Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities in the world. In the United States, as many as 15% of Americans suffer from dyslexia. Dyslexia is often referred to as a hidden disability. There are no telltale physical signs, and it is not linked to intelligence. In fact, there are many good leaders who are dyslexic.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunities for them in employment. Likewise, the Equality Act of the UK mandates that employers and organisations make “reasonable adjustments” so that disabled people have access to jobs, among others. This means that you cannot be discriminated against or refused employment because of your condition.
If you are dyslexic, it is likely that you have had to struggle with many things that others took for granted, including schoolwork, exams, assignments, and research papers. As you enter the workforce, you may be filled with anxiety just thinking of what you will need to deal with.
The ideal situation is finding an employer with programs in place that support employees with different kinds of disabilities. However, even if your employer does not have such a program, you can still adjust your work style and take advantage of several tools that make work tasks easier.
Common challenges of dyslexics in the workplace
Dyslexic employees experience common challenges in the workplace. Keep in mind that not everyone experiences the issues listed below, and the severity differs from person to person. Do you recognize your own challenges from this list?
- Confusion when it comes to dates and times. This could mean missed meetings.
- Difficulty with deadlines
- Reading difficulties
- A problem with starting and finishing work
- Problems with the planning and completing written work
- Poor spelling
- Difficulty with long words
- A tendency to misunderstand information
- Losing or forgetting things
How to deal with dyslexia at the workplace
A learning disability is something people are often hesitant to admit and it can be a cause for anxiety for an employee. It may be common for your disability to be misconstrued as a lack of ability or inattention. However, there are ways for you to thrive in the workplace. With technology, more tools exist now than ever before when it comes to assisting those with disabilities. Here are some tips that may help:
1. Tell people how you communicate best
Dyslexic people can struggle with verbal instructions; they forget or cannot follow them well. Talk to your employer about your preferred form of communication. If you learn better visually, a mind map or flowchart may be a better way of communicating over verbal instructions. To help with note-taking, you may want to use a digital recording device or your mobile phone’s recording function.
2. Organize your work area
A neat and organized work area helps a dyslexic person stay calm. Use post-it notes to remind you of important appointments (be sure to remove them after). A wall planner, desk calendar, or electronic calendar. Use colored pens whenever possible for different task categories. Keep your work area layout tidy, with designated places for the phone, documents, and other office stuff. Always return items to their proper places so that you always know where they are.
3. Set up several modes of reminders
Since dyslexics have difficulty remembering appointments and meetings, develop several different ways of reminding yourself. On your computer and phone, set up alarm reminders. For example, you could set a reminder one day before, as well as an hour before, a scheduled meeting. The one day notification reminds you not to schedule anything else around that time, and the one hour notification makes sure you get to your meeting on time.!
4. Use assistive technology
Just as smartphones now have assistive technology to assist mobile phone users with disabilities, there are various other assistive technologies to help you in the workplace. According to Dyslexia Box, they utilize technologies that include mind mapping software, text-to-speech software, and even speech recognition software to assist people with disabilities.
5. Use tech tools
There are several ways tech tools can help dyslexic people. Here are some:
- Use dark-colored text on a light (not white) background. Dyslexic people find white backgrounds too bright. Also avoid red/pink and green in case you are color blind.
- Use text-to-speech software that reads text back to you.
- Fonts should be at least 12 with larger inter-word and line spacing.
- Use images to support text; flowcharts to explain procedures.
- Use the spell checker feature of your word processor to check your work. You can also type the word or phrase into Google. Their dictionary can point you to the correct spelling.
You can find more tips at the British Dyslexia Association website.
In the end, what will help you survive and thrive in the workplace is a constant focus on your abilities instead of your disabilities. There are organisations and technology tools widely available now for disabilities of all types.