Campaigners have highlighted the need for greater inclusion in the workplace and schools, with 15-20% of the population believed to be neurodiverse.
On Wednesday 150 delegates gathered at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow for the Herald and GenAnalytics Diversity Conference Scotland, hosted by Rachel McTavish.
Six sessions across the day focused on topics such as pushing through barriers, data, AI and inequality and managing the noise around diversity.
Speakers highlighted the need for workplaces to be flexible to people of all needs, including the differently abled and neurodivergent.
Briony Williamson, head of equity, diversity and inclusion manager at Enable Works, shared the story of a colleague called Dylan who is autistic and visually impaired.
She explained that while the office uses a hot-desking system, that proved unsuitable for Dylan who was given his own space.
In addition the noisy office proved distracting so he was allowed to wear headphones – even if he had a propensity to sing Christmas songs in July.
Alan Thornburrow, chief executive of Salvesen Mindroom Centre, spoke about his 13-year-old son who is dyslexic and has a global learning difficulty.
Mr Thornburrow himself had been written off by teachers while at school, and wants to ensure that his son and others are supported when they enter the workforce.
He told The Herald after his speech: “I’ve definitely noticed the difference since my own school days.
“I know that’s not always the case with the parents and young people we advocate for, but for me the experience Lewis has is totally different to mine.
“I was written off in Primary 5, he’s had a lot of support: educational psychologists, speech and language therapists.
“That’s continued through high school and that feels like a real step forward in terms of progress and bringing people together like this is definitely a way to help with that kind of progress.”
In his speech he cited research showing that 80% of young people in the Young Offenders’ Insitute at HMP Polmont were dyslexic as an example of the importance of working to support neurodiverse people.
Other keynote speakers included Vicky Bawa, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at BAE Systems, STV HR and communications director Suzanne Burns and final keynote speaker Sathpal Singh of NatWest Group who is also chair of BCS Agile Methods and an organiser at Future of Work Scotland.
Kirsty Diamond culture & engagement business partner at Scotland’s railway shared some of the real-world effects of a lack of inclusivity.
She pointed to Cleveland Gervais, a blind charity councillor who died in 2020 after falling into the path of a train in London. A jury found that a lack of tactile paving “caused and contributed” to his death.
The event was the seventh annual Diversity Conference Scotland, sponsored by Diageo, BAE Systems and sportscotland, with support from CMS and Crown Estate Scotland and all speeches were translated into British Sign Language by a pair of interpreters.
Forbes Dunlop, chief executive, sportscotland said: “We are all on a journey to ensure that inclusion underpins everything that we do. I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of those involved in Scottish sport are open, welcoming, and inclusive to people from all backgrounds. However, we can, and must, do more.
“We know that sport can change lives. It can bring people together and be a powerful vehicle for change. I hope that the learnings from this conference will empower and inform us all as we work together to ensure that sport is welcoming and inclusive for everyone.”