9 things employers should know about learning differences
In order to be a true champion of diversity and inclusion, employers must hire individuals from all races and backgrounds - this includes employees with learning differences and neurodiverse conditions. In some cases, employers are hesitant to welcome neurodiverse individuals not because they do not value their talent, but because they are not knowledgeable about the neurodiverse condition or recommended accommodations.
In order to help educate, we’ve sat down with nine business leaders and asked them what employers should know about job accommodations for employees with learning differences. Keep reading to hear their insights and learn how you can make your workplace a more inclusive and welcoming environment!
Provide Information on Multiple Platforms
Providing information in multiple ways is important to team members with neurodifferences. Alternative formats, larger fonts, and content that can be easily transcribed to TTY or other types of communication are helpful. Meetings may be held or recorded messages may be provided for those who prefer receiving information aurally. With all the graphs and images on COVID these days, don't forget about those who are color blind who may not be able to distinguish multiple colors.
- Colleen McManus, Senior Consultant -
They Deserve the Best
Employees with disabilities deserve the best accommodations possible and nothing less. Employers should specifically keep in mind that it might be on them to find a solution or accommodation for the employee with little help. Oftentimes, employers or companies as a whole have never had experience with providing resources for employees with learning differences, or neurodiverse conditions, and as a result there may not be a strong base for employers to lean on when trying to figure out how to help their employee. In that case, make it a collaborative effort between the employee and management so that collectively you can lay the groundwork for others in the future.
They Deserve the Same Opportunities
An employee who requires or requests an accommodation should not be treated as if they cannot handle the work. They are just as capable of completing the work as other employees. Often, these employees have better work ethic because of their determination. They deserve the same opportunities as anyone else even if they require accommodation to do it.
If you need some assistance making sure all members of your team are set up for success, there are many non-profit organizations devoted to partnering with companies to provide everything needed to make your team comfortable, safe, and productive. Oftentimes, these services are free to employers, and your employees will truly appreciate it!
Familiarize Yourself with Laws and Regulations
Laws exist to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment and other areas of life. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1990. Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Employers should be familiar with the laws and regulations that are passed for employees with disabilities and work to make the accommodations necessary to improve their working experience.
There are times when an employee with a neurodiverse condition doesn’t readily share this with an employer. This can be for a number of reasons. An employee might not know what accommodations, if any, their employer provides. Sometimes, an employee may worry that their competency will be questioned. The best way to assuage these concerns is to be straightforward with employees. Make resources easily accessible so employees can stay informed on important topics regarding learning disabilities in the workplace. Let employees know you are there to help them in the way they need.
Don’t rush the process
Business leaders should understand that any business with 15 or more employees is likely required by federal law to accommodate a variety of disabilities, including neurodiversities. As the daughter of a disabled mother, my best advice is to take all accommodations step-by-step. Never rush the process. Invest time learning about your employee's specific needs and what they (and their medical provider) recommend as accommodations. Maintain two-way communication throughout the process and always start the process with the idea that there is always something that you can do to work with everyone and go from there!
Accommodations are individually tailored
Job accommodations for employees with learning differences need to be individually tailored to the employee's needs and preferences. Every person is unique, and it’s vital that the accommodation process includes the employee. Employers can assist and guide the employee in order to create a win-win. Remember this is an ongoing process; regular communication and check-ins are crucial to a successful partnership.
- Sonja Talley, Principal HR Consultant -
Necessary for some, beneficial for all
As you’re working to create flexible working practices for employees with recognized neurodiverse conditions, it’s important to remember that often the supports put in place are those that could be helpful for everyone. For example, noise canceling headphones are often a solution for employees who have over sensitivities, but really they’re beneficial for anyone who might work in an open office setting with a lot of background noise and distraction. Opening up these strategies to the whole workforce will help everyone with their performance and productivity! Not only that, it’ll also help to normalize support, so your neurodiverse employees don’t feel singled out from their colleagues.
- Stuart Blair, Texthelp Work -
We hope these insights will help you to better support employees with neurodiffereces. If you would like to discover more about neurodiverse conditions, take a look at our recent video series created in partnership with specialist psychological consultancy, Lexxic.