Researcher diversity promotes research excellence. But academia is widely perceived as inaccessible to those who work in non-stereotypical ways, and disabled researchers are consequently chronically under-represented within higher education. The barriers that academia presents to the inclusion and success of disabled individuals must therefore be understood and removed in order to enhance researcher diversity and improve the quality and quantity of research. Autism is a disability that is particularly under-represented within higher education, despite many autistic individuals having attributes that are conducive to research excellence. With a focus on geosciences, we use the experiences of an autistic PhD student to evaluate why academia can be inaccessible, and propose simple strategies that can reduce and remove barriers to academic success. We suggest that minor changes to communication, the academic environment and better disability awareness can make significant differences to the inclusion of disabled researchers, particularly those with autism. These changes would also benefit the wider scientific community and promote research and teaching excellence.