Dyslexia at Work

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Dyslexia is incredibly prevalent in our society and is a specific learning difficulty which affects around 1 in 10 of us.  There is therefore every chance that someone within your family or social circle may have dyslexia but there is also every chance you may not know as it is often not something which people openly like to share.

People with dyslexia will often struggle with how a word sounds compared to how it is written down and given that during our early schooling we are traditionally taught using phonetics to grasp language, a person with dyslexia can quickly fall behind in a traditional schooling environment based on standard testing curriculum.  

Classified officially as a disability as part of the Equality Act 2010 it is essential that your business takes every step possible to eliminate discrimination of those with dyslexia.   However, beyond this it is far more essential for employers to view dyslexia as a learning difference rather than a learning disability.  With this shift in thinking, in addition to driving forward to a more diverse and embracing working culture, we start to look more closely at the benefits that a brain which is wired slightly differently can bring to the workplace, and there are plenty…

  • Quick on the uptake!  People with dyslexia are often far quicker at grasping new concepts.
  • They’re often incredibly conscientious and persistent in their approach.
  • More adept at spotting patterns and connections.
  • Excellent problem solvers. 
  • They often foster a true innovation with a more creative approach.
  • Approaching tasks in a more creative way and thinking beyond the traditional approach comes more naturally.

By ensuring your workplace is more dyslexia friendly and looking more to the positives a diverse approach can have on your team, you will not only be ensuring there is less stress for the individual with dyslexia, but you will also improve loyalty, motivate staff and begin to approach tasks and delivery in a more inclusive and often unique way.

So what can you do as a business to ensure you’re levelling the playing field at application stage and creating an environment which not only welcomes those with dyslexia but gives them a true platform to thrive?

Firstly, let’s look at the application stage and how best to approach this with adjustment to ensure you are providing a solution for full acceptance:

Job Adverts – A simple solution is to look beyond the written word and post your job ads in differing format, namely Audio and/or visual.  Beyond additionally being a generally innovative approach which will ensure your position stands out, it will also embrace a wider pool of candidates with potentially differing needs, including those with dyslexia.  Additionally your job advert is going to be better and easier to understand if it is written in plain English with limited jargon and technical speak.  Short paragraphs and bullet points are also a sound approach and will be easier for a person with dyslexia to understand.  There are also certain fonts which are less crowded and prove easier for those with dyslexia to understand (these include Arial and Comic Sans).  Font size should ideally be a minimum of 12, wider line spacing is encouraged and it is advisable to avoid italics and/or bolding text as words can bleed together. 

Technical Tests – If running tests as part of your assessment process it is advisable to include assistive options which will aid spelling and grammar checking.  Similarly utilising programmes such as MS Word which can be adjusted by the applicant will also be beneficial, they may find that a different colour or font size will aid their understanding and therefore help them to perform better.  

Interviewing – when interviewing it is advisable to keep things simple and as relaxed as possible.  Try to avoid using complicated sentences and aim to keep your questions as concise and straightforward as possible.  If possible, try to include visual aids such as a slide decks to demonstrate wider points but aim to keep these concise and minimal.  As importantly, keep the pace of the interview relaxed and slow down if necessary and make it known that applicants can take their time, ensure they have necessary refreshment and can even take a small break if needed.  By relaxing the process you will be sure to get the best out of the applicant and allow them equal opportunity to shine as part of the process.

Looking beyond this to the work environment and how to get the very best out of someone with dyslexia, there are additional changes which can be made which will provide further support:

  • Publish any company literature or amend relevant documents in a suitable format.  Also consider utilising different formats such as audio.
  • Ensure staff have the opportunity to amend key literature formats to something they find easier to use.
  • Provide full assistance and coaching to help them overcome any key challenges within their role.
  • Software which allows for voice recognition and word prediction along with auto spell checkers and auto correct can also be a real help.

However, beyond these amendments which you can make to the environment, it is essential that you create the correct culture.  You must ensure that people who are affected with dyslexia feel completely supported and comfortable within their place of work and there is an honest and open dialogue with senior management.  In doing this you will be nurturing a truly diverse and inclusive culture and benefit from all of the positives this can bring to your business.   


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