Neurodiversity in Planning

Our mission: To help facilitate and encourage greater
neurodiverse engagement at all stages of the planning process

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As a leading communications agency specialising in the built environment, one of our key priorities when delivering any engagement activity is that it is accessible. We are all affected by the built and natural environment and should all have a stake in how it is managed and developed.

However, accessibility measures often have a narrow focus. Emphasis may often be placed on ensuring that residents and stakeholders can physically obtain information. As a result, less regard is given to whether individuals can actually use the information to take part in the consultation and planning process. The impact is that those who need communications in a more accessible format are excluded from the consultation process.

That’s why this toolkit is focussed on neurodivergent individuals, who comprise over 15% of the UK’s total population. This toolkit provides seven principles to guide you on how those engaging with the public and stakeholders as part of planning and infrastructure development, can make infrastructure and planning consultation and engagement, be it online or in person, accessible for a neurodiverse audience. The principles aim to make it easier for all people to be able to contribute to, influence and participate in planning, and to support people to be able to contribute to planning as suits them best rather than as is easiest for us as industry professionals.

The toolkit is written to endure, and we hope will inform changes in planning and the ways in which we engage with each other. Whilst the principles provide a guide to improving accessibility, it is worth remembering though that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Engagement should still be tailored to individual needs on a project-by-project basis.

A lot of what we set out is just good communications practice – we could all be better at communicating more concisely, clearly and impactfully. However, the incorporation of these principles could be the difference between a neurodivergent person being able to take part in your engagement activity or being excluded from the process. We need to be aware of our bias as planning professionals and the resultant echo chamber that impacts how we communicate.

Defining Neurodiversity


Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in terms of neurocognition. The term neurodiversity recognises the unique strengths and challenges that may derive from thinking, learning
and communicating differently.


When an individual diverges from the dominant societal standards of ‘typical’ neurocognitive functioning, they don’t ‘have neurodiversity’, they’re neurodivergent. Types of neurodivergent conditions include for example: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Autism, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome. Being neurodivergent often brings exceptional skills and talents, such as innovation, creativity and problem solving. Neurodivergent and neurominority are terms which may be used interchangeably.

The graphic on the right hand side shows types of neurodiversity (marked in orange) and common traits (written in white) that neurodivergent people can experience.


Is sometimes used to describe people who are not neurodivergent. ​

We all think, learn, communicate and experience the world differently.

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain works and interprets information. It highlights that people naturally think, learn, communicate and experience the world differently.

We therefore need to think about the neurodiversity in our user experience when designing and conducting our engagement work.

The principles

These seven principles are intended to guide you on how to make planning and infrastructure engagement accessible for a neurodiverse audience. They are explained in greater detail across the following pages, and we have also provided details and links to other resources and contacts that can provide for the further insight and detail that we cannot provide within this concise toolkit.

Involve neurodiverse voices

Before beginning to plan the delivery of any
engagement, it’s important to first have a clear strategy and set of objectives. Who are you reaching out to? What are you setting out to achieve? What feedback are you looking for?

Once you’ve done this, the best means of measuring whether your planned activity will be accessible is by asking other people for their view.

You might have preferences or unconscious bias that means something that seems accessible or easy to understand to you is not accessible for other people. Seek to involve others in your team, or reach out to experts (such as the resources listed at the end of this toolkit).

Consultations often take place across multiple stages, so you could provide this flexibility through adding to your offering as you move through to subsequent stages of consultation.

As part of this, try also to build in the flexibility to evolve your engagement in response to feedback during the consultation process (not just before or afterwards).

Consider appointing Neurodiversity Champions within your organisation to focus on making all communications as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.

Big picture first

Keep the main theme or area of focus of your engagement activity at the forefront of what you’re doing. From there, ensure that your event, website and other material and media has a clear structure and user journey.

Clutter can divide attention, cause people to miss things and increase the amount of time and concentration it takes to digest information. For example:

  • If designing a project website, ensure the website has a clear hierarchy/page order, so that visitors to your website are getting all the information they need.
  • For printed material, make sure you format text correctly (don’t use bold/underline etc excessively outside of headings) and make sure that the most important things catch the reader’s eye first.
  • When holding an event, start by considering the venue itself. Ensure you provide clear directions (perhaps including a picture of the venue), along with clear wayfinding signage inside. During the event itself, avoid flickering lights and intensely bright lights and colours, unless these are optional and visitors are warned that certain areas will include these elements.

It is important that content flows and reads naturally. The direction of movement between one section and the next should be clear, with no ‘dead ends’. Consider the order and manner in which you would want an end user to engage with your content.

Show what matters

Different members of your audience will have different priorities when engaging with you.

This may mean you need to provide a lot of information, each competing for the user’s attention. However, there will also be common interests that the majority of your visitors are seeking out, and it’s important that this information is the clearest to find and focus on.

Key information should contrast with its surroundings and be given priority – it should be distinguishable from surrounding information so the degree of relationship is clear.

As part of this, ensure that text is formatted correctly and avoid things like fully justifying text, which can make it more difficult for some people to read.

When preparing key messaging, consider what message you would want an individual to take away if they only took in one piece of information, and tailor your messaging around this. What do you want your engagement activity to be remembered for?

However, whilst simplifying ideas can make it easier for some people, showing what matters shouldn’t mean removing all detail. With thought, complex information can still be presented in an accessible way.

Keep it clear

All engagement has a desired outcome, whether that be providing feedback, informing or addressing fears and concerns.

As such, engagement work needs to be clear, compelling and impossible to miss. When preparing information, use plain language and avoid the use of jargon. It is really important that language selected is clear and well considered. For example:

  • A picture tells a thousand words. Where possible, use imagery to help explain your text. This can make your content much easier to understand amongst those who struggle with reading and digesting large blocks of text.

  • For written text, ensure that your content is legible. Avoid detailed or distracting backgrounds and ensure that there is contrast between background content and text, utilising legible fonts and appropriate font sizes. Too much clutter and information can lead to visual stress.

  • Make use of plain language and avoid jargon.

  • For recorded words and video, ensure the mouth is clear, that words are slowed and that the person speaking is not directly looking at the camera. Alongside the video, consider providing captions and/or a transcript, which in the UK may be considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equalities Act 2010.

  • Be aware of unwritten rules – you will be taken literally by some.

Consider how the information you present will be interpreted – could it be taken literally? What impact would this outcome have?

It is important that content flows and reads naturally. The direction of movement between one section and the next should be clear, with no ‘dead ends’. Consider the order and manner in which you would want an end user to engage with your content.

User choice

Try to be flexible and provide choice for those taking part in your activity. What works for you may not work for them, and so all engagement should have the flexibility to give the user choice of how they wish to engage with the subject matter.

Presenting information in different ways also maximises the opportunities people have to digest and understand it.

Provide information in a variety of formats. This is more than just providing content in large print – think about the use of images, videos, audio versions of written collateral or even providing content in multiple languages. Importantly, try to make this information readily available – the act of having to request it can switch people off and disenfranchise them.

As part of this, do not be afraid to experiment and incorporate new technologies. For example, many people (not just those that are neurodivergent) may struggle to visualise 2D plans in a 3D space. New technology such as VR or online mapping tools can boost accessibility in a way that may not have previously been possible.

Give people choice in how they contact you. Do not force users down the route of just getting in touch via a webform – they might prefer to speak over the phone, in writing or at a face-to-face event.

If holding an event, consider introducing either a quiet space for those who need it, or even block out dedicated ‘quiet hours’ within the exhibition run time.

Think about how you are asking people to take part in engagement activity – are you asking people to provide written feedback on paperforms etc? If so, why not also offer the ability for people to take part via laptops, tablets or their own personal devices? This can allow those who struggle with writing out their thoughts to use voice to text tools to still give their feedback. Likewise, some people may not feel comfortable being approached, so ensure that your activity includes options for people who feel this way.

Be considerate

Give careful thought to the overall sensory experience of any communications effort and create a welcoming environment, acknowledging that one size does not fit all.

If you’re hosting an event, is the atmosphere welcoming and inclusive? Will people want to spend time at the venue in order to take part fully? Connect other principles of this toolkit, such as the layout of the space, attitude of staff and even the temperature, which can all impact whether people are willing to engage with you.

When holding an event at an external venue, there will be some things you cannot control (such as confusing venue layouts and overwhelming sensory stimuli, depending on the venue’s location). However, you can still try to mitigate these, such as through providing wayfinding signage in a clear, distinct design.

There are other design considerations you can make when producing collateral, too. For example, consider reducing visual stress by avoiding bright white backgrounds.

Continue to adapt

Be open to feedback and be prepared to act on it. As part of this, you should be clear on the purpose of providing feedback and how it will be considered.

In addition to taking feedback on your proposals, why not incorporate a mechanism that allows for feedback on how the engagement work itself was conducted? This could be as simple as a smiley face feedback tool on how easy people found it to engage with your website/exhibition/etc.

Making mistakes is an important part of being human, too. Your engagement is unlikely to be perfect, but this is useful in providing learnings for future work.

Likewise, we would love to hear about how useful this toolkit was. Please get in touch on or 020 3697 7630.


Virtual Exhibition

  • Clear layout
  • Use of number above exhibition boards to show clear journey and hierarchy
  • Audio version of exhibitions

Consultation Website

  • Guided user journey
  • Contrasting use of colours
  • Choice of navigation based on preference (arrows or menu)
  • Audio description of boards for those who prefer different formats

Consultation Assets

  • Guided user journey
  • Contrasting use of colours
  • Choice of navigation based on preference (arrows or menu)
  • Audio description of boards for those who prefer different formats


You may have noticed that much that sits behind our seven principles for engaging with a neurodiverse audience is just good communications practice – we could all be better at communicating more concisely, clearly and impactfully.

But that is part of our message; so many people are neurodivergent that these principles should apply to all of your communications efforts.

And we also hope that you take away initiatives that are specific to neurodiverse audiences, such as getting the input from neurodivergent people at the strategy-setting stage and considering appointing Neurodiversity Champions.

So many people are neurodivergent that these principles should apply to all of your communications efforts.

To develop the toolkit, BECG led a working group of planning professionals. Alongside Krystian Groom, Alex Smith, Will Balme and Charli Edwards of BECG, the working group included Jenny Offord (Neurodiversity in Planning), Jan Bessell (Strategic Planning Adviser, Pinsent Masons), Rebecca Skinner (Senior Development Manager, Mount Anvil) and Paul Kallee-Grover (Group Planning Director, Leith Planning Group). The group also sought input from an array of neurodivergent voices and neurodiversity experts.


Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia

  • These are all types of applied developmental neurominority.
  • People are born with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia or Dysgraphia.
  • The impact shows up in a specific setting or with a task involving a specific
    skill, such as reading or motor control.
  • They are not considered a health condition.

Tourette Syndrome, Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Non-Verbal Learning Difference

  • These are all types of clinical developmental neurominority.
  • People are born with Tourette Syndrome, Autism, Attention Deficit
  • Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Non- Verbal Learning Difference.
  • They are currently considered as health conditions.

Mental Ill Health and Acquired Neurominority (potentially transient)

  • This develops in response to a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
  • People could return to “neurotypical” if their health condition resolves.

Neurological Illness or Brain Injury

  • These are acquired neurominority experiences.
  • They develop in response to a health condition such as anxiety
    or depression.
  • They have the potential to resolve as the heals or worsen as health deteriorates.


What is Neurodiversity (Genius Within, 2021) – available at:

Neurodiversity at Work (National Institute of Economic and Social
Research for ACAS, 2016) – available at:

Designing accessible services (UK Government, 2016) – available at:

Inclusion Standards Guide (Alliance for Inclusive Education, 2011) –
available at:

Neurodiversity at work (CIPD, 2018) – available at:

A guide to understanding what makes a typeface accessible
(The Readability Group, 2020) –

Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia Line Managers Toolkit
(UK Government, 2020) – available at:

Neurodiverse voices: Opening doors to employment (AchieveAbility,
2018) – available at:

When every day is sensory overload (Planning, 2018):

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