Writing Documentation with Neurodivergent Open Source Contributors In Mind




When writing accessible and equitable documentation, it is important to remember that as of 2016, studies showed that 1 in 54 people are neurodivergent, and that neurodivergence is not something one ‘ages out’ of. Neurodivergent people are your fellow community members, customers, coworkers, and open source peers. As such, writing documentation without taking the needs of the neurodivergent community into account will result in not only unhappy users, but unhappy contributors also.

Writing documentation is a skill that requires effort, dedication, and commitment to improving not only the particular project you’re working on but also the wider open source community as a whole. However, technical documentation and contributor guidelines may be unclear to contributors who are neurodivergent.

Neurodivergent individuals can often face challenges in the following areas when contributing to open source and writing or reading documentation, which can include:

  • Identifying a DRI for an issue if an organization or project’s hierarchy is unclear
  • Implied ‘best people to contact,’ that one only knows about if they are already a member of a community
  • Unclear descriptions of where to get started on their contributor journey
  • Language that assumes a particular skill set or experience level with a particular technology or concept.

Through education and awareness, we can change this situation for the better, and create a more equitable and welcoming documentation community for those that are neurodivergent.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Portland
  • Year: 2021

About the speaker

Rin Oliver