Neurodiversity and reasonable adjustments

2nd April 2024 marked the start of World Autism Acceptance Week.  The Equality Act 2010 places a legal obligation on businesses and service providers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate individuals with disabilities*, including  those with autism and other forms of neurodiversity. Recognising and addressing the specific needs of neurodivergent individuals is crucial for fostering an inclusive and accessible environment. This article explores the concept of reasonable adjustments, the considerations for autism and neurodivergence, and how businesses can assess the feasibility of implementing these adjustments.

Understanding Reasonable Adjustments:

Reasonable adjustments refer to modifications or changes made to ensure that neurodivergent or disabled* individuals are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to their neurotypical or non-disabled* peers. This can include adjustments to policies, practices, physical environments and the provision of additional support or aids. In the context of autism and neurodiversity, reasonable adjustments aim to create an inclusive space that recognises and accommodates diverse needs.

Autism and Neurodiversity:

Autism and neurodivergence represent a broad spectrum of conditions characterised by differences in cognitive processes and sensory experiences. Individuals with autism may have unique strengths and challenges related to communication, social interaction and sensory sensitivities. Reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent individuals often involve creating an environment that is sensory-friendly, providing clear communication, and offering flexibility in work practices.

Examples of Reasonable Adjustments:

  1. Sensory-Friendly Spaces:
    • Creating sensory-friendly spaces with subdued lighting, comfortable seating, and minimal noise can benefit individuals with sensory sensitivities.  Where minimising noise is problematic, noise cancelling headphones may be beneficial.
  2. Flexible Working Arrangements:
    • Offering flexible working hours or remote work options can be a reasonable adjustment for neurodivergent employees. This provides individuals with the flexibility to work during times when they are most comfortable and productive.
  3. Clear Communication:
    • Providing written instructions, visual aids, or alternative communication methods can assist individuals with autism in understanding information more effectively. Clear and unambiguous communication benefits both clients and employees.
  4. Buddy/Mentor:
    • A work buddy can be a helpful and effective reasonable adjustment in several ways.  Assigning a colleague who provides support, guidance and assistance to the employee can help the employee navigate social interactions in the workplace, assist with building relationships with other colleagues and help the employee feel more socially connected.  They can also assist in interpreting both verbal and non-verbal communication, helping the employee understand instructions, feedback or other workplace communications.
  5. Training and Awareness Programmes:
    • Conducting training sessions to increase awareness and understanding of neurodivergence among staff members can contribute to a more inclusive and supportive workplace or service environment.

Assessing Feasibility:

Assessing the feasibility of reasonable adjustments is a critical step in ensuring that businesses can implement effective and sustainable accommodations. Consider the following factors when evaluating the feasibility of adjustments for autism and neurodivergence:

  1. Consultation and Collaboration:
    • Hold open conversations with neurodivergent individuals, advocacy groups, or experts to gain insights into specific needs and preferences. Collaboration ensures that adjustments are tailored to the actual requirements of the individual(s) involved.
  2. Resource Allocation:
    • Assess the resources, both financial and operational, required to implement and sustain reasonable adjustments. Consider whether the adjustments can be integrated into existing practices or if additional investments are necessary.
  3. Legal Compliance:
    • Ensure that proposed adjustments align with legal requirements under the Equality Act 2010. Seek legal advice to confirm compliance and mitigate potential risks.
  4. Training and Support:
    • Evaluate the need for training programmes to equip staff with the knowledge and skills to implement and support reasonable adjustments. Adequate training fosters a culture of inclusivity and understanding.
  5. Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation:
    • Establish mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the implemented adjustments. Solicit feedback from neurodivergent individuals and make necessary adaptations based on their experiences.

Making reasonable adjustments for autism, neurodivergence and other disabilities is not only a legal obligation but also a fundamental step toward creating a more inclusive society. Companies can enhance accessibility and foster a supportive environment by implementing thoughtful and well-informed adjustments. Through careful consultation, collaboration and a commitment to continuous improvement, businesses can navigate the complexities of feasibility assessments and contribute to a more inclusive and diverse future.

For further reading on neurodiversity in the workplace, please refer to a previous blog of ours and if your organisation is looking for assistance in any area of HR, do get in touch and one of our consultants would be happy to talk to you. Please email us at to arrange a chat.

*The Equality Act 2010 states: Whether a person is disabled for the purposes of the Act is generally determined by reference to the effect that an impairment has on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A disability can arise from a wide range of impairments which can be:

  • sensory impairments, such as those affecting sight or hearing
  • impairments with fluctuating or recurring effects such as rheumatoid arthritis, myalgic encephalitis (ME), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression and epilepsy
  • progressive, such as motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy, and forms of dementia
  • auto-immune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE)
  • organ specific, including respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and cardiovascular diseases, including thrombosis, stroke and heart disease
  • developmental, such as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • learning disabilities
  • mental health conditions with symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, panic attacks, phobias, or unshared perceptions; eating disorders; bipolar affective disorders; obsessive compulsive disorders; personality disorders; post traumatic stress disorder, and some self-harming behaviour
  • mental illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia
  • produced by injury to the body, including to the brain.