: Build in preferences outside the norm such as playback speed options for training videos. Offer to be flexible and acknowledge that individual differences are expected and welcome.

Simple and Intuitive to Use: Avoid unnecessary complexity and repetition of processes, tools, and webpages.

Tolerance for Error: Allow room for mistakes and edits. Ensure digital form, tools and software allow for review and correction.

The authors claim that neurodiverse employees who receive support services show higher retention rates, and most required less than 4 support hours a month. In addition, many benefitted from support with problem solving and organising their work.

Universal design and employment scenarios

The authors matrix consists of 7 universal design principles and 6 workplace elements. They are: Designing, Hiring, Contracting, Training, Performance Review and Wellbeing. The information is also good for managing groups and teams outside the workplace environment.

The title of the short paper is, What can organizations do to create an environment which successfully supports, engages and retains their neurodiverse employees?

Accessibility Toolbar