Friday 31st March 2023


Neurodiverse audiences: finding brands through a d.fferent lens

22% of the UK’s population is considered neurodivergent according to the UK Parliament (Wade, 2022). One of those in that percentage is my brother Jack, and 7 years ago I set up my initiative The Bridge Between that aims to be a source and resource of information for neurodiverse siblings. Since working in market research, I have felt my two worlds merging, which has benefited The Bridge Between whilst giving me a purpose to help brands and agencies communicate more inclusively.

Access to life

Diverse usability and accessibility is such an interesting space to research because it is simply different. One audience uses a product this way, another audience another way, but for neurodivergent audiences, this difference can be the extent someone has access to their life. As a sibling and carer, I sometimes act on behalf of Jack as he isn’t independently able to find or use brands and products that help him. This process isn’t always easy, and it feels like as a family we are always missing something that could help.

For example, when purchasing clothes for Jack we are still very much aimlessly buying new clothes or buying the same safe options. Jack doesn’t want to leave his care home, but he also needs new clothes. But not just clothes, clothes that he feels confident in and wants to wear when he’s unable to communicate. It’s trial and (more) error but this becomes difficult for everyone with constant returns (the environment!), wasted money, and more importantly Jack not having clothes he always likes or could like.


On the other hand, when we have researched and purchased products for Jack which give him a fulfilled life, there isn’t a better feeling. Four years ago, we introduced Amazon Alexa to give him the independence to play music with his voice. It’s been fascinating to see him use Alexa for its many functions but also his expectation for it to be available anywhere, a bit like a god. We also introduced Apple products such as the iPod, iPad, and iPhone so he can play YouTube videos and listen to Spotify. Apple products are arguably some of the most user-friendly and accessible pieces of tech on the market right now.


There are many products and brands on the market that at their core are inclusively accessible. What they don’t always have are communications that say to consumers that it is easy to use for neurodivergent audiences. Does a brand have a role in communicating that its products can help people’s lives… or is it an opportunity to do the right thing for an audience which is consistently overlooked in research and communications?


Being able to talk about neurodiversity in a work environment is important to me. It’s a subject I haven’t always been comfortable talking about, but it helps me open up and helps others understand or at least learn something new. Recently I was forwarded an article by my lead Dr Chloe Peacock as we talk about the topic of neurodiversity often.

Recently the disabled community didn’t feel represented in Legos toys, so a letter was sent from a young individual asking for better representation in the toys she loves. Lego listened and created toys which were more inclusive for the community making everyone happy. It sounds simple because it is. From my perspective, I feel that although my brother doesn’t play with Lego yet, I think that Lego is a brand I can trust and I could introduce into our life.


Around a year ago I was feeling stuck in our relationship again. Jack and I usually like to play music together but as with most things, he had gone off my horrible guitar playing and singing. I was trying to find something new when I thought I would love to take him to a gallery space. With none around me feeling accessible for Jack, I got in touch with my local gallery (John Hansard in Southampton) and they kindly made the whole space accessible for a day for Jack. It was beautiful and it reinstated that most people, spaces, and brands are willing to help.


Tesco’s initiative of making their space accessible is an interesting way to show support for those with hidden neurodivergence and disabilities to shop with Tesco in an accessible way. The supermarket dims the lights and lowers the noise of its checkouts from 9 am until 10 am every Wednesday and Saturday – essentially adapting their current space into an inclusive space. Tesco says the scheme is designed to help those with hidden disabilities in its stores and for older adults. It’s another gesture that shows a level of empathy but also an understanding of the brand’s current offering and how it can adapt for the community who may or may not shop with Tesco.

What I’ll be researching and my recommendations to get this conversation started

At d.fferentology, we are aiming to run an in-house project exploring the relationship between neurodivergent consumers and brands, using mixed methods. Which brands are communicating inclusively, and what are the areas for improvement? Are there any brands which are doing a particularly good job of aiding their neurodivergent customers? At present, this 22% doesn’t feel particularly well reflected in the way brands communicate which we sense isn’t just a missed opportunity for brands, but an area that researchers need to endeavour to understand more.


Wade, E. (2022). UK disability statistics: Prevalence and life experiences. [online] House of Commons Library. Available at: [Accessed 1 Nov. 2022].


By Tom Richer, Strategic Insight Executive

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