An estimated 10% of the population are born with some kind of cognitive difference (in how they understand language, communication, numeracy etc.) that can result in an exclusion from the digital environment.
With more and more organisations driving towards digitisation, neurodiversity is becoming an increasingly important focus.
So, what exactly is neurodiversity, and what are the benefits for organisations considering it? You can find out much more on this topic in Econsultancy’s Neurodiversity and Digital Inclusion report. In the meantime, read on for a few key takeaways.
What is neurodiversity?
The term ‘neurodiversity’ is based on the idea that neurological differences like ADHD, autism, dyspraxia etc. are the result of normal and natural variation in the human genome.
It is based around the ‘social model’ of disability, which sees the access issues faced by disabled people as a consequence of external factors. This is unlike the ‘medical model’, which views the ‘different’ individual as the problem; the social model contends that it is society that needs to take action and remove the barriers to access for all.
One example is if a person has difficulty remembering a password. Here, the social model implies that it is up to the company in question to create a way for them to pass through security checks without difficulty.
In contrast, the medical model would view the company’s fixed processes as the ‘norm’, and put the onus on individuals to remember their passwords even if they had a disability which prevented them from doing so easily.
So, what are the benefits of considering neurodiversity from an organisational and/or marketing perspective?
In 2016, the ‘Click-Away Pound’ study found that 71% of disabled customers with access needs will click away from a website if they find it difficult to use. When it comes to customer retention, it’s clear that web accessibility should be a top priority for marketers.
This news is all the more significant when you account for the fact that the customers who click away have an estimated spending power of £11.75 billion in the UK alone, which in 2016, made up 10% of the total UK online spend.
Undeniably then, a lack of accessibility can have huge financial implications, especially for ecommerce companies with a reliance on online conversions. In all cases, inclusive design should be used to help ensure that people with all kinds of disabilities, ranging from visual impairments to motor skills, can understand and access products and services.
An improved customer experience
To consider neurodiversity is to consider clarity and simplicity in design. It is about removing all barriers that could hamper the user experience, such as confusing menus, convoluted search, and other issues that could make the experience more difficult than it needs to be.
In this context, considering neurodiversity can result in a better user and customer experience for all groups of people – not just the neurodiverse.
This type of thinking can also be effective in an internal capacity. Instead of expecting all employees to fit in with a typical working environment, many organisations are starting to consider how they can adapt the environment to better suit everyone’s needs.
For example, implementing quiet areas and relaxing zones within an open-plan office space (which is likely to be bright, noisy and distracting) will be beneficial to the neurodiverse, while also contributing to an overall better working environment for all employees.
Today, consumers are more discerning than ever – especially when it comes to the social and political standpoint of companies. Earlier this year, one study found that two-thirds of consumers want brands to take a stand on big issues. Similarly, consumers (particularly of a younger generation) want brands to be authentic, inclusive, and understand their audience.
Diversity and inclusion is therefore becoming standard practice within marketing and design, leaving those who lag behind at risk of reputational damage. This is heightened by social media, online communities, and review sites that allow consumers to highlight any brand wrongdoing.
To prevent this, and to enhance reputation, it’s important for organisations to take a clear ethical stance on neurodiversity.
Setting a new standard
On the 23rd September 2018, a a new law came into force for UK public sector bodies, stipulating that websites must comply to accessibility standards. This means making sure a site can be used by all people, including those with deafness, impaired vision, learning disabilities, and so on.
The fact that this is now law shows the extent to which inclusivity within digital marketing and design is being taken seriously. Just like offline accessibility, such as wheelchair access and disabled toilets, we are also catching up to the need for inclusivity and accessibility within the digital world.
While it does not extend to commercial websites, the law for public sector bodies marks a significant step for neurodiversity. And if other organisations follow suit, the entire digital landscape is bound to benefit.
For much more on this topic, subscribers can download the Neurodiversity and Digital Inclusion report in full.