How training providers can improve accessibility for neurodivergent learners


It’s estimated that one in seven people (more than 15% of the UK’s population) are neurodivergent. To give all learners the best chance at success, training providers need to deliver an accessible experience at every stage of the journey.

How training providers can improve accessibility for neurodivergent learners

Neurodivergent is the term for when someone's brain functions differently from a “neurotypical” person. It can affect how a person thinks and communicates, and they’re likely to learn and process information differently to others who work more typically.

Common types of neurodivergence include autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, but there’s a huge spectrum of ways that our brains can process information. A neurodivergent learner might struggle with one aspect of their apprenticeship (e.g. writing assignments) or experience more significant challenges across the programme.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to supporting neurodivergent learners. However, there are several ways to make learning more inclusive, from adjusting training environments to taking advantage of proposed reforms to Additional Learning Support (ALS).

Personalise learning with new technology

We know that personalisation is a powerful way to improve learner engagement, but it’s especially important for neurodivergent learners.

Generic training delivery assumes that every learner will interpret and remember information in a similar way, but neurodivergent learners may struggle with:

  • Managing independent self-study
  • Processing critical feedback
  • Movement and coordination
  • Remembering long sets of instructions
  • Simultaneously listening and writing or typing
  • Interpreting verbal or non-verbal cues
  • Concentrating in a noisy or hectic environment

A lack of support and understanding of these issues can have a severe impact on learners’ mental health. As one analysis found, it can result in stress, anxiety and even burnout, as learners try to suppress natural neurodivergent responses and imitate neurotypical behaviours.

By contrast, a flexible, personalised approach will cater to each learner’s preferred style and speed of learning, allowing them to thrive in the best environment for them. While one-to-one education has long been a distant dream, the rise of artificial intelligence will make it easier than ever to offer tailored curriculums and personalised coaching.

Use an accessible training platform

A training platform that is designed with accessibility in mind can make a huge difference for neurodivergent learners, particularly when it comes to independent self-study. 

Bud follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, an internationally recognised set of recommendations and principles for improving online accessibility. Our team uses these guidelines to consider potential user impairments and how to assist them with more accessible design, such as:

  • Using a keyboard instead of a mouse
  • Using a screen reader to ‘read’ (speak) content aloud
  • Using a screen magnifier to enlarge all or part of a screen
  • Using voice commands to navigate the platform

Bud has a dedicated working group that aims to continuously improve the accessibility of the platform. You can read our full accessibility statement here.

Develop and review support plans

It’s important to understand each learner’s individual needs and any aspects of the apprenticeship they may find difficult. From there, you can create a support plan that outlines the adjustments you need to make and the logistics of these adjustments (i.e. who will offer support and what additional resources or equipment are required).

A common challenge is that learners sometimes have hidden learning needs that they aren't aware of, which may only surface weeks or months into the apprenticeship. 

Draft reforms to the funding rules aim to solve this issue – a detailed assessment on learning support will be able to take place at any point in the apprenticeship, rather than just at the start. And when it comes to reviewing ongoing delivery and the need for ALS, you’ll only need to do this every three months rather than monthly (from 1st August 2024).

Overcoming concerns about ALS funding

Many providers have been hesitant to claim ALS funding in the past because they’re not confident they will meet evidence requirements. While the new funding rules should simplify the process, it’s more important to remember that effectively assisting neurodivergent learners isn’t as simple as putting in an extra hour here or there. 

Additional support needs to be carefully considered and structured. Claiming funding will help with accountability, ensuring that you’re building strong processes and regularly reviewing and improving them.

Five best practice tips to improve accessibility

In addition to individual learning support, there are lots of simple ways that you can make your training delivery more accessible to everyone. Here are five best practices to start with:

  1. Provide reasonable adjustments to work environments when delivering face-to-face training, such as a quiet relaxation spaces and movement breaks 
  2. Make learning materials available in advance and run accessibility checks (avoid using images of text which can’t be copied into a dictionary, translator or screen-reader)
  3. Use a combination of teaching methods and resources to make learning more engaging, such as visual aids, movement and hands-on activities
  4. Ensure communication is clear and concise, and avoid non-literal language like sarcasm that could be hard to interpret
  5. Keep routines to reduce anxiety, such as starting and ending training in the same way 

Support every learner with Bud

Bud empowers learners to take an active role in their education from the start. Every aspect of our platform is designed with accessibility in mind, so it’s simple and intuitive for your learners to use. 

Find out more about how Bud works by booking a discovery call now.