Communication – disability – making reasonable adjustments
Government figures suggest that around 10% of the population (about 6.3 million people) have dyslexia. Dyslexia is one of the most common learning difficulties. It affects both children and adults.
Dyslexia can present difficulties in reading and writing, planning and organising and following directions.
Some employees have dyslexia and are undiagnosed. Some people will try to conceal it. You can only help an employee if you understand the nature of the condition he or she has.
The following traits may indicate that an employee is dyslexic (though of course there may be other reasons too).
- A tendency to confuse appointment dates and times and to miss meetings.
- Difficulty with planning work schedules and deadlines.
- A problem with starting and finishing work.
- Problems with the planning and completion of written reports or forms.
- Inconsistent and inaccurate spelling.
- A tendency to read inaccurately and understand the information.
- Particular problems with lengthy words.
- A tendency to confuse verbal instructions.
- Losing or forgetting items of information.
- Low self-esteem.
- Concerns about training and promotion.
Not all dyslexic people will suffer the same symptoms or they won’t suffer them to the same degree. If an employee is dyslexic and has problems with performance at work, it is important that you comply with the Equality Act 2010 and support such employees appropriately.
Here are some tips from The British Dyslexic Association for supporting employees with dyslexia.
Many dyslexic people are visual learners. Old-fashioned 'chalk and talk' doesn’t work for them. They need to be shown things, walked through them and given time to learn.
Dyslexic people often cope better with verbal instructions than written ones, and need a task to be demonstrated physically, perhaps several times, rather than just described.
You can record messages or meetings so the dyslexic person can return to them when needed. If you can present information in a diagram or picture, all the better.
The way information is presented can also make a huge difference to dyslexic people who find reading difficult:
- Do not use italics or underline text
- Do not use all capitals
- Make the text bigger - 12 point or more - and well-spaced
- Keep lines short
- Use bold to highlight things
- Choose a sans-serif font, such as Arial, Helvetica or Calibri
- Use cream paper rather than white. I have also know dyslexic employees ask for green or orange paper or screens by way of adjustment.
- Avoid justified text.
- Keeping written memos or web pages as simple as possible can really help too, and employers can offer staff distraction-free or readability plug-ins for their computers.
- Use programmes that strip out unnecessary furniture from a page, leaving just the text that matters.
Fairly basic software and equipment will probably make life easier than one with a large number of toolbars and menus.
Dyslexic people may benefit from having their workspace as calm as possible, for example, away from doors, thoroughfares or constantly ringing phones. Something as simple as a second screen for a person's computer will allow them to get rid of anything extraneous and focus on the task in hand.
There are lots of tools out there that can help a dyslexic person. All modern tablets, smartphones and computers come with a synthetic voice that can read out a document or web page, sparing someone the difficulty of reading it themselves. For help reading something on paper, special scanning pens can convert written words and turn them into audio.
Talking calculators and alarm watches can also help people who struggle with numbers or telling the time, and even something as simple as a good spellchecker can make someone's life easier.
The Dyslexic Association (www.dyslexia.uk.net) advocates training for everyone working with a dyslexic person, not just the individual themselves. The support of their team can make all the difference to a dyslexic person's experience at work: everything from providing information to them in the right format to checking key decisions before they are made.
If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch!
Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2020 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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