Plaid AMs calls for neuro-diversity to become a protected characteristic
Plaid Cymru have called for neuro-divergence to become a protected characteristic under equalities legislation.
Shadow health minister Helen Mary Jones AM and shadow minister for social justice Leanne Wood AM both outlined the case to give neuro-divergent people protection under the law in today’s Senedd debate on Autism.
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information and the means in which different people might naturally think about things differently. Most people are “neurotypical”, meaning the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects.
It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people - more than 15% of people in the UK, are “neurodivergent”, meaning that the brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Examples of neuro divergence include Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia and there is currently limited protection for such people if they can demonstrate their condition constitutes a disability.
Shadow minister for social justice Leanne Wood AM argued that whilst the equality act already offers some limited protection for neuro-divergence, it also requires ‘proof’ that a behaviour or circumstance would discriminate against a typical person with that condition but difficult to enforce for neuro-diversity as each condition effects an individual in a unique way.
Shadow minister for social justice Leanne Wood AM said,
“The equality act doesn’t go far enough in ensuring that the range of neuro-diverse conditions are recognised in both employment and the delivery of public services. There are some fantastic examples of organisations embracing neuro-diversity in their recruitment and working practices, and those organisations are reaping the benefits of doing so. However there is far more to be done if we are to tackle the discrimination many people face in the workplace.
“Neuro-divergence doesn’t necessarily “impair” somebody – still with support they can thrive. The issue is about understanding and adjustment.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Helen Mary Jones AM added,
“We must also ensure public sector bodies consider neuro-diversity in planning public services. We know for example that autistic people experience missed diagnosis in the health service because of communication problems. We also know that changes to routines, for example in school transport, can cause a massive amount of stress to autistic children.
“Unfortunately sometimes public bodies think that providing wheelchair access is all they have to do to remove disabling barriers, and are under no obligations to consider neuro-diversity.
“Finally we have to start involving neuro-divergent people themselves in planning and delivering public services. No decisions should be made about them without their involvement, and too often this isn’t happening.