Designing for neurodiversity is an important aspect of creating a truly inclusive society. Neurodiversity refers to the natural variations in the human brain, including conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. These conditions are not illnesses or disorders, but rather differences in the way the brain processes information and interacts with the world. By designing for neurodiversity, we can create products, services, and environments that work for everyone, regardless of their neurotype.
When it comes to designing for neurodiversity, there are several key principles to keep in mind. These principles can be applied to a wide range of design projects, from websites and mobile apps to physical spaces and products.
Prioritise simplicity and clarity
One of the most important things to keep in mind when designing for neurodiversity is the importance of simplicity and clarity. Many people with neurodiverse conditions such as autism or ADHD can struggle with processing complex or ambiguous information. By designing for simplicity and clarity, you can make it easier for people with these conditions to navigate and understand your design.
This can involve things like using clear and concise language, avoiding overly complex or abstract visuals, and providing clear instructions and feedback. It can also involve minimising distractions and unnecessary elements in your design, to help people focus on what’s important.
Provide multiple modes of interaction
Another key principle of designing for neurodiversity is the importance of providing multiple modes of interaction. This means designing products, services, or environments that can be accessed and used in multiple ways, to accommodate different neurotypes and preferences.
Be mindful of sensory stimuli
Many people with neurodiverse conditions can be highly sensitive to sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. When designing for neurodiversity, it’s important to be mindful of these sensitivities and to design your products, services, or environments accordingly.
Foster inclusivity and empathy
Finally, one of the most important principles of designing for neurodiversity is the importance of fostering inclusivity and empathy. This means designing products, services, or environments that are welcoming and accommodating to all, regardless of their neurotype.
Designing for neurodiversity is an important and evolving field, and there are many resources and tools available to help designers create more inclusive products, services, and environments.
Examples of Neurodiversity focused projects:
The Manchester Museum’s Accessible Exhibitions Policy includes a range of measures to support visitors with neurodiverse conditions. This includes pre-visit information and guides, sensory-friendly resources, and staff training on how to support visitors with different needs and preferences.
The design of the Barbican Centre’s Art Gallery in London includes features to support visitors with neurodiverse conditions. This includes clear signage, visual aids, and a range of interactive exhibits designed to engage visitors with different learning styles.
The London South Bank University Library introduced a range of measures to support students with neurodiverse conditions, including colour-coded signage, quiet study areas, and software that reads aloud text for people with dyslexia.
The design of the new Crossrail trains in London includes features to support passengers with a range of accessibility needs, including those with neurodiverse conditions. This includes clear visual and auditory announcements, contrasting colours to help with way-finding, and space for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
The design of the new BBC Scotland headquarters in Glasgow includes a range of features to support employees with neurodiverse conditions. This includes quiet rooms for people who may need to work in a low-stimulus environment, adjustable lighting and temperature controls, and a range of ergonomic furniture designed for people with different needs.
In conclusion, designing for neurodiversity is a critical aspect of creating a more inclusive and accessible society. By prioritising simplicity and clarity, providing multiple modes of interaction, being mindful of sensory stimuli, and fostering inclusivity and empathy, designers can create products, services, and environments that work for everyone, regardless of their neurotype. With a growing awareness of the importance of neurodiversity, there has never been a better time to embrace this approach to design and create a more inclusive future for all.