Accessible design benefits everyone. Outwardly, accessible sites and digital products open organisations up to untapped customers. Inwardly, accessible hiring practices open businesses up to untapped talent.

With 15–20% of the global population estimated to be neurodivergent, organisations can benefit from a ‘return on inclusion’ both by widening their customer base and broadening their talent pool.

Achieving equal access involves the removal of barriers and the creation of opportunities. This guide describes how digital professionals, marketers, hiring managers and HR representatives can work to create inclusive experiences for everyone. Good design is inclusive design.

The report covers:

  • Key definitions: Central to the concept of neurodiversity is the idea that cognitive differences are not viewed as deficits. Instead, access to diverse ways of thinking benefits both organisations and humanity as a whole.
  • The business case: Inclusive marketing is more effective, while inclusive hiring practices can give brands a competitive advantage. From greater resilience to better performance, there are key strategic and commercial benefits organisations can reap.
  • Inclusive customer experiences: Digital practitioners can draw on multiple frameworks to help turn theory into practice, from the seven principles of universal design to the Web Accessibility Guidelines. Inclusive design requires accessibility considerations to be baked in from the very start.
  • Inclusive employee experiences: Creating a more diverse workforce begins with recruitment. From the initial job description all the way through to training and development opportunities, there are key steps organisations can take to build and nurture more diverse teams.

1. Introduction

Research estimates that approximately 15–20% of the global population is neurodivergent.[1] This is a significant share of any brand’s potential customer base or potential recruitment pool to exclude from the outset by not considering neuroinclusion. Despite this, neurodivergent consumers, audiences and candidates still face challenges in terms of accessibility and inclusion.

This report will focus on ways marketers, digital professionals, hiring managers and HR can help remove barriers for neurodivergent people and create more inclusive experiences.

1.1 Executive summary

  • Offering inclusive experiences helps everyone. It supports business performance, brand reputation and helps to build a fairer society.
  • Neurodiversity and neurodivergence are centred on the idea that differences are not viewed as deficits. Neurodivergent individuals often bring different thinking, skills and capabilities that can benefit organisations and communities.
  • In recent years, awareness and discussions around neurodivergence have increased. However, there is still a way to go in tackling negative stereotypes and developing a better understanding of the kaleidoscope of experiences that sit under the umbrella term of neurodivergence.
  • Approximately 15–20% of the global population are neurodivergent. Businesses not considering the inclusivity of their customer and employee experiences risk damaging their profitability and performance by limiting their potential customer base and talent pool.
  • Accessibility refers to whether a product (for example, a website) can be used by people of all abilities. This is often a legal requirement. Inclusion is a broader approach that focuses on removing the barriers that prevent equal access and engagement among marginalised groups, including neurodivergent consumers or job candidates.
  • The concept of ‘universal design’ is the idea that any product, service or environment should be designed so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. The seven principles of universal design provide a useful framework for approaching inclusive design and ensuring inclusion and accessibility are considerations from the very start. Many of the steps involved in creating more inclusive experiences for those with access needs or differences result in better experiences for everyone. Good design is inclusive design.
  • Neurodiversity is underrepresented within advertising. As inclusive advertising tends to be more effective, this presents an opportunity. However, it is important that any representation is accurate and informed by the lived experience of the community represented. Following the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ by ensuring any portrayal of neurodivergence is informed by the voices of that group is essential for authenticity and for tackling potentially harmful stereotypes.
  • Having a more diverse team is the best way to support more inclusive experiences. Diversity of thought also benefits organisations in terms of problem-solving, resilience and innovation. Attracting neurodivergent talent will require organisations to rethink their approach to hiring, including the language of job adverts, methods of interview and assessment.
  • Keeping neurodivergent talent and empowering them to do their best work will require organisations to adopt inclusive ways of working and create a safe and supportive environment that is understanding of individuals’ needs. This should be supported with mandatory training for all staff, including specific guidance for line managers on managing neurodiverse teams.

1.2 Methodology

This report brings together insights from a range of expert practitioners in the field alongside marketers and ecommerce professionals who shared their individual experience of navigating neurodivergence in the workplace. The two main stages to the methodology were:

  • Phase 1: Desk research to identify relevant issues, examples and models.
  • Phase 2: A series of in-depth interviews.

Econsultancy would like to thank the following interviewees who contributed to this report:

  • Lauren Brewer, Design Principal, IBM
  • Adri Cowan, Executive Director, Social Media, Marvel Entertainment, Disney
  • Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft
  • LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist, Scope
  • Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director, Tailored the Agency
  • Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director – Digital & Experience, Legal & General
  • Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO, The Dots
  • Dawn Lansley, HR Director, Canon Europe Ltd
  • Em Ledger, Executive Product Manager, BBC
  • Albert Nel, Senior Vice President & General Manager – Asia Pacific and Japan, Contentsquare
  • David Pugh-Jones, Chairperson, Board Trustee & Founding Executive Member, Neurodiversity in Business (NiB)
  • Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer, Sightsavers; and Co-Chair, BIMA Inclusive Design Council

Scope of the report

This report will not be able to cover all forms of inclusion and accessibility. It focuses on neurodiversity and ‘digital inclusion’, where the principles of accessibility are applied to digital experiences. It is therefore aimed at all digital professionals, including designers, product teams and marketers, as well as the HR representatives responsible for hiring for those teams. The report recognises every neurodivergent person is an individual with unique experiences, however it will not be able to cover every condition or requirement. It will instead focus on approaches which will have the broadest benefits. This report will primarily use the terms neurodiversity and neurodivergent.

1.3 About the author

Rose KeenRose Keen is a Senior Analyst at Econsultancy, where she helps deliver industry leading research for the digital marketing industry.

With over 10 years of media and business strategy experience, she has worked across a wide range of industries, from automotive and technology to food and fashion. Her particular interest is in behavioural science and the intersection between consumer behaviour, cultural shifts and technology. She is also dyslexic.

Find her on LinkedIn here.

2. Context and Definitions

The concept of inclusion is based on the belief that a person should not be excluded from any element of public life, from work through to consuming a product, based on their race, gender, disability, ability, neurodivergence or other need. At its heart, inclusion is about the removal of barriers to equal access and opportunities.

Over the past few decades, there has been a rapid increase in the awareness of the value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to an organisation – as well as to society as a whole. It is hard to calculate the full value of having a wider set of customers to sell a product to and the broader benefits in terms of organisational resilience and innovation. However, it is such that brands are projected to spend $24.4bn by 2030 on diversity, equity, and inclusion related services.[2]

Neurodiversity and neurodivergence (defined below) are relatively new terms, having emerged in the 1990s.[3] Neurodiversity is centred on the idea that differences are not viewed as deficits and there is no one correct way of thinking, learning or behaving. Research estimates that approximately 15–20% of the global population is neurodivergent.[4]

Despite this prevalence, the vast majority of DEI programmes overlook neurodivergence, with estimates suggesting that only 1 in 10 organisations specifically include neurodiversity within its DEI programmes.[5]

Key definitions

  • Accessibility: Describes whether a product (for example, a website, mobile site, digital TV interface or application) can be used by people of all abilities. Depending on your region, this is often a legal requirement.
  • Inclusion: Treating people as equals and meeting the needs of everyone in society by removing barriers that prevent equal access and participation in culture, employment, activities, services and events.
  • DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion): An acronym covering three closely linked values within an organisation, often referring to approaches or programmes designed to support different groups of individuals within an organisation, including people of different ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities.
  • Neurodiversity: Refers to the diversity of human brains and cognition. The term is underpinned by the belief that cognitive variation is beneficial at a population level. Central to this is the idea that differences are not viewed as deficits.
  • Neurodivergent/neurodivergence: Having a brain that works in a way that diverges from what society considers ‘normal’ or ‘typical’. This includes but is not limited to people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. Many people now choose the term ‘neurodivergence’ or ‘neurotype’ instead of ‘learning difficulty’.
  • Neuroinclusion: Inclusion applied to the diversity found within human brains and cognition including all types of information processing, learning and communication styles.

Fix the situation, not the person – Understanding the social model of disability

Though not all neurodivergent individuals will identify as having a disability, having an understanding of the ‘medical model’ and the ‘social model’ of disability is critical to the creation of more inclusive experiences.

The medical model of disability views an individual’s difference or condition as the problem, seeing differences as impairments that prevent disabled people from fully participating in society. The social model of disability instead views the problems of access faced by disabled people as a consequence of external factors. It is
not the individual that must be fixed, but society that needs to change to better accommodate all types of individuals. The social model rejects the concept of the individual suffering a ‘disability’. It focuses instead on
the need to remove barriers created by misunderstanding, a lack of consideration, prejudice and stereotyping.

Adopting the social model for disability will help organisations to create and reap the benefits of better and more inclusive experiences.

The social model in business

“It’s about unleashing the full talent and skill potential of every individual employee. To do this you cannot ‘fix’ people – but you can fix the work environment.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

Improving neuroinclusion faces four key challenges. Firstly, neurodivergence is often ‘invisible’. Knowing if an individual is neurodivergent is normally reliant on disclosure. Secondly, even within a single diagnosis there is a kaleidoscope of experience, i.e. what accommodations I may need as a dyslexic to do my best work may be different to a colleague with the same diagnosis (covered in Section 6). Thirdly, there may be some opposition within the organisation based on the mistaken idea that this is about special treatment or will thwart the creativity or ‘fun’ elements of an experience or work environment, when instead it is about offering flexibility. Fourthly, the persistence of negative or inaccurate stereotypes and shame, which leads to a reluctance to disclosure any needs.

On that final point, there has been progress in recent years. Younger generations are much more open about their neurodivergence, reframing these differences as assets or just another element of their identity. This more open and positive discussion of neurodivergence, alongside a wider understanding, is to be welcomed .

This is something that Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, has recognised: “The conversation around accessibility and inclusive design has been growing at a rapid pace over the last five years. There’s a lot more awareness of what neurodiversity is, and that is challenging preconceptions of what it means to be neurodivergent.”

This increased openness and improved understanding is also leading to more individuals, and in particular adults, gaining a neurodivergent diagnosis.[6]

Despite the potential business benefits and that increasing awareness, brands still often fall short of providing inclusive experiences to customers, with many websites and digital experiences designed with no accessibility features.[7] In addition, neurodiverse talent is often overlooked, limiting an organisation’s access to diverse ways of thinking and a less competitive hiring pool.

Given this context, and the clear opportunity, as Roberts describes, “There’s no reason not to be considering inclusivity in 2024. There’s no excuse for it anymore.

3. The Business Case for Inclusion

One of the chief misunderstandings around inclusion is that it is expensive and that, beyond a ‘feel good factor’, it has little business benefit. However, as studies have shown repeatedly, this is incorrect.

Beyond the ethical imperative, inclusion has huge strategic and commercial advantages. Diversity has been shown to help to strengthen organisations, with diverse and inclusive organisations shown to be more profitable,[8] better able to deal with challenges,[9] attract and retain talent,[10],[11] and access a wider customer pool (see Section 3.1).

These benefits can all be captured under the term ‘return on inclusion’, a concept designed to showcase the business value of DEI programmes of all types.

Inclusion improves organisational resilience

“For me, the business objectives are quite obvious. We all agree that nowadays, in the modern world we are operating in – a very uncertain world –  we’ve seen companies start quickly and die quickly. The average length of the private company tends to decrease over time.

“To deal with the challenges of an uncertain world, we need to be an organisation that is able to welcome many different ways of thinking, different ways of solving problems, of communicating. And the best way we can do that is through improving inclusion.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

3.1 Benefits of customer inclusion

The primary benefit of more inclusive customer experiences is that it gives organisations access to a larger number of customers. Looking specifically at neurodivergence, while figures do vary based on region and population, the broadly accepted estimate is that 15–20% of the global population is neurodivergent.[12] This translates to a significant section of any customer base as well a substantial amount of unrealised revenue if an experience excludes them.

Inclusion supports customer acquisition and profitability

“You can’t talk about inclusion without talking about profit. If you’re excluding a large chunk of the customer base, then you’re obviously restricting your profit as well.

“Besides, why would we not want to be representative? Why would we want to actively exclude segments of society either deliberately or accidentally? Not embracing inclusive design risks doing that.”

Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director – Digital & Experience, Legal & General

Lack of inclusion limits your audience

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have pumped into your homepage if you are losing millions of people in your audience because they can’t access your site or app and have therefore written off your brand as inaccessible. In such a competitive landscape, brands only have one shot at acquiring and converting a new user – and it’s even harder to convert one that’s been lost.”

Albert Nel, Senior Vice President & General Manager – Asia Pacific and Japan, Contentsquare

This is before taking into account that accessible features tend to benefit a far broader set of customers than the original target group. As an example, giving users the option to have content read to them would not only benefit dyslexic users but also users whose hands may be full or occupied on another task.

If you’re focusing on people and on being inclusive, usually the experience is better for everyone,” explains Lauren Brewer, Design Principal at IBM.

A great example of a company who understands these benefits is Apple. As they describe it: “The best technology works for everyone. That’s why our products and services are inclusive by design, with built-in accessibility features to help you connect, create and do what you love – in the ways that work best for you.” [13]

This means not only do you cast a wider net for potential customers, but it will also have an effect on the long-term retention of customers,” Brewer adds. This is likely to become only more evident due to the ageing populations within key markets, as Brewer observes “your customers are getting older”.

Most developed economies have an ageing population,[14] which comes with the additional access needs associated with getting older, adding to the cumulative business benefits of creating inclusive and accessible experiences.

Applying the learning: Understanding the curb cut effect  

The curb cut effect is the phenomenon where features designed to enhance accessibility for one group go on to be used and appreciated by a larger proportion of the population.[15] The classic example of this is the small slopes added to pavements at crossings designed to support wheelchair access that went on to benefit parents with prams, children on scooters, people with trolleys and a broad range of road users. Over time, these interventions become universal and ceased to be considered as specific to disability access.

Within digital experiences, the equivalent would be the ability to dictate text messages or to change the brightness on a screen to make text easier to read, which benefits those with specific access needs as well as those who may be using their hands for other tasks or be in a low-light environment

Simplified content has higher engagement for the BBC

“We find that engagement is higher on Bitesize and Newsround content [news content aimed at children] on big news events. We have higher engagement on the pieces that actually simplify and break down those big stories”

Em Ledger, Executive Product Manager, BBC

3.2 Benefits of brand inclusion

Inclusive marketing is better for brands

“We should be always thinking about inclusive marketing, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for the bottom line and it’s good for your clients.”

Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO, The Dots

The main benefit of addressing representation in advertising and marketing is that it improves its effectiveness.[16]

In addition, there are the reputational benefits of being seen as a more inclusive brand. These are twofold. Firstly, it impacts customers’ perception of the brand, which will impact other metrics such as purchase and loyalty. In a 2022 survey from Deloitte, 57% of consumers say they are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities in their actions.[17] Within B2B, how inclusive and diverse a supplier is may be a key client consideration depending on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements of that customer.

Equally, it can support the employer brand. A 2022 study out of Stanford University found that sharing information about diversity made job postings more attractive to candidates.[18] In addition, candidates were even willing to explore jobs with lower salaries when companies were more diverse.[19] Emphasising the rising importance of inclusion to job seekers, both LinkedIn[20] and Glassdoor[21] have recently added new filters that allow job seekers to filter their search to match their values, which includes in terms of inclusion.

We serve our brands best when we consider inclusion

“We know as marketers that there are many, many different audiences consuming what we do on the internet and what we create. And we serve our brand and the world better the more people we can include.”

Adri Cowan, Executive Director, Social Media, Marvel Entertainment, Disney

3.3 Benefits of employee inclusion

When hiring, a more inclusive experience widens the pool of potential candidates. Given the high levels of employment which characterise the labour market, this should allow for roles to be filled quicker and at a lower cost, particularly as unemployment rates across the neurodivergent community are disproportionately high.[22]

Access to an underutilised pool of talent   

“If companies want a business reason to consider the inclusivity of their hiring, that reason is there’s a massive untapped source of employment out there, particularly where we’ve got wars for talent that can be hugely valuable.”

Dawn Lansley, HR Director, Canon Europe Ltd

Hiring from a more diverse pool also means those candidates will likely have distinct skills and abilities, as shown in Figure 1. Access to these capabilities can improve things like problem-solving and creativity within the broader organisation.

As Claire Hazle of Legal & General shares: “There is nothing worse than having a team of people who all think the same and all do things in the same way. That only means you will always get the same result if your inputs are always the same.”

“Companies that actively employ neurodivergent colleagues have been proven to make more money essentially because they have that richness and diversity of thinking as well as the very unique skill sets neurodivergent people bring to an organisation.”

Figure 1: Strengths reported by neurodivergent people

Source: Birkbeck University and Neurodiversity in Business | Neurodiversity at Work 2023[23]

Thought experiment: What if this was about athletes?

Within some segments of society, there may still be some resistance to accepting the need for flexibility and accommodations when it comes to allowing every team member to do their best work. A useful thought experiment to help with understanding is to ask them to think about an athlete. We accept that athletes may need special accommodations, be that a specific diet, special training regime or schedule in order to perform at their best – even within team sports. Why should that be different for professionals in other spheres? The flexibility or accommodations that are needed in order for employees to do their best work or be most productive benefits the team and the organisation as a whole.

Neurodiversity creates a competitive advantage. More diverse teams have been shown to be more productive than their peers. In just one example, a study from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) found that its neurodiverse testing teams were 30% more productive than the others.[1]

A key misunderstanding around neurodiversity is the idea that it may mean a person is less intelligent or less functional than other individuals, but as Adri Cowan, Executive Director of Social Media at Marvel Entertainment, Disney, highlights, this is not true: “In fact, I believe neurodivergent people are often more functional than a lot of other people, simply because we have had to develop these coping measures.”

Within the organisation, taking measures to create more inclusive employee experiences can have a huge impact on that individual’s productivity. ‘Masking’, the changing of behaviour to hide or suppress natural neurodivergent traits, can be significantly draining.[2],[3] Creating a culture where individuals feel safe to not mask will reduce that burden and allow that energy to be redirected towards productive, valuable work.

Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director of Tailored the Agency, shares her own experience of navigating the workplace: “When I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m doing the right thing, or acting the right way, I can just really focus on my work, allowing me to create better work for my clients and the agency.”

For Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director at Ubisoft, organisations need to recognise one of their defining competitive advantages: “What are the main assets of any company? It’s people and those people’s brains. Organisations need to understand how their main assets are performing and do everything they can so that those assets achieve their full potential.”

Inclusion allows you to maximise the return on the investment of employee talent

“When you recruit someone, you are expecting to get 100% of their potential. But if they have to mask, you will not get 100%, you might get 50%. Let’s take an example: I might be sensitive to noise. The manager might say, ‘Yes, but you know, we’re working in open space. You get used to noise, so please have a seat and start working.’

“Well, if you do that with the talented marketer or programmer, that person would be at 50% of their capacity. In terms of pure investment, it is a waste of money. The business reason of inclusion for us is to maximise the return on investment in employee talent.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

Case study: LEGO® walks the holistic inclusion walk

LEGO® is a leader in its approach to inclusion and representation, with the company seeing DEI as a key part of its mission to ‘inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow’. Its commitment to ‘walking the walk, not just talking the talk’ when it comes to DEI can be seen across its brand activities, customer experience and employee experience. For instance:

  • The LEGO® Foundation’s accelerator programme ‘Play for All’ is designed to ensure all children have the right to play, learn and thrive. It celebrates the strengths of neurodivergent children. The $20m fund was targeted at organisations who wish to support autistic children and children with ADHD with play-based learning.[27]
  • The LEGO® Group introduced new diverse characters to its LEGO® Friends range of more realistic figures. The range was reimagined to feature more diversity, with multiple skin tones, cultures, physical and non-visible disabilities and neurodiversity represented. This was motivated by the findings of the 2022 LEGO® Play Well Study which showed that that three in four children (73%) felt that there were not enough toys with characters that represented them.[28]
  • The LEGO® Group’s commitment to inclusion extends to employees. As the company describes it, ‘LEGO® play is for everyone, and so is our workplace’.[29] This commitment is shown in various ways including visible colleague-led communities and the adoption of inclusive workplace practices, which include reflection rooms, accessibility, lactation spaces and more.[30]

Results: In a declining sector, LEGO® continues to grow,[31] in part due to the brand’s strength, focus on purpose and talent base.[32]

4. Accessibility

A non-accessible digital experience not only exposes an organisation to business risks, but it can also present legal risks as well.

Governments around the world have brought in laws mandating accessibility. Which laws apply to any organisation will depend on the region it is located in and where its customers are based. They include:

  • The European Union Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications.[33] The directive obliges websites and apps of public sector bodies to be ‘more accessible’ and follow a technical standard.
  • In the UK, the Equality Act 2021. This requires commercial site owners to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure access to people with disabilities.[34]
  • In the US, the Americans Disability Act (ADA) Title III. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and covers commercial websites.[35]

Not meeting these requirements can expose an organisation to potential lawsuits and fines. It is vital teams are fully familiar and compliant with local laws.

A key resource for ensuring the accessibility of digital experiences is the set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the primary international standards organisation for the internet.[36]

These guidelines are a widely accepted set of recommendations for making digital content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities. They draw on four key principles which state that websites should be:


  • Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into formats to suit people’s needs, such as large print or braille
  • Provide alternatives for time-based media such as video or audio, i.e. a text alternative for a video.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example, in a simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content, including by separating foreground from background.


  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  • Provide ways to help users navigate, find content and determine where they are.


  • Make text content readable and understandable.
  • Make webpages appear and operate in predictable ways.

  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes, i.e. by providing instructions or automatically detecting and highlighting potential mistakes such as an incorrectly formatted phone number.


  • Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies such as screen readers.[37]

There are various tools available to check a site’s compliance with these standards including EqualWeb[38] and AccessiBe.[39] However, any automated testing should be in addition to real user tests with a diverse audience. The importance of testing is covered in Section 5.2.

Many of these guidelines align with the principles of good UX more broadly. For more information on UX, see Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide.

How Consumer Duty regulation is accelerating inclusion within FSI organisations

Different sectors will be subject to different regulation. In the UK, a new piece of regulation called Consumer Duty has come into force for the financial services industry, which sets a higher expectation for the standard of care that firms give customers.[40] Claire Hazle shares how this new regulation has influenced the approach at Legal & General.

“Throughout the entire process of preparing for Consumer Duty, we’ve really embedded that user-centric approach into the way that we design. We have adopted a set of principles and a testing approach that create guardrails to make sure that we are being fully inclusive and mindful of those different consumer needs, particularly around levels of digital dexterity.”

Ensuring accessibility should be considered more than a box-ticking legal exercise. “Digital accessibility begins with a commitment to provide better experiences for all users. This goal is based on the continuous monitoring and improvement of digital ecosystems,” explains Albert Nel, Contentsquare’s Senior Vice President & General Manager for Asia Pacific and Japan.

This is best done at the beginning of the process. A universal piece of advice from the experts interviewed was that retrofitting accessibility was both less effective and often more expensive. Nel adds: “Brands need to ensure accessibility is embedded into their digital experiences from the start, and not bolted on as an afterthought. Building a great website or app first and then reversing to make it accessible afterwards is a sure-fire recipe for a poor experience for your users.”

Ensuring the accessibility of a product, site, service or content should be seen as a hygiene factor for organisations. One, to protect them against legal or brand backlash. Two, to not artificially limit the customer or userbase. In addition, making sites more accessible tends to also improve its SEO.[41]

Though all brands should seek to be compliant with the guidelines above and any relevant regulation, that is only the baseline. To truly realise the benefits of creating fairer, more open experiences, organisations need to embrace the concept of inclusion (as defined in Section 2). Adopting this broader approach and philosophy is key to unlocking all of the business, brand and talent benefits detailed in Section 3.

As Nel puts it: “It is not only about being compliant and avoiding lawsuits and fines, but also about building a virtuous circle that will benefit everyone, including the brand, and ultimately make the world a more inclusive place.”

5. Inclusive Customer Experiences

The rise in the importance of customer experience (CX) for competitive fitness has been one of the defining trends in marketing and ecommerce over the last few years. This shows no sign of abating, with the vast majority of marketers (95%) predicting that CX will play a vital role in an organisation’s success over the next two years according to Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing survey.

CX is a broad term that encompasses everything related to a business that affects a customer’s perception and feelings about it,[42] whether those be positive or negative. As a result, inclusivity and customer experience are intimately linked. Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, puts it succinctly: “If you care about your customers, you should care about inclusivity.

Key to delivering great CX is ‘empathy for the customer and having a deep understanding of their needs’ and ‘a joined-up approach’ between teams (Figure 2). The same is true for creating more inclusive customer experiences.

Figure 2: How important will the following be in meeting customer experience (CX) expectations over the next two years?

Source: Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing survey | Sample: 505

CX is a wide-ranging term, and though inclusivity should be a consideration across all areas, this report will focus on developing an approach to inclusion within UX, design, content and marketing campaigns.

All the steps outlined in this section should build on the accessibility foundations outlined in Section 4.

5.1 Adopting a more inclusive approach

As defined in Section 2, inclusion is a broader term than accessibility. It means treating people as equals and meeting the needs of everyone in society by removing barriers that that prevent equal access and participation in culture, employment, activities, services and events.

This may require a mindset change within teams and individuals, but it is one that will benefit organisations as a whole. As Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director of Digital & Experience at Legal & General, puts it: “Whether deliberately or accidentally, if you are not embracing inclusive design, you are damaging your potential profits.” (For more on making the business case for inclusion see Section 3).

There are three key ways to support the adoption of a more inclusive approach and mindset:

  1. Define an approach
  2. Offer training and resources
  3. Ensure accountability

5.1.1 Defining an approach

One of the key barriers to providing more inclusive experiences is a lack of knowledge. Having a defined approach to inclusion within an organisation is a vital first step. This should form the basis for an organisation’s inclusivity guidelines.

One of the most elegant and useful approaches to the creation of more inclusive experiences are the seven principles of universal design.[43] The concept of ‘universal design’, first coined by architect Ronald Mace, is that any product, service or environment should be design and composed so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size or ability.

The seven principles of universal design were developed in 1997 by a group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers. These principles and associated guidelines provide a powerful framework for the creation of accessible and inclusive physical and digital products, services and customer experiences. They are also the foundation of good design more broadly.

The seven principles of universal design

  • Principle 1: Equitable Use – The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. This means providing the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible, equivalent when not. Avoid segregating or stigmatising any users.

Within digital CX: This can include providing a transcript or subtitles for any audio content.

  • Principle 2: Flexibility in Use – The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. This means providing a choice in methods of use and that the experience is adaptable to the user’s accuracy, precision and pace.

Within digital CX: This can include offering a variety of contact methods for a brand’s customer service or sales team, or an accessibilty menu (shown in Figure 3). This also means avoiding autoplay on content, which can be particularly challenging for neurodiverse users.[44]

  • Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use – Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level. This means eliminating unnecessary complexity and being consistent with user expectations and intuition.

Within digital CX: This may include having a clean website layout with minimal distractions. Webpages should also appear and operate in predictable ways.

  • Principle 4: Perceptible Information – The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. This means the design should provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings. Compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations is also integral.

Within digital CX: This will include ensuring the site and content is compatiable with screen readers as well as following the WCAG 2.0 principles laid out in Section 4.

  • Principle 5: Tolerance for Error The design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Within digital CX: Help users avoid and correct mistakes, i.e. by providing instructions, or automatically detecting and flagging potential mistakes such as an incorrectly formatted phone number. In terms of hazards, that is things like not designing content in a way known to provoke seizures.

  • Principle 6: Low Physical Effort – The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. Minimise repetitive actions.

Within digital CX: This includes reducing the number of clicks required or steps in a process. It can also mean minimising large blocks of text which can be taxing to read, presenting a barrier for some forms of neurodiversity and generally offering a poor user experience.

  • Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility.

Within digital CX: This means considering things like the size of buttons and the layout of forms.

Adapted from The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD)[45]

5.1.2  Training and resources

Training is one of the key levers in creating better, more inclusive experiences. This training should be designed to both boost understanding but also offer practical guidance. Requiring inclusivity training is also a clear way for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity.

At the BBC, the importance the organisation places on accessibility and inclusion is reflected in its approach to training. “We have mandatory training for everyone within the digital space from product people to designers to then engineers as well,” explains Em Ledger, Executive Product Manager at the BBC. Each course is “very focused on their specific skill set and how accessibility and inclusion practices will impact them.”

Training is particularly important when it comes to understanding neurodivergence due to its complex and varied nature. There is also a significant amount of unreliable or misleading content available online and on social platforms about neurodiversity. For instance, according to a study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, approximately half of the most popular TikTok videos about ADHD are ‘misleading’, with some of those videos making incorrect claims about ADHD, including that people with ADHD ‘lack object permanence’.[46]

Good training and fact-based resources are a useful way to mitigate the risks of team members adopting practices based on that ‘wild west’ of content. This should be partnered with a clear and up-to-date set of inclusivity guidelines which outline requirements.

At Sightsavers, the inclusivity and accessibility of its content and site is a priority. To support this, they have a dedicated accessibility team who are available to anyone in the business, allowing any employee to have experts check if their PowerPoint, email, document or microsite is accessible.

Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer, describes how this works at Sightsavers: “Whatever is submitted to that team will go through extensive accessibility test-checking. They will then offer advice to whoever submitted the document on how it can be improved.”

Having this resource internally allows us to produce documents and experiences that are as accessible as possible at pace, without the need for outsourcing. It has been really encouraging for the design team to have that resource on hand and have that specialist expertise available.”

Resources and training designed to support more inclusive employee experiences are discussed in Section 6.

5.1.3 Accountability and responsibility

Even in organisations such as Sightsavers where there is a dedicated team available to offer guidance, it is still important that every team member understands their role and responsibility in delivering more inclusive experiences. This should be detailed within any inclusivity guidelines or policy.

It is also important for inclusion not to be seen as a siloed responsibility of one team or department. As Albert Nel, Senior Vice President & General Manager for Asia Pacific and Japan at Contentsquare, describes: “Creating experiences that are inclusive shouldn’t be the responsibility of the digital or development team alone. Everyone in the product design, marketing and customer-facing teams has a part to play.”

Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, but it is useful to have a dedicated point person or team able to answer questions and ensure that guidance is in line with current best practice and is followed. “You want to avoid that thing where if everyone is responsible for something, then no one is responsible,” explains LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist at Scope.

Em Ledger, Executive Product Manager, describes how this works within her part of the BBC: “We undertake checks at the point of design. So, when a new design comes in, we can just check, ‘Is this accessible?’ We have an internal team that will review all new designs, so they can also consult and feed into even early ideas.”

It is important to build in the correct inclusivity checks across the product lifecycle. This can also prevent the need for the costly retrofitting of accessible features.

Programmes that encourage inclusive approaches to products can have the additional benefit of positioning a brand as inclusive to job candidates, as well as improving the sense of safety, and potentially tenure, of existing neurodivergent employees. Having a more diverse team will also support an organisation’s ability to deliver those more inclusive customer experiences through the sharing of perspectives and lived experiences. Approaches to supporting a more inclusive hiring and employee experience are covered in more depth in Section 6.

5.2 More inclusive UX

User experience (UX) is a narrower term than CX, primarily focused on digital spaces and applications, including interfaces, interactions and software design.

Of all areas of business, UX has the strongest association with accessibility and inclusion, in part because of legal requirements (see Section 4) but also because of its focus on user needs and user testing. Within the discipline of UX, a design or product element that is not usable by a customer is a failure – one that, with appropriate user testing, should be visible pre-launch.

Much of the current approach to good UX design is focused on ‘design thinking’. This is defined and explained below. It can easily be adapted to support more inclusive experiences.

For Lauren Brewer, Design Principal at IBM, creating more inclusive customer experiences starts with design thinking “because when you start with personas and empathy maps, you can put different people with different abilities on those maps”.

Applying the learning: Adopting design thinking for more inclusive experiences

One of the fundamentals of design thinking is the understanding that ‘design’ is not a veneer that is added to the product at the end of the process; it is an integral part of how products and services work. By understanding users and solving their problems in a direct, deliberate way, products can be built that people love to use. To apply modern design thinking:

  • Empathise: Talk to users or use customer research to understand their needs, problems and fears. Get inside their heads and internalise their problems and their desired outcomes. It is important to speak to a diverse set of users in order to understand how needs may differ and to avoid stereotypes. A useful technique for supporting this process is to create empathy maps.[47] These are simple, highly visual tools used to better understand the functional and emotional needs of a user.
  • Define: Determine which part of the problem needs solving and what the outcomes of that solution might look like. This is called a problem statement. Here the team should also create personas to help keep the process focused on users. (For an in-depth guide to personas, see Econsultancy’s Segmentations and Personas Best Practice Guide.)
  • Ideate: Generate ideas which can solve the user’s problems now that there is an understanding of their needs. Triage and refine them based on feasibility, resources and business needs.
  • Prototype: Build ‘lo-fi’ prototypes of the products and features identified and refined in the ideation phase. They can be basic, but enough of the product needs to be built so that user testers can get enough of an experience to give useful feedback.
  • Test: Get these prototypes in front of users: watch them, listen to them and take as many notes as possible. Then iterate, re-prototype and retest until there is a winning product. Again, ensure that these testing groups are diverse and representative. (Testing is covered in more depth in Section 5.2.2).

Adapted from Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide.

Another discipline within modern UX, which has its role to play in inclusivity and is closely related to design thinking, is user-centred design (UCD). UCD is based on the same ‘user-first’ principles as design thinking, but instead of focusing on product solutions to user problems, UCD is concerned with the interface of the product itself.

Whereas design thinking aims to understand the user’s broader needs, UCD aims to understand the user’s interactions with the product. The same principles of inclusion, diversity of personas, research and testing samples apply within UCD.

The importance of customer insight

A significant part of creating more inclusive and effective customer experiences and products is the gathering of customer insight to feed into personas and problem statements. This can be done via market research through the use of surveys, focus groups or interviews.

In addition, Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, suggests that another useful source of insight, particularly when it comes to inclusivity, is customer service interactions. “Don’t underestimate the power of helping one person, it will have knock on effects,” he explains.

For approaches and best practice for gathering customer insight, see Econsultancy’s guide to The Fundamentals of Market Research and Insights.

Case study: Monzo’s study into ADHD and money management

In 2022, Monzo commissioned a YouGov survey of people across the UK living with ADHD to better understand their experiences and spending patterns, with the aim of helping them to manage their money more effectively.

The survey found that the majority of people (60%) reported that their issues with money management related to their cognitive difference, costing them on average an estimated £1,600 per year.

One of the key drivers behind this is that those with ADHD are four times more likely to impulse spend. In addition, those with ADHD are more likely to miss bill payments, fall into debt and have difficulty sticking
to a budget.

To help customers with ADHD manage their money, Monzo offers the following product features:

  • Instant notifications and balance updates to help prevent impulse spending and avoid debt by offering easily accessible real-time information about the user’s balance and spending.
  • Upcoming payment reminders so the user does not have to rely on their memory for managing outgoing costs and bills, allowing them to make sure they have the money they need ahead of time and avoid charges.
  • Monzo Pots, which allow for automatic saving and budgeting.

The majority of survey respondents (77%) said they found banking app notifications about upcoming bills helpful or very helpful. In addition, 76% of respondents with ADHD said that having a place to set aside money automatically, like a Monzo Pot, is helpful or very helpful.


Whether looking to develop new products or improve the interface of an existing product, it is vital that inclusion and accessibility be considered at every stage.

You need to apply it across the UX process,” explains Lauren Brewer, Design Principal at IBM. “Ask, ‘How are we infusing inclusion into wireframes? How are we doing high-fidelity comps (mock-ups) and low-fidelity comps in the middle? How are we ensuring accessibility is considered by a UX designer, someone who’s writing content and a visual designer before it even gets to development?Then when we get to annotations, we ensure that we’re doing specific accessibility annotations.

Accessibility annotations are notes on a wireframe that specifically address information related to accessibility, such as how interactive items should be announced by screen readers. These are particularly important in ensuring that those features are built into the product when the project is handed over to the development team.

A key watch-out flagged by the experts interviewed for this report is not to treat inclusion or accessibility as an afterthought, but instead to build it in from the start.

The reality is you are going to need to tackle inclusion at some point,” highlights Brewer, “so you might as well plan for it upfront and do it the right way the first time. This will save you cost, time and scope down the line.”

5.2.1 Offer flexibility

Due to the varied nature of neurodiversity in terms of needs and preferences, a key intervention to make experiences more inclusive is to offer flexibility by providing options. Some of these may be simple, like allowing subtitles to be switched on in video content, or offering different contact options (chatbots, for instance, may create a significant barrier for a dyslexic person or for those using a screen reader).

Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director of Digital & Experience at Legal & General, describes how often the most effective approach is to “have the foundations in place in terms of inclusive design and then allow for customers to customise their experiences. This puts customers in control of how they want to interact with you and your services.”

The UK website for Haleon’s pain relief brand Panadol offers that flexibility via an accessibility menu. This allows the user to tailor the experience of the site to their needs. For example, selecting the dyslexia-friendly option changes the text to a different font, while the ADHD option desaturates the colour palette[49] and introduces a focus bar.

Figure 3: Panadol’s accessibility menu is a good example of offering a flexible experience

Source: Panadol[50]

5.2.2 The importance of testing with diverse users

User testing is a vital part of UX and design thinking as a whole. Testing allows for improvements and iteration, and results in a better product at launch.

Testing is also essential for ensuring the accessibility and inclusivity of a product or experience. Here it is important to test with a representative sample, which includes neurodivergent individuals and individuals with specific access requirements and needs.

Though there are automated tools available for checking the accessibility of sites and content, the experts interviewed for this report suggested these must be supplemented with real human tests of diverse users.

There are things that the automatic testing won’t pick up,” explains LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist at Scope. “For example, the automatic testing will pick up that you have put alt text in your image, but it’s not going to pick up on the quality of that alt text. It won’t tell you if it is actually good.”

“You need to test with a variety of people with different conditions and different life experiences, thinking about intersectionality as well.”

Ensure there is budget put aside for these tests. Testers should be recruited externally. Simply relying on staff, even when the team is diverse, is unlikely to give a clear picture of how the product will be experienced in the wild.

Testing should also not end at launch. As Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director of Digital & Experience at Legal & General, points out: “The world doesn’t stay the same, which is why we have the need for continuous testing. Just because something you’ve developed one day meets the needs of a consumer, it doesn’t mean that it’s still going to meet their needs in the future.”

Case study: The risks of not testing with a diverse set of users

Though not related to neurodiversity, the case study of the Marriott’s ‘racist’ soap dispenser serves as a powerful example of the dangers of not testing a product with a diverse set of users. In 2017, a video of an African-American guest of the Atlanta Marriott showing that the soap dispenser did not detect black skin went viral,[51] garnering significant and international media coverage.[52]

The issue with the dispenser was that it relied on the reflection of an infrared beam back onto a sensor to release the soap. As darker skin tones reflect less light, black users were not able to trigger the release of the soap.[53] Those damaging headlines could have been avoided if the automatic soap dispenser had been tested with a diverse cohort.

All of the steps and actions outlined here align with the principles of good UX more broadly. For more guidance on UX, see Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide.

5.3 Content and campaigns

There are two key points to remember when working to increase the inclusivity of a brand’s content and campaigns. These are:

  • What is being put out into the world should be accessible and inclusive.
  • That representation (and portrayal) matters.

Empathy is superpower

“We really need to be aware of all the different types of people there are and how they absorb the things that we are trying to communicate. We have to be empathetic. That’s a huge superpower when it comes to being a good marketer. It is about understanding who you’re talking to and how to reach them.”

Adri Cowan, Executive Director, Social Media, Marvel Entertainment, Disney

5.3.1 Ensuring messages and content are accessible

For a marketing message to be effective, it has to be accessible to potential customers. Here, for any digital content, it is important to follow the WCAG 2.0 principles outlined in Section 4. Many of these interventions can be remarkably simple, such as turning on captioning for video content or providing transcripts. In addition, Contentsquare offers some easy-to-follow steps to make content more accessible.

Applying the learning: Simple steps for more accessible content

  • Use a legible font and type size: Making your website accessible to those with cognitive impairments is all about simplicity – and this starts with the font. It is best to use a sans serif typeface such as Arial, Century Gothic and Tahoma. These are plain, evenly spaced and do not have any ‘hooks’ on letters that can cause distraction. Choose a font size of 14pt or larger, too.
  • Emphasise text: To add emphasis to your text, you should avoid using capitals or italics as this can make letters harder to read. Instead, use bold font or include boxes or borders around text to add weight if needed.
  • Use images: Where text may sometimes be difficult to understand, images are great for visually explaining things – especially for those with dyslexia or ADHD. But remember to add alt text in case the person is using a screen reader.


Good content, whether for a neurodivergent or neurotypical audience, is content that is easy to read and understand.

Best practice for English language content is that this should be written for the reading age of nine. The rationale behind this relates to how individuals read and process information.

Children rapidly learn to read the words they use most. Once they have that knowledge, they no longer have to actively ‘figure out’ what that word is and instead begin to recognise it by shape. Children are usually able to read like this by age nine, allowing them to read and comprehend content more quickly.[55] Writing to this level similarly benefits adult readers in terms of the time and effort taken to read and understand that content.

It may be tempting to ignore this guidance, particularly within B2B or for marketing content related to a technical field. However, research shows that even in highly technical fields like law, readers prefer plain language because it allows them to understand the information better and more quickly.[56],[57] Even those with expertise in a particular field prefer that things are clear and simple to understand. Delivering on that will improve your customers’ experiences and have a positive impact on engagement and understanding, as well as improving that content’s accessibility.

For more advice on delivering effective and engaging content, see Econsultancy’s Content Marketing Best Practice Guide.

5.3.2 Representation (and portrayal) matters

While marketing does reflect the current cultural norms and trends, it can also be a powerful agent of cultural and societal change. In fact, one of the foundational ideas behind marketing is that it has the ability to change people’s minds and influence behaviour. This means that marketing has a particularly important role to play in making the world a fairer, more inclusive place.

Over the past decades, there has been positive progress in the representation of different identities across gender, race, LGBTQ+ and socioeconomic backgrounds in advertising (though there is still room for improvement).[58]

However, representation of disability and neurodiversity has consistently lagged behind. In 2023,  Channel 4’s audit of 1,000 TV ads to assess how well represented minority groups were in TV advertising found that disabled people, and those who are neurodivergent, are currently drastically underrepresented, with a neurodivergent character appearing in just one of the 1,000 ads audited.[59]

The role of marketing in supporting and celebrating neurodivergence

“As creatives, we have a responsibility to use our voices, mindset, experiences and skills to amplify the voices of the community and to break down societal barriers – and that starts with opening our doors to the people we’re trying to reach…

“We need to put out more campaigns that genuinely represent neurodiverse individuals. We need to work together on recognising those in our own ranks who struggle with the unaddressed norms. Let’s move beyond tokenism too – no more of the Rain Man trope please. Let’s reposition normality as more than just a single way of doing things, by embracing narratives that celebrate the strength and resilience of the neurodiverse community in light of how we see things and what we contribute. By opening our doors, fixing our culture, not being shy to show the spectrum of humanity, and staying open to new ways of doing things, we not only amplify our voices, but also inspire others to question preconceived notions, and accept neurodivergence as a vital aspect of what makes us us.”

Kim Lawrie, Head of Creative and Emerging Tech, House 337 | D&AD[60]

Though there is clearly room for a greater degree of representation of disabled and neurodivergent people within marketing, it also matters how they are portrayed. The accurate portrayal of people’s lived experience is key. Inappropriate or ill-informed portrayal can reinforce damaging stereotypes and may keep exclusion normalised, despite increased visibility.

A powerful principle to ensure accurate and authentic representation and portrayal is ‘nothing about us, without us’. The phrase originated within the 1990’s disability rights movement.[61] It is the idea that no policy should be created without input from the group it effects. The same can and should apply within marketing. Accurate and inclusive portrayal is only possible if carried out in collaboration with those being represented. This can be through partnerships and research, as seen in the Vanish case study below.

Case study: Vanish partners with Ambitious about Autism on Me, My Autism & I campaign

Clothing care brand Vanish’s Me, My Autism & I film follows Ash, a 15-year-old autistic girl, across a day in her life.[62] Cast alongside her real family and best friends, the film explores Ash’s relationship with her favourite hoodie. The film, designed to be an acurate portrayal of being autistic, reflects the fact the condition can be challenging but also empowering. While showing that autistic people do experience shutdowns, it also showcases Ash’s warmth, talent, friendships and humour.

Figure 4: Vanish worked with the charity Ambitious about Autism to ensure the authenticity of Ash’s portrayal

Source: Vanish[63]

The campaign was informed by research that showed that 92% of autistic people are affected by sensory sensitivity, and that 73% use clothes to help regulate their senses. It also highlighted disparities in autism diagnoses, with autistic girls three times less likely to receive a diagnosis than boys.

To ensure an authentic portrayal, Vanish partnered with the charity Ambitious about Autism, who received a proportion of Vanish’s sales during the period around the campaign.[64]

Testing with Channel 4’s youth panel showed that this campaign resulted in a positive impact on Vanish as a brand, with it being praised for its commitment to shining a light on such an underrepresented group. It was also shown to be successful in shifting perceptions, raising awareness and boosting understanding of autism, particularly among women and girls.[65]

Alongside having been awarded £1m worth of commercial advertising by Channel 4, having won its Diversity in Advertising Award, this campaign won a Gold Lion in Creative Strategy and a Silver Lion in Film Craft at Cannes.

Vanish[66] | Ambitious about Autism[67] | Channel 4[68]

Alongside charities, campaigning groups or individual creators, there are specialist agencies and organisations, such as Purple Goat[69] and Creative Equals,[70] available to help brands and their marketing become more inclusive.

Another way to adhere to the ‘nothing about us, without us’ principle is to work with talent from within that community. Unilever is a good example of a company actively looking to improve the diversity of their marketing both in front of and behind the camera. As part of its broader Act 2 Unstereotype programme, which commits all Unilever brands to inclusive thinking across the marketing process,[71] any Unilever brand’s advertising production that costs over €100k will now have to ensure that at least one member of the disabled community is involved in the production of a campaign.[72]

This increased engagement and diversity supports the performance of campaigns. According to information published by Unilever, ‘unstereotypical, progressive advertising’ of the type this programme will support delivers 92% better brand power, 94% better brand difference and 67% better brand persuasion.[73]

Another route to working with neurodiverse talent is through a brand’s influencer strategy. “Consider working with different profiles, like working with autistic and neurodivergent influencers” suggests Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director of Tailored the Agency. Working with influencers and allowing them to tell the story of their relationship with the product in their own way to their community is a good way to ensure the authenticity of that messaging.

For more on creating a successful influencer strategy, see Econsultancy’s Influencer Marketing Best Practice Guide. For support in identifying relevant, neurodivergent creators, see Econsultancy’s sister brand Influencer intelligence.[74]

5.4 A checklist for creating a more inclusive customer experience

  • Ensure the organisation is meeting its legal obligations around accessibility and disability, and making reasonable adjustments. Make sure any content or digital experiences are in line with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
  • Consider inclusion from the very beginning. It is easier and cheaper to build in inclusivity from the start than introducing it retrospectively. This should apply across the development of products, experiences, campaigns or content.
  • Adopt a defined approach to creating inclusive experiences that is embedded within working practices and processes throughout an organisation, and is supported through training and access to expertise. Organisations should put checks in place to ensure that best practice is being followed and is up to date. It should be clear to all members of an organisation that inclusion is everyone’s responsibility and how that applies specifically to their role.
  • Consider adopting the seven principles of universal design as the basis for any approach. This is a useful holistic framework that will not only support the development of more inclusive experiences, but better design more broadly.
  • Gather insight. Research is key for understanding users’ needs and creating better customer experiences. This is equally true for creating more inclusive experiences. Ensure all product, design and marketing projects and launches are informed by an in-depth research-based understanding of the customer.
  • Test all new products and experiences with a diverse and representative set of users. User testing is key for product iteration and the creation of better products. Testing with a diverse set of users will give organisations a more robust understanding of how the product will behave in the wild and identify any missed opportunities. It is also a brand’s best defence against the reputational damage of creating an exclusionary experience.
  • Follow the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ for any community or identity whose story is being told – whether that is through working with campaigning groups or charities and ideally by employing diverse talent. Diverse and inclusive advertising and marketing tend to be more effective. However, authenticity of that portrayal is essential.
  • Do not aim for perfection, aim for better. The first step towards becoming more inclusive is often the hardest. Start by breaking down the objective of improving practices and experiences into smaller steps. Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, recommends focusing first on specific user stories, insights or feedback and prioritising what matters most to the organisation. “Being willing to learn and improve is a healthier, more sustainable approach,” explains Roberts.

6. Inclusive Employee Experiences

A more inclusive approach to recruitment and employee experiences comes with a raft of advantages, from widening the candidate pool to allowing talented hires to do their best work. “To face an uncertain world, we need a varied and diverse set of brains around the table,” explains Pierre Escaich, Ubisoft’s Neurodiversity Talent Program Director.

Depending on the region, an organisation may have legal requirements as to what adjustments or support are available to employees.

In the UK, for example, the 2010 Equality Act requires that employers and service providers make reasonable adjustments and provide support for those who meet the government’s definition of disabled, which includes some neurodivergent conditions. This may include flexible working hours or access to specialised equipment.[75]

In the US, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects qualified individuals with a disability from discrimination in employment. This law also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability, unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship.[76]

In China, the 2007 Regulation of the PRC on the Employment of Persons with Disabilities requires employers to provide disabled employees with appropriate working conditions and make appropriate modifications to the working place, equipment and living facilities. It also sets a quota that employers should hire disabled employees at a proportion of no less than 1.5% of the total employees.[77] However, lack of a definition of disability and the absence of effective enforcement mechanisms has reduced the efficacy of this act.[78]

Complying with the local laws in the region is essential, however it should not be the end of the process. Barriers within hiring and the employee experience are likely down to a lack of knowledge and consideration around inclusion, as well as the skills of managers.

Organisations should consider creating a neurodiversity policy or make neurodiversity a distinct part of the current inclusion policy. However, this must be backed up by action.

To become more inclusive, organisations should:

  • Review hiring practices to remove any potential barriers for marginalised candidates.
  • Extend that consideration into the employee experience and ways of working.
  • Offer training and resources to raise awareness and understanding.
  • Seek to create an environment of psychological safety.

As part of this, it is important to offer neurodivergent individuals the opportunity to help shape organisational policy and future neuroinclusion-focused initiatives. The principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ outlined in Section 5.3 applies equally here.

Championing and improving neuroinclusion at Ubisoft

“Our programme at Ubisoft focuses on three things: First, on training so that our leaders, managers, HR personnel and recruiters, but also every employee, understands the principle of neuroinclusion, so that we first take better care of our existing neurodiverse colleagues.

“Second, on inclusion in practice, by developing practical tools to facilitate neuroinclusion. Third, on improving our network to ultimately be able to recruit beyond our usual pool.

“Each step focuses on changing and adapting the work environment so that every individual can reach their full potential.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

Considering neurodivergence is particularly important within marketing and the digital sphere

“More and more, as I meet people in this field, I realise how common it is that people with neurodivergence, including myself, have been drawn to careers like this.”

Adri Cowan, Executive Director, Social Media, Marvel Entertainment, Disney

6.1 A more inclusive hiring process

Creating a more diverse workforce starts with recruitment. There are two key areas of focus for making this process more inclusive: job descriptions and the interview/assessment process.

6.1.1 Job descriptions

A job advert and the description may well be a candidate’s first introduction to the organisation. Inclusive practices should start here.

Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director of Digital & Experience, describes how this is a focus for Legal & General: “We are very careful in how we word our job descriptions. It is easy to fall into the trap of having job descriptions that use quite traditionally masculine and neurotypical language.”

A common example that LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist at Scope, flags is the use of the phrase ‘excellent interpersonal skills’ and how it can be a barrier. “When I see that sentence, it gives me pause. Because I’m autistic, I have differences in my interpersonal skills. That’s the kind of phrase that can prevent someone from applying.

Applying the learning: Creating more inclusive job postings

Not considering inclusivitiy when putting together a job advert or writing a description will artifically limit the potential pool of applicants and cut organisations off from the strategic advantages of a diverse workforce. The following seven steps can help recruiters create more inclusive job descriptions, including for neurodiverse candidates:

  1. Pay attention: Often less inclusive job descriptions are the result of accident (or lack of consideration) rather than design. When creating a job advert, pay active attention to what it might be inadvertently signalling to different groups.
  2. Watch your language: It is not only what is said within a job description that matters, but also how it is said. Certain words may deter different demographics. Run job descriptions through a free writing tool such as to remove any non-inclusive language.
  3. List key requirements only: Cutting back the list of qualifications and experience required can have a significant impact on its inclusivity. Focus on the key skills and qualities that really underpin success in the role.
  4. Share the salary range: Sharing this figure will not only attract a greater number of applicants but also clearly demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to pay transparency.
  5. Specify the working location and flexibility: Flexible working is not only highly valued by marketers,[79]it has major benefits in supporting a more diverse and inclusive work environment.[80]
  6. State what to expect from the process: Neurodivergent candidates will often benefit from knowing what the hiring process will entail.
  7. Check for other signals: Consider what other signals the organisation may be giving that may help or hinder applications from certain groups. For instance, the representation in photography used on staff or recruitment pages may have an impact on how welcome an individual may feel. Also, make it easy for candidates to see the organisation’s commitment to inclusion through dedicated content that is backed up by real actions.

Econsultancy’s Quick Guide to Hiring for In-Demand Skills

Consider where roles are promoted

“This year we’re launching a connection with a platform that will advertise our vacancies on a number of different diversity-focused job boards, allowing us to reach a broader range of applicants.”

Dawn Lansley, HR Director, Canon Europe Ltd

A clear way to signal an organisation’s commitment to inclusion is to include a statement on the ‘about us’ or recruitment section of a brand’s site.

Universal Music UK’s Creative Difference Handbook recommends using the following sample wording: “We also recognise the importance of diversity of thought within our teams and are fully committed to embracing and maximising the talents of autistic people and those with dyslexia, ADHD and other forms of neurocognitive variation. We will always seek to make appropriate adjustments to recruitment, workplaces and work processes to be fully inclusive to people with different needs and working styles. If you need us to make any reasonable adjustments for you from application onwards, please contact us”.[81]

Organisations may also consider joining a scheme such as the UK’s Disability Confident employer scheme, which among other things commits organisations to offering an interview to disabled candidates that meet the core requirements of a role.[82]

Though many neurodivergent individuals may not consider themselves disabled, the commitments within this scheme would apply to their experience of the hiring process as well. Beyond the direct benefits to neurodiverse candidates, a public commitment to this kind of scheme showcases the organisation’s commitment to inclusion.

Consider adopting competency-based hiring

Alongside language choices, actively consider the content of the job description in terms of educational or experience requirements. Carefully consider what skills are actually required from candidates and align the requirements and assessments accordingly.

One way to support more inclusive recruitment practices and their effectiveness is to adopt competency or skills-based hiring. Competency-based hiring focuses on what the candidate is able to do as opposed to their career background, specific qualifications or length of experience.

Competency-based hiring represents a win-win for both organisations and candidates. For candidates, it reduces potential barriers to those from a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds, while for organisations, competency-based assessments can be a much stronger indicator of a candidate’s potential than whether they have completed an unrelated degree. This approach can be particularly powerful for neurodivergent candidates who are autodidacts or may have been excluded from traditional educational routes.

Consultancy firm EY, which has had significant success in recruiting neurodiverse talent, has shifted from a behaviour-based interview process to a performance-orientated one. In the UK, EY has put in place strength-based testing for those who identify as neurodivergent. This takes the form of a multiday work simulation, allowing candidates to showcase their talents and abilities more widely, rather than responding to specific competency-based questions.[83]

Not all roles require a university degree

“Looking at what a candidate has done and is capable of, not just where they’ve come from is really important. That is best practice across the board, not just for neurodiversity.”

Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO, The Dots

6.1.2 Interviews

There are five key steps to making the interview process more inclusive:

  1. Offer clarity on the process and what the candidate can expect, including any assessments. (See the Bloom & Wild case study for an example of this.)
  2. Ensure you are testing what is actually required for the role. For example, mental arithmetic tests are generally a poor indicator of a person’s ability to perform data analysis and may just be triggering for those with dyscalculia. Similarly, presentations should only be a requirement in interviews where the role will require that skill set. Also, be careful about the use of psychometric tests which can unfairly disadvantage neurodivergent candidates.
  3. Actively ask about access requirements and accommodations ahead of an interview and ensure that neurodivergence is covered. Accommodations may include having the questions in advance, having a preparatory phone call or requesting that the interview takes place in a quiet space.
  4. Take steps to avoid bias. Where possible, form a diverse hiring panel to avoid unconscious bias impacting selection. Ensure everyone involved in the hiring process from HR through to line managers has undergone training to build understanding and disperse any misunderstanding about neurodivergence.
  5. Look to improve. Capture feedback on the interview process from candidates and look for new ways to improve.

Case study: Recruitment process transparency at Bloom & Wild

In order to support a better and more inclusive candidate experience, online florist Bloom & Wild will commonly include details of what candidates can expect from the hiring process, as is clear from this excerpt from a job posting:

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure your interview experience with us is a good one. It’s a 2-way process, and we’re keen to answer all of the questions you may have, so that you can be sure (and excited!) that we’ll be the right place for you.

  1. Apply below (it takes 2 minutes!)
  2. Chat with Billy, our Senior Talent Manager for tech – to discuss our role and learn a bit more about your skills and background and how we might match your career & development goals.
  3. Interview with Kev, our Director of Engineering to get into more of the detail.
  4. Show us how you work through a technical challenge, which can be a live paired coding/whiteboard session.
  5. Final chat with Steve, from our Tech leadership team.”[84]

As well as outlining the process and assessments that will be expected, Bloom & Wild also allow candidates to ask questions about the process and share feedback anonymously.

6.2 Awareness raising and training

Removing the barriers to team diversity and a working environment which enables everyone to do their best work requires managers and employees to have an awareness and understanding of neurodiversity. A key tool in building that is through training.

Organisations should ensure all employees receive neurodiversity awareness and inclusion training. This will help team leaders and members better understand their colleagues’ needs. It may also help neurodivergent team members better understand their own requirements and feel better able to ask for them (see Section 6.3 for more on accommodations).

Exactly what format that training takes also matters. Research into the effectiveness of diversity training suggests that the sharing of lived experiences and in-house training is good at changing attitudes. External professionals are more likely to lead to changes in behaviour.[85]

Organisations should take a blended approach and offer lived experience content to bring depth and change attitudes – something that is particularly important for neurodiversity, where stigma and stereotypes persist – alongside formal training, including up-to-date knowledge and practical guidance.[86]

Taking a blended approach to building awareness and understanding at Canon

“At Canon, we started our awareness raising with a month focused on neurodiversity. As part of that we had lunch and learn sessions. The first one was with an external speaker who herself is autistic, and runs a training company focused on educating others and raising awareness in this area. She was joined in the session by one of our own DEI strategy team members, who is autistic. We also ran similar colleague-hosted sessions focused on dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD.

“These sessions were designed to be as inclusive as possible for neurodivergent team members. They were held virtually to enable as many people as possible to attend, and also this meant anyone could listen to the recording afterwards.”

Dawn Lansley, HR Director, Canon Europe Ltd

Though it is essential that this training include neurodivergent people’s voices, there is a key watchout here: while featuring employee stories can be powerful and it is important to listen to internal voices, it is equally important that the responsibility for improving the inclusion of an organisation does not become an undue burden on the marginalised group.

It happens so often that the job of educating colleagues falls to the one representative of that group in the meeting, whether that is about the Black experience or neurodiversity or other marginalised groups,” explains Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director of Tailored the Agency. She adds that it is important to ensure that participation is voluntary. “Ask them if they want to help you with that and remember it is not their job. It is a lot of weight and work.”

Applying the learning: Offer management-specific training

An organisation’s ability to offer more inclusive experiences to its employees and benefit from their best work will be determined by managers. Neurodiversity Talent Program Director Pierre Escaich describes how at Ubisoft they offer training specifically for managers which provides practical guidance on good management practices, couched within what is known about how the brain works and how individuals benefit from these approaches.

“The training reintroduces some modern management practice but under the light of neuroscience, explaining the impact that some good management practices, like proper conflict management techniques, active listening and positive reinforcement can have on neurodivergent employees. The impact of those methodologies can be spectacular,” explains Escaich.

Alongside formal training, it is important that inclusion guidance is featured in employee handbooks or on the company intranet.

Organisations should consider working with external experts when developing these and their broader inclusion strategies. Specialist agencies, charities and campaigning groups such as Creative Equals and Neurodiversity in Business can provide a valuable external perspective and allow a brand to benefit from the experience and research of others.

6.3 Inclusive ways of working

Neuroinclusion may begin with the hiring process but that should not be where it ends. These approaches should extend into the day-to-day experience of the role and the broader employee experience. As Dawn Lansley, HR Director at Canon Europe Ltd, describes: “It’s about creating an environment where everybody can be productive.”

Offering flexibility is the number one way to support neurodiverse individuals.[87] Approaches that treat neurodiverse individuals as just that, individuals, will have the greatest positive impact.

This allows the individual to figure out what works best for them, what allows them to be most productive,” explains Adri Cowan, Executive Director of Social Media at Marvel Entertainment, Disney. “We all have our best ways of working.”

This flexibility may be across things like the structure of the workday, the working environment or office location, communication preferences or technical or equipment requirements. Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director of Tailored the Agency, adds: “Sometimes the things that neurodivergent people need as accommodations are just not that big of a deal. Like, I need to have a specific seat, or I need to work somewhere where the lights are low, or I need to wear headphones while I’m working.”

Figure 5: Self-reported helpfulness of adjustments

Source: Birkbeck University and Neurodiversity in Business | Neurodiversity at Work 2023[88]

Any accommodations will need to be aligned with the needs of the broader team and the objectives of the organisation. However, before rejecting a request, managers should actively challenge themselves. Ask, ‘Is this practice actually required for the effective functioning of the team and the production of good work? Or is this just easier for me because it’s the way we have always done it?’

You need to individualise to gain the best collective output,” explains Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director at Ubisoft. “Then you might say, ‘Well, hold on, Pierre. That’s a lot of work to do.’ To which I would answer, ‘Welcome to management.’”

He adds that “if you are a well organised business, the team size will usually be about five people. Maximum 10. You can personalise for five people.”

This is not about preferential or special treatment, instead it is about facilitating people to do their best work. As David Pugh-Jones of Neurodiversity in Business (NiB) explains, this is about “focusing on getting the best out of people. It’s about unlocking and nurturing talent.”

Applying the learning: Supporting different working styles

One of the standout pieces of research into supporting neurodiverse employees within the creative industries is Universal Music UK’s Creative Difference Handbook.[89] The report offers the following guidance for supporting working styles:

“The requirement to fit the standard working routine of others can feel disruptive to some, whose optimal working hours may not match your organisation’s hours. To address this:

  • Offer flexible working hours / days / recovery time.
  • Agree a preferred and appropriate frequency of regular check-ins to ensure the individual feels supported.
  • If the individual agrees, make teammates aware of their routine needs (e.g. weekly coaching) to increase understanding.
  • Accommodate different styles of communication – provide equipment such as a laptop so work can be done at home or in a quiet space.
  • Provide supportive software.

Ensure you support different ways of learning.”

Working from home and inclusion

One point made repeatedly by the experts interviewed for this report was the positive impact that the move to working from home seen in some regions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic had on inclusion.

“One of the best interventions we have done in improving things for people with neurodiversity is becoming remote first,” explains Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO of The Dots, “which is probably challenging for people to read.

“Often with neurodiversity, the sensory overload being in working environments can be challenging. And though not everyone with neurodiversity is the same, forcing everyone back into the office full time means that you’re not going to get the most out of a number of your neurodiverse talent.”

This view was backed up by a paper published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.[90] Working from home gives employees more control over their environment and schedule, something that may be particularly valuable to neurodivergent team members. Reducing the strain of environmental stressors and the need to mask frees that energy to be redirected towards productive, valuable work. Effectively, working from home “provides a pathway for such an employee to create an environment that allows them to flourish in the absence of distraction”.

These benefits are not limited to neurodivergent employees. More broadly, offering flexibility around where and when people work is a key weapon in the battle for in-demand skills. This is particularly apparent in marketing, with 83% of marketers rating flexible or hybrid working arrangements as important to them, according to Marketing Week’s Career and Salary survey.[91]

Running more inclusive meetings

“In meetings, we typically expect everyone to be able to raise their hand and speak up loudly in front of everyone. But by doing that, we don’t get the most out of about half of the people around the table, meaning you don’t have access to their thinking or their problem-solving.

“When you start a meeting, you should ask people’s preferences. Ask who prefers to talk, who prefers to write. You should also open the door to instant feedback as well as asynchronous feedback, as not everyone is processing the information the same way.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

Though most of the emphasis in this chapter is on how managers and organisations can better support neurodiverse members of the team, it is important to recognise that there is a role for the neurodivergent individual in that conversation. When onboarding and throughout their tenure at the organisation, encourage employees to ask for what they need and establish a culture of self-advocacy, where individuals are empowered to voice their requirements.

Start early by building awareness of available support during the onboarding process. This should include resources, training, communities and who to speak to about concerns. Also ensure every new starter has a thorough and structured discussion about their needs – whether those be functional, environmental, technical or social.

This is something that Scope has put in place. “We have a dedicated adjustments team,” LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist at Scope, shares. “As an employee, you meet with someone from that team, and you discuss your access needs.”

Equally, for neurodivergent managers, it is often helpful to share with team members any needs or specific work practices you might have, and how these integrate into ways of working. Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director of Tailored the Agency, notes how disclosing her neurodivergence in a previous role was helpful in allowing colleagues to understand why she may be responding in a particular way. “When I started, I gave a sort of autism 101. ‘Look, there’s going to be times when I’m talking to you and my facial expression and tone may read as angry. But instead, I need you to just listen to the words I am actually saying. I can guarantee you, I will tell you if I am actually upset.”

For team members who have a neurodivergent manager, the guidance should be similar as to working with any neurodivergent colleague. Be flexible, respect their needs, look to build your own understanding of neurodiversity and appreciate that any accommodations put in place by organisations are there to support the performance of the team as a whole and are not about special treatment. If frictions do emerge between accommodations or ways of working and the performance of an employee, or experience of team members, these should be discussed sensitively, with the focus on designing a productive solution that works well for all parties.

Essential to this culture of self-advocacy is creating an environment where individuals feel safe and supported.

6.4 Creating a safe and supportive environment

Before any conversations about adjustments or support can take place, individuals must feel safe to disclose their neurodivergence. In research by Birkbeck University in partnership with Neurodiversity in Business, when asked about what barriers individuals faced to disclosing their neurodivergence and/or requesting support the top two were fears about stigma and discrimination from management (64.7%) and colleagues (55%).[82]

This underlines the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment. Training, a more inclusive approach to hiring and a published commitment to neuroinclusion within the organisation are important building blocks in establishing that sense of safety.

Alongside that, organisations should actively foster an inclusive environment by showcasing what good support looks like so that it is clear that neuroinclusion is a shared responsibility across individuals, teams and departments.

Creating a community where neurodiverse employees can discuss their experiences can be a valuable tool. This is something Canon has put in place, as HR Director Dawn Lansley describes: “We have an employee network group which is where people can feel connected to other people who may experience something similar or at least understand what you’re experiencing better.”

That sense of connectiveness can be particularly valuable. A study from Willis Towers Watson (WTW) found that 70% of neurodivergent employees experience mental health issues, underlining the importance of better employer support.[83]

Masking directs energy away from valuable work

“There are several studies across the world showing that neurodivergent employees refuse to share their condition at work because they fear retaliation and problems with their career progression.

“The reality is that many neurodivergent people hide and mask. By doing this, we spend a big part of our work energy masking to look like others instead of investing it into our natural skills and talent.”

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, Ubisoft

Applying the learning: Understanding masking and building psychological safety

Masking, which is also known as camouflaging, is a psychological term for the changing behaviour or suppression of aspects of neurodivergent traits in order to fit in with the norms of the workplace or society. This can be things like avoiding self-soothing behaviours such as stimming or creating complex scripts to help navigate social interaction.[94]

Masking places a significant burden on neurodivergent individuals, requiring a large amount of cognitive and emotional energy to constantly suppress one’s natural tendencies.[95],[96] It can also amplify feelings of isolation and imposter syndrome, and as a result have a negative impact on the individual’s mental health.[97]

Creating a culture where individuals feel safe to not mask (or unmask) will reduce that burden and allow that energy to be redirected towards productive, valuable work.

This requires organisations to create an environment of psychological safety. Originated by Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, the concept of ‘psychological safety’ describes a team’s environment characterised by high levels of trust, one that is safe for ‘interpersonal risk taking’.[98] This is key in enabling team members to feel that they can be their true selves in the team environment.

As described in Econsultancy’s Building a Digital Culture Best Practice Guide, psychological safety has a significant impact on team performance. In a wide-ranging research project, Google found that psychological safety was the most important attribute to team effectiveness. Individuals in teams that exhibited higher levels of the trait were less likely to leave the business but also more likely to be able to harness the power of diverse ideas from team members.

The benefits of allowing individuals to be themselves

“The places that I thrived at were the places where I was given the chance to be myself and be me. The places where I didn’t were where they expected me to be something I wasn’t. To be neurotypical.”

Taylor Handsley, Founder & Managing Director, Tailored the Agency

Openness on the part of neurodiverse leaders can also play a role. Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO of The Dots, has been open with her team and the public about her dyslexia. One of the ways she communicates this is through her email signature that alongside her many award wins reads ‘Delightfully dyslexic, excuse typos’.

Fostering a safe, supportive environment should allow employees to be more open to disclosure. However, it is important that disclosure is not a requirement or forced on employees.

Consider intersectionality

When considering neurodiversity within an organisation, it is important to consider how it may intersect with other elements of DEI and how best to support employees.

The term ‘intersectionality’ was first defined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw of Columbia Law School as a way to understand oppression. It is based on the idea that by looking at events through a single-issue lens, i.e. race, gender, it ignores the role each element of identity can play and how they may overlap.

In an interview, Crenshaw explained: “If someone is trying to think about how to explain to the courts why they should not dismiss a case made by black women, just because the employer did hire blacks who were men and women who were white, well, that’s what the tool [intersectionality] was designed to do.”[99]

6.5 Empowerment, promotion and development

Hiring neurodiverse talent is not enough. Capitalising on the benefits of a diverse team requires individuals to be empowered to apply their talents and different ways of thinking within their role.

Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director at Ubisoft, says this is reliant on managers actively engaging with innovative thinking. He explains: “When someone in a team tries to approach something differently, if you are under pressure and stress, you may be tempted to discard that individual’s ideas quickly. If you do that, they are unlikely to try again to think outside of the box.

Escaich highlights how this defeats the object of hiring a diverse team, as employees are conditioned not to try anything new or offer novel alternatives: “You will have simply set up an army of clones, preventing innovation and inadvertently contributing to the business’s eventual death.

The value of innovative or different thinking should also be recognised with opportunities for career progression and promotion. Organisations should put in place pathways to leadership and seniority for neurodiverse employees. These paths should not just rely on a through route via line management, but instead should take into account things like outstanding technical performance to help support the career progression of those whose neurodivergence includes social communication differences.

Taking a holistic view to employee inclusion

“The IBM neurodiversity programme is great. Our leaders talk about it a lot during neurodiversity month and across the rest of the year. That made me feel comfortable. It also meant I did not feel just like a diversity hire. From their commitment to the programme, it was clear they really want that representation so that they can build better products.

“It’s about a dual investment in both the hiring and building of teams that truly look like the world and have diverse experiences, and then how you are empowering them by building a workplace and groups within the organisation that really advocates for them, represents and supports them. You can’t do one without the other.”

Lauren Brewer, Design Principal, IBM

In order to set employees up for these pathways, organisations should offer upskilling opportunities. Training and development are also key for employee retention and the resilience of the organisation. Research from Econsultancy’s for the Winning the Race for Digital Skills report, found that 80% of professionals say that the skills necessary for their job are evolving rapidly, while only 27% say that the business currently has the digital skills to accomplish their goals. Those not investing in learning risk getting left behind.

This includes the need to provide training and development to nurture and retain neurodiverse talent. Many of the guidelines and recommendations in Section 6.2 would apply equally for learning and development programmes, which should include offering flexibility and treating neurodiverse employees as individuals.

Offer consultations with the learning or people team to discuss individuals’ learning or development needs and how these can be facilitated. This may include offering remote alternatives to in-person sessions or specialised coaching. Also ensure there is a mechanism for feedback, where individuals can share where a learning experience falls short in terms of accessibility and inclusion.

6.6 Measurement and reporting

Measurement is key to understanding the impact of an organisation’s neuroinclusion strategy and practices. As a part of putting together a neuroinclusion strategy, it is important to define the way the improvement will be managed.

Relevant KPIs will likely include:

  • The share of the workforce who identify as neurodivergent.
  • The retention and progression rate for this section of the workforce.
  • Opinion scores on the effectiveness and the positivity of the organisation’s neuroinclusion practices.

Anonymous employee surveys can be a useful tool for tracking an organisation’s progress in terms of inclusion. In addition, gather qualitative information from the organisation’s neurodivergent community by speaking to members and conducting exit interviews. These should also reveal areas for improvement.

Buy-in from leaders and managers is essential for the success of any inclusion initiatives. To ingrain inclusive practices and motivate leaders, the cloud computing company VMware specifically tied DEI goals to the incentive structure, starting with bonuses for top executives in 2018. By 2022, the technology company had expanded the bonus scheme for reaching DEI goals throughout the whole organisation.[100]

Calculating the ‘return on inclusion’ described earlier means coupling these direct measures with KPIs aligned with business objectives. This may include customer satisfaction, efficiency gains, positive outcomes related to innovation and costs saved through employee retention or by filling an open position more quickly.

The EY case study outlined below is a great example of using KPIs related to organisational objectives to prove the value of recruiting and supporting neurodivergent employees.

Case study: EY’s Neurodiverse Centres of Excellence

Consulting firm EY has been public in its belief in the value of diverse perspectives to deal with a rapidly changing business and technology environment. As a result, EY actively recruits individuals who self-identify as neurodiverse.

In 2016, the firm set up the organisation’s first Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence in Philadelphia. The centre was designed to create an enabling and supportive workplace for neurodivergent people, particularly those who previously may have found it hard to gain and retain employment. This included specialised support such as job coaches to help neurodiverse hires adjust to the business environment and onboarding conducted by hiring managers who had received training on supporting neurodiverse employees.

After nine months of the trial, EY compared the work quality, efficiency and productivity generated by neurodiverse and neurotypical account support professionals. Quality, efficiency and productivity were comparable, but the neurodiverse employees were shown to excel at innovation.[101]

Following that successful trial, EY now operates over 15 centres globally. These aim to fuel innovation and meet EY and its clients’ business needs specifically in emerging technologies such as data science, AI and cybersecurity.[102]


Organisations should also share their performance against their diversity and inclusion goals. In 2023, recruitment company Glassdoor published its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Transparency Report, detailing the organisation’s commitment to and progress towards its diversity and inclusion goals. When describing the reason behind the report, Glassdoor stated: “As we advocate for workplace transparency everywhere, it’s imperative that we also ‘walk the talk’ here at Glassdoor.”[104]

This sort of transparency will help with accountability and clearly signal the organisation’s ambitions to improve things for existing talent, supporting a sense of psychological safety, and for potential job candidates, making the organisation more attractive as an employer.

6.7 A checklist for creating a more inclusive employee experience

  • Ensure the organisation is meeting its legal obligations around disability and making reasonable adjustments.
  • Make inclusion for everyone, including neurodiverse talent, a pillar of the organisation’s broader talent strategy. Communicate this commitment both internally and externally. Incentivise engagement with the process by tying bonus schemes to DEI performance.
  • Ensure all employees are put through neurodiversity awareness and support training. This will help create a more positive working environment and reduce harmful misunderstandings or stereotypes.
  • Provide managers with specific coaching on how best to support neurodivergent talent and how to recognise the distinct value they bring to an organisation.
  • Review hiring practices to remove any potential barriers for marginalised candidates. This should include the way job descriptions are written, where jobs are advertised and the ways candidates are assessed. Consider moving to a skills-based hiring practice.
  • Be flexible. Simple adjustments to a working environment or pattern can support neurodivergent talent in being able to do their best work. In addition, resist imposing solutions. Changes or adjustments designed by the individuals affected will be more successful.
  • Start the conversation early. As part of hiring and onboarding, share the organisation’s commitment to creating a more inclusive working environment and detail what support is available.
  • Listen to your neurodivergent employees. Be open to and actively seek feedback around what is working and what could be improved.

All these steps will help create an environment of psychological safety and allow an organisation to benefit from the competitive advantages that come from having great minds that do not think alike within the organisation.

7.  The Future of Neurodiversity and Inclusion

There will be two key forces shaping the future of the field of neuroinclusion. These will be technological and sociocultural.

Starting with technology: Technology can be both a hindrance, as not all digital experiences or prooducts are as inclusive as they should be, and a help. One of the biggest improvements for the career and educational opportunities of dyslexic people has been the proliferation of spelling and grammar-checking tools over the last six decades. Some predict that generative AI will have a similarly levelling effect. There are already anecdotal accounts of individuals using ChatGPT to overcome challenges around written communication they may face with dyslexia.[105]

Technological advances such as AI can be a great leveller. Solutions like Microsoft Copilot, as an example, can really help somebody who is neurodivergent to be much more productive in their everyday work,” explains Claire Hazle, Group Technology Director of Digital & Experience, Legal & General. “I think we are getting to a point where technology can help to address some of the everyday challenges that we experience with neurodiversity.”

However, Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, flags concerns around the often-stereotyped content that is generated by these models in response to prompts featuring neurodiversity or disability. These may negatively affect the progress of understanding seen over the last few years.

As an example, a video posted by disability representation consultant and writer Jeremy Andrew Davis showcased the potential of these tools to perpetuate harmful biases. The video shows that in response to prompts of ‘an autistic person’ with some inputs on the style of image (‘lifelike’, ‘photoreal’, ‘photojournalistic’), the AI image-generator Midjourney returned exclusively depressing images of sad, white and male individuals.[106]

Whether content could potentially be promoting harmful stereotypes should be something marketers and experience professionals should consider and mitigate against when using generative AI tools.

In terms of culture and society at large, there has never been more discussion and visibility of neurodivergence than right now. As one of this report’s interviewees described, the fact that this can now be a topic of dinner table conversation among friends is a significant breakthrough. This visibility has been supported by public figures,[107] celebrities,[108],[109],[110],[111] and business and marketing leaders (some of whom were interviewed for this report) being open about their own diagnoses.

This increased visibility, as well as greater awareness of how neurodivergence may appear across different identities or communities (i.e. autism in girls), has seen an increase in diagnoses[112],[113] and demand for tests.[114]

Unfortunately, this has resulted in some backlash. LC Groux-Moreau, Accessibility Specialist at Scope, describes how the current ‘hotness’ of the topic has led some generally less informed individuals to dismiss it: “You’ve got people saying things like ‘everyone just says they are neurodivergent’ now.

Those taking that view, however, are in the minority. Broadly, the interviewees are optimistic about the future and that we are witnessing a cultural shift in how society treats neurodivergence, particularly among younger people.

This puts a greater emphasis on the importance of ensuring customer experiences and marketing efforts are inclusive. As acceptance, and even celebration, of neurodivergence increases, so does the risk of backlash and brand damage for organisations who fail the neurodiverse community.

In line with this better understanding and recognition, leading organisations will increasingly recognise the value of inclusion and the neurodiversity of their workforce.

I expect neuroinclusion to progressively become an important leadership and management practice,” predicts Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director at Ubisoft. “It is a way for an organisation to reconnect its people with meaning and purpose, and reconnect a business with its main assets, that is to say – its people.”

8. Conclusion

The shared feeling across those interviewed for this report is one of optimism, mixed with a recognition of the work left to do. There has been significant progress in terms of recognition of neurodivergence, but this needs to be coupled with action across customer and employee experience.

Education here is key. Mandatory training is an essential lever an organisation can pull in supporting increased understanding and tackling persistent stereotypes around neurodivergence, as is clarity, responsibility and accountability. Organisations should ensure all employees are clear on what their responsibilities are when it comes to inclusive practices, whether that is across product design, experiences, marketing or as a colleague or manager. Tying bonuses to DEI performance is a powerful way to incentivise engagement and ensure individuals are held accountable for meeting inclusivity goals.

Though the journey towards becoming more inclusive will take investment in terms of time, resource, education and energy, the rewards will be significant. As David Pugh-Jones, Chairperson, Board Trustee, & Founding Executive Member of Neurodiversity in Business, concludes:

Marketers and experience professionals should care about inclusivity because it broadens their customer base, improves brand reputation and drives innovation. Inclusivity fosters positive customer experiences, increases customer loyalty and taps into the purchasing power of diverse demographics. Moreover, it’s a legal and ethical responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all.”

In short, considering neuroinclusion is not only good on an ethical level, but it is also good for business.

9. Further Reading

9.1 Econsultancy Best Practice Guides

Econsultancy | Building a Digital Culture

Econsultancy | Change Management for Marketers Best Practice Guide

Econsultancy | Content Marketing Best Practice Guide

Econsultancy | Implementing a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy Best Practice Guide

Econsultancy | The Fundamentals of Market Research and Insights

Econsultancy | Quick Guide to Brand Purpose

Econsultancy | Quick Guide to Hiring for In-Demand Skills

Econsultancy | User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide

Econsultancy | Winning the Race for Digital Skills

9.2 Other resources

Deloitte | Neurodiversity in the workplace

Harvard Business Review | An Employer’s Guide to Supporting Workers with Autism

Harvard Business Review | Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage

Marketing Week | Career and Salary Survey 2024

Universal Design | The seven principles of universal design

Universal Music | Creative Differences Handbook