Less than half of #apprenticeship providers found to be #DisabilityConfident say @CognAssist 

Despite new regulations that public sector organisations have a duty to ensure website and apps meet accessibility requirements by 21st June 2021, a new investigation has uncovered a lack of published accessibility statements among the UK’s top 50 apprenticeship providers.

The audit goes on to reveal that many are not hitting accessibility standards that make the schemes inclusive to neurodivergent learners.

According to the investigation, which was carried out by Cognassist - the leading platform for cognitive assessment - a third (33%) of providers have failed to publish an accessibility statement on their website, which could be deterring neurodivergent talent from applying for an apprenticeship.

Where public sector organisations have followed the regulations except for MTR Elizabeth Line, the private sector has not followed suit.

It was found 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 forgotten talent pool

The study sought to understand whether the UK’s top 50 apprenticeship providers are doing enough to attract neurodivergent and disabled talent, by building online experiences that cater to the needs of individuals that are disabled and not ‘neurotypical’.

The investigation took into consideration best practice parameters, including overall vision of the company – which 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 the number of tools included as best practice, with others such as Leeds City Council and HMRC also ensuring a high number of tools.

Of those without an accessibility statement, only 2 included a live chat option for learners that might prefer to seek help via this route and only 6 had captioned videos for those that might be hard of hearing. Although inclusive messaging – defined as inclusive terminology on the website such as diversity, neurodiversity, inclusion and accessibility – was present in 5 cases where an accessibility statement was missing, some of the tools and actions needed to ensure an inclusive user experience were not present.

Those with a published accessibility statement (66%) fared slightly better, with 6% of these companies showcasing neurodivergent representation through neurodivergent learner success stories and 9% also made mention of neurodiversity support tools. These organisations were also better at including alternative methods of communication such as a live chat option (26%) and often had more inclusive messaging (56%).

However, overall, less than half (49%) of the providers audited were found to be disability confident, and representation of neurodiversity within the company apparent in just 4% of cases. While inclusive messaging was present almost half of the time (47%) across the top 50, this suggests that the other half lack terminology that could help neurodivergent learners feel seen and included.

Chris Quickfall, Founder and CEO, Cognassist:

“Last year, we uncovered the extent of neurodiversity among apprentices across the UK; 1 in 3 learners have a learning difficulty, many of which can be hidden and remain unsupported. 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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