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Beyond Accommodations: Supporting Workplace Neurodiversity



Neurodiversity is an issue gaining attention

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been an extraordinarily successful law. Certainly, individuals working in human resources know that there are challenging aspects to it, but access to the ability to work has surely become greater every year since the ADA was enacted in 1990. So many accommodations—many of which likely seemed challenging, not reasonable, or an undue hardship initially—are now routine, seamless, and have created opportunities where hurdles once existed and added to the diversity of the workplace.

One area of diversity that also intersects with the ADA’s nondiscrimination and accommodation obligations is neurodiversity. While there are a number of definitions that organizations and individuals use for neurodiversity, it generally applies to individuals with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions in which a brain functions differently than a neurologically typical brain. Many employers are recognizing that barriers in the hiring process, as well as a lack of experience in accommodating neurodiverse individuals, can result in excluding individuals that would otherwise positively contribute to an employer’s work and workforce. As our society learns more about neurodiversity, employers will want to educate and equip their human resource and leadership teams to better understand how their own employment practices can and should be adjusted to avoid implicit bias, address explicit bias and other barriers that may exist toward neurodiverse candidates and employees, and ultimately tap into the benefits of a neurodiverse workplace.

Resources and considerations

To that end, employers should be aware that the Department of Labor has an online publication, “Tapping the Power of Neurodiversity in the Workplace.” The link includes a workplace toolkit developed by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, profiles on successful initiatives, and information about inclusive practices and accommodations.

Overall, employers considering how to embrace a neurodiverse workforce have resources to help develop best practices as well as navigate legal obligations, many of which can create opportunity, just as the ADA has over the past 52 years.

This article is provided for informational purposes only—it does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader. Readers should consult legal counsel before taking action relating to the subject matter of this article.

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