Apprenticeship provider websites fail to cater for neurodiverse

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A new study has found that a third of the UK’s top 50 apprenticeship providers have failed to publish an accessibility statement on their website and are not hitting accessibility standards designed to make the schemes inclusive to neurodivergent learners.

According to the investigation, which was carried out by Cognassist, 33% of providers have failed to publish an accessibility statement on their website, which could be deterring neurodivergent talent from applying for an apprenticeship.

This is despite new regulations that stipulate public sector organisations have a duty to ensure websites and apps meet accessibility requirements by 21 June 2021.

Cognassist reported that where an accessibility statement was missing, so too were screen reader functions and the ability to access documents in alternative formats in 100% of cases. Similarly, these companies displayed no mention of neurodiversity support tools and no representation of neurodivergent learner success.

The study found that public sector organisations had followed the regulations but private sector organisations had by and large not followed suit.

Best practice parameters, including overall vision of the company, were taken into consideration by the study. These were comprised of declarations of accessibility, diversity and inclusion statements and declaration of being disability confident – user experience and awareness, and scored each provider based on the number of best practice tools included within their online application process.

PwC and Unilever were found have the most tools included as best practice, with others such as Leeds City Council and HMRC also ranking highly by this measure.

Chris Quickfall, founder and CEO of Cognassist, said the company’s research indicated that one in three learners had a learning difficulty, many of which can be hidden and remain unsupported. He added: “With this in mind, it’s crucial that apprenticeship providers continuously assess their application journeys and make improvements in line with best practice and government regulations.

“Looking into requirements and developing awareness of the many difficulties that neurodivergent learners come across when it comes to accessibility in education and further education is the first step in the journey.

“From helping and supporting over 100,000 learners and mapping cognition we have evidence to show that no two brains are the same, and so ‘neurotypical’ individuals are incredibly rare. As such, considering accessibility for all types of brains is more important than people might think.

“Attracting neurodiverse talent can also be beneficial to businesses. We’re all aware of the advantages that come with diversity of thought, so making a concerted effort to improve accessibility online and otherwise will encourage more diverse talent to apply. We need to continue shifting the conversation more towards celebration of neurodiversity and difference as part of our growth as a society.”

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