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The Rise of Neuroinclusion as a Corporate Priority in 2024

The Rise of Neuroinclusion as a Corporate Priority in 2024

By Marion Davis

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are a major focus in today's social and corporate worlds. As part of employer brands, corporations have recognized the importance of demonstrating a commitment to social impact. However, with the backlash against improperly implemented racial equity initiatives in the US and with some negative connotations attached to DEI, organizations have consequently been in the market for a new form of inclusion that is widely acceptable. Neuroinclusion has risen to meet this call. 

This article will review the reasons behind this shift, examining the history and complexities of traditional DEI programs, reviewing the parity gaps by disability type as disability inclusion lags in comparison to neuroinclusion, and covering the 2024 market demand and training options within the neuroinclusion field. 

The Evolution of DEI Programs

Within the demand and then disassembling of many diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, despite the claim by DEI programs to focus on the inclusion of all minority groups and intersectional identities, these programs did primarily address racial equity. We can look at the history of DEI to better understand this emphasis and what has worked or not worked in focusing on inclusion across all underrepresented groups. 

A Brief Review of the History of DEI

In a look at the history of DEI, an author at Notre Dame University reviewed the history of DEI programs as rooted in affirmative action and equal employment laws as workplaces became more racially diverse in the 1960s. Only in the 1980s and 1990s did DEI begin to shift to include other identity groups such as the LGBTQ+ community. Considering that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was only enacted in 1990, we can understand why disability only started being addressed in DEI initiatives in the 2000s.

However, in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, heightened tensions exacerbated by the death of George Floyd led to a drastic demand for DEI programs in response to the urgent need for racial equity. Other minority groups consistently emphasized the need for inclusion with the disabled community emphasizing high unemployment rates among the disabled community and the negative impact of ableism in culture. 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for disabled people remained at 7.2 percent in 2023 while the unemployment rate for non-disabled people remained at 3.5 percent. While this rate is more than double, the obvious disparity increases when comparing groups of disability types to the non-disabled average. Looking at murders, disabled people are killed on average once a week by caregivers or family members. These murders are typically deemed mercy killings and the societal perception of disabled people being a burden is reflected in the judicial system showing mercy to the murderer. Inaccessible medical care is a major issue leading to preventable health issues emerging at a higher rate in the disabled community

During the DEI boom, the disabled community’s dissatisfaction with being included more as an afterthought as a minority group led to the creation of the branch of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) to advocate for the disabled community. Here, some DEI practitioners would take the opportunity to emphasize that they provided consulting on DEI and not DEIA. 

Then, the DEI tides began to turn. Critics of DEI initiatives pointed to racial discrimination that can happen when DEI practitioners take shortcuts to place certain demographics in job positions rather than working hard to dismantle systemic barriers to allow people of all backgrounds equal access to job opportunities. With the unfurling of various racial equity programs, the number of white employees suing for workplace discrimination has increased. Successful cases included David Duvall, a white man in a leadership role, who was fired by Novant Health without cause. Duvall alleged that his firing was so that Novant Health could place minority employees in more leadership roles and that his firing was in violation of Civil Rights laws which ban discrimination on the basis of race. Duvall was awarded $10 million.

Some DEI practitioners have labeled cases like that of Duvall as acceptable reverse discrimination and portrayed employment opportunities as a zero-sum game. However, this approach has created a divide in our country. The rise of people who believe it to be acceptable to discriminate against the racial majority has led to an increase in reverse discrimination lawsuits. This zero-sum game mentality by race rather than a collaborative focus on dismantling access barriers for people of all backgrounds led to reports by white-presenting disabled people of facing even greater uphill battles in accessing employment as professionals or accessing university resources as students.

The Impact on the Disabled Community

Various shifts in societal perspectives have created a bookend squeeze for disabled people within the heavily-divided US. The more progressive groups often underestimated the life-or-death issues faced by the disabled community as a minority group that included racial majority Americans. The more conservative groups still clung to outdated notions on disability that viewed disabled people as invoking fear or as deserving of charity with the assumption that charity and safety were automatically provided to all disabled people. The reality is that government support for disabled people is not supportive with many unnecessary barriers put up to dehumanize disabled people

Furthermore, disability is tied to lower socioeconomic status, and employment rates between disability types can have a far greater disparity than employment rates by race. For example, a report on all-gender employment rates by disability type found that people with no disability were employed at 78.4 percent, people with any disability were employed at 38.2 percent, people with sensory disabilities such as hearing or vision loss were the most likely disabled category to be employed at 46.9 percent, people with physical disabilities were employed at a rate of 32.2 percent, people with mental disabilities were employed at a rate of 29.2 percent, people with disabilities affecting self-care were employed at a rate of 17.3 percent, and people with disabilities causing them to be homebound were employed at a rate of 16.9 percent. 

In contrast, as of 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics looked at employment rate disparities by race using an employment-population ratio (EPR) metric; employment rates were 63.5 percent for Hispanics, 62.7 percent for Asians, 61.7 percent for people of two or more races, 60 percent for whites, and 58.4 percent for African Americans. Here, we see a maximum difference in employment-population ratio by race of 5.1 percent. This is in contrast to a 30 percent difference in employment rate simply by disability type of sensory disabilities versus disabilities resulting in a person being homebound. This disparity becomes even larger when contrasting homebound disabled people with non-disabled people’s employment rate at a 61.5 percent employment rate difference. 

A past EmployDiversity article has covered the fact that there is a large, untapped pool of talent in the form of homebound professionals who acquired a disability in their 20s or 30s after an initially successful career. Awareness of these individuals and of the size of this population group is lacking. Many of these individuals are more than eager and willing to participate in the workforce but would need 100 percent remote work options without travel requirements. Unfortunately, as many non-disabled people associate severity of disability with level of competency, these homebound people who may be homebound due to low level of mobility are commonly not believed in their accommodation requests. 

Speaking on the phone with a recruiter about a six-figure job, a disabled person may specify that she can only work fully remote jobs due to being homebound because of her disability. The recruiter might then attempt to negotiate with the homebound disabled person on what benefits could be offered if she were willing to go into their client’s office on a hybrid schedule instead. Here, the recruiter assumes that it is a matter of willingness rather than physical capability as a person this competent with a successful track record in her career could not possibly be so disabled that she is bedbound. The assumptions that exist with each disability type along with the needs for each disability type likely play a large role in the employment rates for each. 

None of this is to say that racial equity should be overlooked in favor of disability inclusion. Rather, the purpose of this section is to increase visibility about underrecognized issues to raise awareness. All parity gaps should be explored more deeply free of assumptions and a zero-sum mindset. The goal should be to determine root issues to problems and how best to raise awareness and break down systemic barriers respective to these areas. As this article will outline specific to neuroinclusion, part of the progress made in neuroinclusion might be due to the more streamlined nature of the neuroinclusion movement, and perhaps, more progress could be made in more general disability inclusion efforts by creating more targeted campaigns.  

A Deeper Dive into Disability Inclusion

As the largest minority group in the US, the disabled community faces not only societal stigma but also significant barriers to access. The outdated Charity Model of Disability portrays disabled people as passive recipients of aid, hindering genuine inclusion. This outdated model also contains the assumption that disabled people automatically receive aid and extensive charity. The reality is that many disabled people must fight for two to three years to access long-term disability benefits during which time they may be discouraged from working at all and have to rely on family members to support them. As of December 2023, the average monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payment for disabled workers is around $1,483, with 80 percent of beneficiaries receiving less than $2,000 per month. 

The way the system is set up discourages disabled people from working in addition to receiving benefits. Disabled people may be scared to end their disability benefits to accept a job as–if the job opportunity ends–they will face difficulty going back on disability benefits and will also face difficulty seeking new employment in the job market. This has led to many disabled people terming disability benefits to be “forced poverty.” Additionally, Medicaid as a health insurance insurance correlates with lower levels of quality care in medical settings versus employer-sponsored insurance. Some offices rejected Medicaid patients outright

While the ADA established basic legal protections, enforcing it often requires disabled people to navigate a complex legal system and fight for basic rights. This struggle for accessibility extends beyond physical barriers, as evidenced by the stark contrast between the rapid advancements in digital accessibility and the continued physical inaccessibility of many public and private spaces.

The Popularity of Neuroinclusion Training While Disability Inclusion Lags Behind

Nonprofits like Autism Speaks, despite being mired in controversy, are partially responsible for a general public awareness of autism. This created the autism market where the global autism spectrum disorders therapeutics market was valued at $27.3 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $43.2 billion by 2031. The pushback from autistic people typically focused on the fact that autistic people reported harm from therapeutic techniques such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The impact on the general public was undeniable regarding awareness as many disabled people reported that non-disabled people tended to assume that they were autistic, seeing disability and autism as one and the same.

Fighting back against the Medical Model of Disability which asserts that disability is an error that needs to be fixed, many disability advocates championed the Social Model of Disability which holds that society and lack of accessibility and inclusion in society is what disables people. As one autistic author wrote in a description of ABA therapy, the “tragedy narrative” is to see autistic children as abnormal and disabled by their autism, and the “neurodiversity narrative” is an empowering one that sees an autistic child as simply having a different way of processing information with support needs due to these differences.

This neurodiversity narrative became empowering, and many advocates highlighted the broadness of the neurodivergence umbrella to demonstrate how many people could possess a neurodivergence identity. While many people had previously thought of neurodivergence as encompassing conditions like autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and dyspraxia, questions began to arise about what else could be termed as neurodivergence. For example, debates began on whether epilepsy could be considered neurodivergence. With the expansion of the neurodivergence umbrella, more people began to identify as neurodivergent.

Some estimates from research hold that eight percent to 20 percent of the world population could be neurodivergent. Interestingly, as reflected in the much-publicized actions of Chase in 2023, Bryan Gill as the global head of the Office of Disability Inclusion and the global head of Neurodiversity at JPMorgan Chase announced his plans to expand the hiring of neurodivergent individuals. Gill reported that Chase had previously focused on hiring professionals with intellectual and developmental disabilities which many would argue now fall within the neurodivergent umbrella. The success of this hiring program prompted Gill to make a business case for focusing on hiring more neurodivergent individuals. 

In some instances, the push to normalize neurodivergent people as simply having a different way of thinking from neurotypical people has led to neurodivergent people themselves saying that they are not disabled. We can see this language reflected in cases such as Chase’s Office of Disability Inclusion noting on their webpage that they are “fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for people with disabilities and members of the neurodivergent community” with a distinction made between the two. 

Considering that more than 25 percent of people in the US have a disability according to the CDC, we must ask why neuroinclusion has gained such traction where disability inclusion as a whole is still lagging. The participation of disabled people in the workforce increased in 2021. Many physically disabled people who had been previously refused an accommodation to work from home where the company had said such an arrangement would be impossible suddenly found themselves working from home during the pandemic. However, the groundwork was never completed to where companies made this decision to have employees work from home based on valuing their disabled workers, and the subsequent return-to-office mandates left many disabled people again struggling with accessibility.

It is alongside the disabled community’s struggle for accessibility with fewer remote work opportunities available that companies are increasingly focusing publicly on neuroinclusion training and issuing neuroinclusion pledges. One 2024 publication by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) surveyed UK-based corporations and found that 60 percent of employers say neuroinclusion is a focus for their business. In this report, 33 percent of businesses said that it is already part of their DEI strategy, 19 percent said neuroinclusion is not explicitly mentioned in their DEI strategy but is part of their larger inclusion work, and eight percent viewed neuroinclusion as separate from their DEI work. Companies were more likely to focus on neuroinclusion as correlated with the size of the business with over 75 percent of corporations with 1,000+ employees reporting that neuroinclusion is a priority for them.   

Why Neuroinclusion is Gaining Traction

While traditional DEI and DEIA face challenges, neuroinclusion is likely to attract positive attention for several reasons.


Unlike broader DEI initiatives, neuroinclusion focuses on a specific group with well-defined needs, making it potentially easier for organizations to implement inclusion initiatives. Additionally, neuroinclusion does not face the current backlash that ethnoracial equity and inclusion is currently facing.

While several DEI practitioners have abandoned the DEI acronym and transitioned into People Operations, neuroinclusion practitioners can practice a specific form of disability inclusion without operating under the somewhat-stigmatized DEI label or ableist reactions to disability inclusion where the disabled community is still largely seen as not offering value to society. As the CIPD report showed, large corporations are very likely at 75 percent to focus on neuroinclusion and eight percent of employers surveyed consider neuroinclusion to be an area of focus but separate from DEI efforts.

Relatability and Harmony

Neuroinclusion has made advances by widening the umbrella of neurodivergence and looking to make connections as far as shared experiences. For instance, people with misophonia due to a traumatic brain injury may understand an aspect of sensory processing issues that overlap with autism. Neuroinclusion advocates look for this common ground to increase relatability across neurotypes. Additionally, several neuroinclusion trainers have transitioned to focus not on solely the inclusion of the minority group–the neurodivergent employees–but in harmony across all neurotypes, working with the neurodivergent employees to communicate more effectively with neurotypical employees and vice versa. Relationships are a two-way street, and past inclusion efforts have sometimes operated on a zero-sum mentality. Neuroinclusion training that focuses on harmony and mutual benefit is typically received more positively by employees, improves collaboration, and increases acceptance.   

Are Corporations Focusing on Neuroinclusion Instead of Disability Inclusion?

Despite its potential, there are some concerns surrounding neuroinclusion. Specifically, is a corporate focus on neuroinclusion a way to avoid addressing broader disability inclusion challenges? Could it be a way for organizations to appear progressive without dismantling systemic barriers that disadvantage all disabled people?

In contrast, perhaps the popularity of neuroinclusion initiatives and the current demand for neuroinclusion consultants is a natural reaction to the work of the neurodivergent community. There is a common saying in the disability community that the disability community is not a monolith. Potentially, the wide range of disabilities and diversity within disability was overwhelming, and neuroinclusion made progress in specificity. 

Part of dismantling systemic barriers that disadvantage all disabled people might involve the disabled community breaking off into segments to focus on raising awareness, representation, and inclusion specific to that subgroup. As it stands, it is not uncommon to see social media thought leaders on disability inclusion who have one disability attempting to set the rules for inclusive language as relates to disabilities experienced by others. While accessibility and human rights legislation for disabled people as a protected class is all-encompassing, perhaps disability inclusion efforts should be more targeted.      

Ultimately, neuroinclusion offers a promising path forward for creating inclusive workplaces that value the unique contributions of neurodivergent employees. However, it shouldn't replace comprehensive disability inclusion efforts. Organizations must strive to dismantle systemic barriers and unconscious biases that disadvantage all disabled people, regardless of visibility or specific needs.

Exploring Neuroinclusion Training Options

Numerous organizations offer neuroinclusion training and consulting services to help companies create inclusive environments. Here are a few examples:

Online Courses

Professionals can now pursue continuing education units (CEUs) in the form of courses on neuroinclusion in the workplace that are offered by accredited organizations. One example is the non-profit organization Society of Women Engineers (SWE). In nearly all states in the US, engineers must pursue professional development and continuing education hours. SWE offers continuing education hours now in the form of a new course on “Neuroinclusion Training.” This course offers four modules that cover 1) neurodiversity appreciation training for all employees, 2) neuroinclusive leadership training for managers, 3) neuroinclusive training for HR professionals, and 4) neuroinclusive training for recruiters. Interestingly, the non-profit offers no accredited courses for disability inclusion but does offer a gender inclusivity course, an inclusive leadership course, an older DEI&B course for women in STEM, and a more recent DEI course specific to how to practice DEI in a time of opposition with the recent backlash. 

Neuroinclusion Training

Companies like Uptimize offer a full suite of neuroinclusion options. This includes enterprise solutions that Uptimize asserts will bring neuroinclusion and the benefits of neuroinclusion to corporations. These solutions are provided in the forms of team development to better collaborate across neurodiversity; role-specific neurodiversity training to improve the employer brand and avoid excluding exceptional talent; and assessments to measure the impact of neuroinclusion within the organization to deliver on priorities for DEI, HR, and People Ops departments. This latter option sounds similar to the case outlined by the JPMorgan Chase Global Head of Disability Inclusion and Neurodiversity who made a business case to HR that was approved in order for him to increase his focus on hiring more neurodivergent professionals. 

Final Thoughts

The rise of neuroinclusion highlights the ever-evolving nature of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. While some concerns exist that neuroinclusion might overshadow broader disability inclusion, the rise of neuroinclusion as a corporate priority in recent years offers valuable insights into successful advocacy work by the neurodivergent community. The key lies in a multi-pronged approach. Organizations can leverage neuroinclusion training to promote an understanding of neurodiversity while continuing to dismantle systemic barriers that disadvantage all people with disabilities. 


Marion Davis is a contributing writer at She is a disabled DEIA consultant and writes on the value of diversity and inclusion across multiple industries, specifically as relates to disability and intersectionality.