Brain Badge: The company tick to support workers with ADHD, autism, dyslexia


Forward-thinking businesses have the Gender Tick, The Rainbow Tick and soon they will be able to add the Brain Badge – an initiative that will help welcome and support neurodiverse employees.

More than 10 per cent of Kiwis have autism, ADHD, Tourette’s and/or dyslexia and many struggle to fit into the typical workplace.

Brain Badge is an initiative of The Observatory Charitable Trust and is the life’s work of Richard Rowley, who wants to create a business world where the neurodiverse can thrive and add enormous value.

Rowley said the average workplace wasn’t a good fit for many neurodiverse Kiwis.

“Not only is it difficult for neurodiverse people to get employment, but it’s even tougher for us to keep gainful employment because we think differently and therefore behave outside what most people might think of as ‘usual’,” he said.

“The Brain Badge is designed to demonstrate how neurodiverse people can positively impact the workplace and the success of a business when that organisation recognises and welcomes them.”

Three of Rowley’s four children are neurodiverse and he says part of his mission is to make sure they feel accepted and valued when they enter the workforce.

He sees it as an opportunity for the neurodiverse community to demonstrate its value as innovative and disruptive thinkers in the workplace.


Rich Rowley, in pink, wants workplaces to be safe inclusive spaces that will welcome his neurodiverse children. Photo / Supplied

The ultimate aim of Brain Badge is a certification awarded to organisations that have gone through a neurodiversity education and awareness programme.

Research shows neurodiverse people are highly skilled, creative thinkers with exceptional design and visualisation skills needed for innovation and emerging technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Globally, tech and software companies have been the first to actively recruit neurodiverse employees because their skills match the needs of the complex systems and networks they are building.

As well as the positive social change, Rowley said the Brain Badge was beneficial for businesses to make sure neurodiverse people were welcomed and valued as part of their workplace.

The graduate of law and science degrees said he never felt like he fitted in at work until four years ago when he started working at The Mind Lab in Auckland.

Rowley said The Mind Lab provided Rowley with the psychological safety to be himself.

“I think it is the first really inclusive place where I have worked and being able to go to work every day and be myself has really transformed my life,” he said.

“I just spent my days hanging out with cool people doing cool, purposeful stuff.”

Rowley wanted the same inclusive environment for other neurodiverse New Zealanders.

The Brain Badge is still in its developmental stage so businesses that get involved have an opportunity to collaborate and co-create the certification.

Two large corporations, The Warehouse and Auckland Transport, have already signed up.

The Warehouse chief human resources officer Richard Parker said the collaborative certification project would be a global first and benefit not just New Zealand places of work but local communities and children.


Richard Parker said The Warehouse was committed to making its workplaces more accessible for neurodivergent people. Photo / Supplied

“We urge you to say yes to innovation, to better wellbeing at work and opportunity. We’re committed to making our workplaces more accessible for neuro divergent people,” Parker said.

“We’re proud to be working together to proactively support the strengths that different thinking can bring to New Zealand companies.”

Auckland Transport head of people experience Antony Hall said the Brain Badge certification would allow businesses to get better at supporting existing neurodiverse employees.

It would also look at how businesses attract and accommodate neurodiverse talent – a valuable part of the workforce in the complex, post-Covid-19 world.

“In the spirit of true diversity and inclusion, they are looking for Kiwi businesses to collaborate and co-create the certification and then test it to ensure the most robust and effective human resources rollout and learning platform,” he said.

“They have an interesting model – using corporate innovation methodologies to innovate the workplace.”

The ultimate aim of Brain Badge is the development of a certification that will be awarded to organisations that have gone through a neurodiversity education and awareness programme.

Like the Gender Tick, which is committed to gender equity, and The Rainbow Tick, which supports sexual and gender diversity, the Brain Badge recognises, welcomes, and supports neurodiverse employees.

• To get involved or sign up for Brain Badge click here:

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