1 in 6 adults has the reading level of an 11-year-old, but sufferers are far from stupid and with the right support can be an asset to your business.
Dyslexia can be a disability under the Equality Act 2010, but how can you offer the right support to any employees who suffer?
Utilising technology which provides electronic text-to-speech devices, making reading accessible is just one way. Jack co-founded Scanning Pens Ltd in 2004 which has just been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. In addition to his offices in Heywood House, near Westbury and Telford, Scanning Pens also has sites in the USA, Australia, Canada and India.
Jack kindly shared his own experiences and learnings during a fascinating webinar on 27 May - you can watch it again here. During the webinar he outlined how he has coped with dyslexia, how it drove him to create Scanning Pens and gave some really useful advice around what you can do to help and support your employees who might have dyslexia.
I have attempted to consolidate some key points below.
What is Dyslexia?
According to the British Dyslexia Association, it is a neurological difference and can have a significant impact during education, in the workplace and in everyday life. As each person is unique, so is everyone's experience of dyslexia. It can range from mild to severe, and it can co-occur with other learning differences. It usually runs in families and is a life-long condition. It is important to remember that there are positives to thinking differently. Many dyslexic people show strengths in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields.
As Jack included in one of his slides the comment that ‘the disability is not the problem; the accessibility is the problem’. Assistive technology (AT) can help with accessibility. AT are any items, pieces of equipment, software programs or product systems that can be used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. Different challenges require different assistive technologies, and Jack shared this graphic:
Employers can have a huge impact
• An estimated 1 in every 10 people have dyslexia according to the BDA
• Over 85 per cent of dyslexics will leave school without diagnosis, meaning no essential specialist support while learning or support for exams
• 50% of prisoners in the UK are functionally illiterate according to a Shannon Trust study
• In England alone, according to the Literacy trust 16.4% of adults or 7.1 million people, can be described as having 'very poor literacy skills’
To my mind, this means that employers may be the first people to identify that a person might be experiencing dyslexia or, indeed, other forms of neurodiversity, such as dyspraxia (a condition affecting physical co-ordination) or dyscalculia (often referred to as ‘maths dyslexia’ or ‘number blindness’). By identifying the issue and assisting with support, you could ensure a bright future for the person and your business as those experiencing neurodiversity often excel in other areas.
EY (previously known as Ernst Young) published a Value of Dyslexia report in 2019 which highlighted that:
From the education and employment observations, we can determine that:
► When dyslexia is solely associated with challenges, it can inhibit dyslexic individuals from reaching their full potential.
► When dyslexia is focused on strengths with challenges supported, it can create positive outcomes through a better understanding of ability.
It is therefore important to consider the benefits that the person can bring to your business, not the cost of providing the AT or other support. As mentioned above, Dyslexia can be a disability under the Equality Act 2010, so as an employer, you have a duty to provide such technology and adaptations and there is funding and support available such as the Access to Work Scheme.
What can I do to help?
Encourage openness in the workplace around all disabilities
Speak to your employee
Provide training for managers and leaders within your business to ensure they have the skills to discuss personal issues and disabilities (contact the Growth Hub for details of fully funded management training courses)
Offer to provide Assistive Technology
Utilise Access to Work funding
Give additional coaching if required
Consider buddying or mentoring, especially for new starters
Sign up for the Disability Confident Scheme https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk/
Train ‘Workplace champions’
Raise awareness of neurodiversity
Recommend the use of online support groups such as those on Facebook
Contact the British Dyslexia Association Helpline [email protected]
Jack is also happy to offer help and advice: [email protected]