7 principles for interacting with neurodivergent people

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Neurodiversity is a topic that is playing a growing role in the times, but is it an overlooked area of ​​diversity? For our Deep Dive on Marketing and the Marginalized, Krystian Groom and Charli Edwards of BECG, a member of The Drum Network, argue that this is the case and give seven principles for reaching neurodivergent people.

It is best practice to ensure that consultations and communications address what is rarely heard, by opening a dialogue with the various demographic and sector groups that make up a community.

But how many include neurodiversity as a key consideration? How many people even know that over 15% of the UK population is neurodivergent?

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity reflects the diversity of all human brains. It includes people with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, and dyspraxia, among other neurological disorders.

Contrary to popular belief, not all great minds think the same way. Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in neurocognition, recognizing the unique strengths and challenges that arise from thinking, learning, and communicating differently.

When we plan for consultations and engagements, we have to recognize this. Risks of failure excluding neurodivergent people and their contributions.

While accessibility is ingrained in most communication flows (eg, website development), accessibility measures often have a narrow focus. The emphasis is on ensuring that audiences can physically obtain information – less attention is paid to whether individuals can use the information to participate in the process.

By considering how neurodiverse individuals think and remember messages, we expand the conversation. As we enter the era of digital content, broader connections allow brands to reach new audiences, revealing challenges they never knew existed.

7 principles for neurodivergent accessibility and inclusion

Our Neurodiversity in Planning toolkit, created with the help of voices and neurodivergent experts, including Genius Within, enables companies to recognize and engage with the 15% neurodivergent.

1. Involve neurodiverse voices

Unconscious preferences and biases make what seems accessible or easy to understand to others not.

Involve others in your team or reach out to experts. Consider appointing neurodiversity champions within your organization to make all communications as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.

2. Get the big picture first

Keep the main theme or area of ​​interest of your business at the forefront of what you do. Design a clear structure and user journey. Clutter can divide attention, cause people to miss things, and increase the time and focus it takes to digest information.

3. Show what matters

Different members of your audience will have different priorities when engaging with you. This can mean that you have to provide a lot of information, each competing for the user’s attention.

There will also be some common interests that most visitors are looking for. It is important that this information is the clearest to find and on which to focus.

4. Be clear

Every engagement has a desired outcome: providing feedback, informing, or responding to concerns. The engagement work should be clear, compelling, and impossible to miss. Use simple language and avoid jargon.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Whenever possible, use pictures to help explain your text. This can make your content easier to understand for those who have difficulty reading.

5. User choice

Be flexible. Offer Choice: What works for you may not work for everyone, so any engagement should have the flexibility to provide the choice of how they want to engage. Presenting information in different ways also maximizes the opportunities to digest and understand it.

6. Be considerate

Consider the overall sensory experience of communication efforts. Create a welcoming environment, recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. If you are organizing an event, is the atmosphere welcoming and inclusive? Will people want to spend time on the site? Think about the layout, the attitude of the staff and even the weather.

7. Always adapt

Be open to feedback and be prepared to act on it. Be clear on the purpose of providing feedback and how it will be taken into account. Perhaps incorporate a mechanism for providing feedback on how the engagement work was carried out. It could be as simple as a smiley face feedback tool.

The goal is accessibility for a neurodiverse audience, allowing neurodivergents to contribute in the way that suits them. Hopefully this will be the start of a conversation that will help inform changes in consultation and the way we engage with all parts of a community.

Apply the Seven Principles

It takes time for habits to change and at BECG we continually seek to apply these principles as best and standard practices. For the toolkit webpage itself, we consulted neurodiverse people, guided by the Seven Principles, reduced content fat, built user choice into how content is presented, and welcome continuously new comments.

Much of this is good communication practice. If improving accessibility is that simple, let’s see these principles deployed everywhere and continue on this path to accessibility.


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