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  • Lizzie Somerfield

Reasonable Accommodations: How having an Accessible Process Benefits you as an Employer.

Reasonable Accommodations processes exist in response to a legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

Understandably, these processes are in many ways designed purely for legal compliance. For most companies, the process has not been thought through in terms of accessibility for those needing it.

This failure to design the process based on the needs of those accessing it can have a huge deterring effect - especially when it comes to Neurodivergent individuals.

Take for example someone with ADHD. A reasonable accommodations process that requires them to gather evidence and go through a lot of administrative steps (without any support in doing so), may not be accessible.

For an autistic person, a reasonable accommodations process might be inaccessible if it requires them meeting with a stranger (e.g. occupational health assessor), without knowing who that person is and whether they are knowledgable about Autism (from a Neurodiversity-affirming perspective).

This is both because it is a new social situation where the Autistic person does not have enough information to allow them to process and show up prepared, but also because many Autistic people have severe trauma from dealing with a healthcare system that is not designed for them.

These things can mean that Neurodivergent people are deterred from requesting the accommodations that they need in order to be able to do their jobs.

But why should this matter to you? Here’s a few reasons.

1. Protect your Investment

You’ve invested a lot in training your Neurodivergent employee. Chances are, they are very good at many elements of their job and frequently go beyond expectations - but there are also areas where they struggle.

Supporting them with those struggles allows them to focus their energy on their work, and particularly on the things that they excel at that perhaps the neurotypical people around them don’t.

Failure to provide that support frequently leads Neurodivergent people into burnout, and often to leaving their role or even the workforce. Often, the supports that Neurodivergent people need won’t cost a lot, and have a massive return on investment in terms of employee retention and productivity.

2. Tap into the Benefits of Neurodiversity

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of embracing diversity in the workplace. Studies have also shown that Neurodivergent people often have strengths and skills that Employers value - things like creativity and problem solving.

But if your Neurodivergent employee’s basic needs are not being met, and if they are exerting all of their energy trying to navigate a Reasonable Accommodations process that isn’t accessible to them, they won’t be working at their best.

As a Neurodivergent person, it can often feel like an Employer is exploiting certain parts of you while ‘punishing’ other parts of you, because you’re expected to hide those ‘bad’ parts or manage them without support. It can lead to resentment.

Showing that you’re on your Neurodivergent employee’s side and willing to work with them to implement accommodations can reverse this feeling of resentment, and lead to the employee thriving and being able to share their strengths with you.

3. Level the Playing Field - and Better your Business

Reasonable Accommodations are intended to level the playing field between those who are not disabled and those who are.

Actions to level the playing field can be small but have a huge impact on the Neurodivergent individual, allowing us to actually stay in the workforce and thrive. With employment rates for Neurodivergent individuals being so low, you’re setting yourself apart by taking those actions.

Consulting with your Neurodivergent employees, making these small changes that they need, and listening to their alternative perspectives will have a positive impact on both your workplace culture and on your product/service offering.

To Sum Up:

While you may have protected yourself from legal risk by implementing a Reasonable Accommodations process, making your Reasonable Accommodations process accessible protects you from other risks. Financial risks of low employee retention. Cultural risks of toxicity and low morale. Risks to your reputation as an inclusive employer.

These risks all need to be factored into your Reasonable Accommodations process as well.

The best place to start in addressing this is to work with someone with lived experience to get their perspective on your process - we at New Deal for Neurodiversity have consulting packages available for this.

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