The Papworth Trust have recently advised that the biggest barriers to employment for people with disabilities are a lack of opportunity (1 job for every 2 unemployed people – Office of National Statistics 2017) and a lack of transport.


Accessibility difficulties in the physical disabilities context refers to difficulty getting to workplaces and moving about a building.

What does accessibility mean for the neurodiverse? Getting to the interview itself can also be a nightmare of diary management, bus timetables, planning and organisation.

See my handy table at the end for a list of common ‘gotchas’. (I put it at the end ‘coz I wanted to start with the positive, can-do messages!)

As an employer myself, I regularly use interviews and assessment centres.  I also use work sample tests and work trials.  You need to match your recruitment technique to the job skills.  If you need an analyst whose job is to crunch numbers, you do not need an assessment centre but you might chose a numerical cognitive test.  If you have a job that relies on visual skills, don’t use a talking-only recruitment technique!

There’s ways to ‘buffer’ the standard forms of recruitment….

Being neurodiverse accessible doesn’t mean avoiding any recruitment methods, it just means making sure that (1) the method matches the actual job and (2) you must allow the same reasonable adjustments in recruitment as would be available in the eventual job.

There’s my preferred forms of recruitment…..

And finally, here’s a handy summary of typical difficulties…..

ConditionInterviews, including competency-based questionsWritten Application formsCognitive testingAssessment centres
Anxiety & DepressionClear thinking might be affected by memory difficulties concentration, medication and self-worth concerns.No direct effects, but lack of self-worth may prevent applicant from ‘selling’ self.Clear thinking might be affected by memory difficulties concentration, medication.Difficulty in putting self forward, may seem reticent or disengaged.
DyslexiaWorking memory issues can mean that questions are not fully heard, leading to incomplete answers.Spelling and reading issues, need to be able to use text-to-speech, speech-to-text and spell checker software.Spelling, reading and timed response issues.  Ambiguous multiple choice questions are extra difficult to read and speed of processing is an issue.Can potentially excel here, depending on the nature of the group based task.  May struggle with following multiple lines of conversation if the team are talking over one another due to memory issues.
AutismSensory overload, ambiguous questions and eye contact can create panic, leading to inappropriate and incomplete answers.May find forms take longer to process.May find questions take longer to process, with become ‘stuck’ at any badly formed or ambiguous questions.Just no.

Unless individual expresses a desire to join in.

ADHDMay talk too fast or take too many tangents.May miss key information or detail.Likely to struggle with questions dependent on speed or detail.Could over dominate with passionate ideas and also might find multiple lines of conversation difficult to follow.
Neurological disordersMight have difficulty with memory, speech or concentration.  Don’t judge all areas of performance by one stand out difficulty, e.g. aphasia.May have difficulties with fine motor control and require a scribe or speech to text software.Speed of processing will be an issue and certain topics might not achieve threshold, dependent on areas of brain affected.Might have difficulty with memory, speech or concentration. Don’t judge all areas of performance by one stand out difficulty, e.g. aphasia.
Dyspraxia/DCDBeing unsure of purpose of question might result in inappropriate answers. Handwriting likely to be a struggle, need to be able to type / use speech-to-text to complete.Ambiguous multiple choice questions are extra difficult to read and speed of processing is an issue.Could excel here, might also become confused with multiple questions or ambiguous tasks. 
Tourette SyndromeEmbarrassment over tics might dominates thinking and therefore applicant not at their best. Best to discuss up front and ask how to manage response.No specific issues, although Tourette Syndrome overlaps with ADHD for 60% of people.Memory and concentration are likely to affect timing.Just no – unless individual expresses a desire to do so in which case all other participants need to be prepared.

A final note….

The good news is that though recruitment might not be the best place to ‘shine’ and a new job transition can be harder for neurodiverse people, all people with disabilities tend to make incredibly specialist, loyal and reliable employees once they are settled.




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