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What is Dyslexia?

by Justin Crick | Oct 11, 2012

It is a persistent condition. Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, organisation, sequencing, spoken language and motor skills. There may be difficulties with auditory and /or visual perception. It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation.

Dyslexia can occur despite normal intellectual ability and teaching. It is constitutional in origin, part of one's make-up and independent of socio-economic or language background.

Some learners have very well developed creative skills and/or interpersonal skills, others have strong oral skills. All have strengths.

(Source: The British Dyslexia Association 2006)

Why is dyslexia a disability?

The Equality Act 2010 a person has a disability if:

  • they have a physical or mental impairment
  • the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities

For the purposes of the Act, these words have the following meanings:

  • 'substantial' means more than minor or trivial
  • 'long-term' means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
  • 'normal day-to-day activities' include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping

People who have had a disability in the past that meets this definition are also protected by the Act.

The key question is: how does dyslexia meet the criteria for being a 'disability'?

The list below should help bring some clarity to these issues:

  • The common attendant symptoms of dyslexia can include one or more of the following difficulties with: written communication, word finding, memory, concentration, time, organisation, direction, rote learning. These could undoubtedly have substantial adverse effects on day-to-day activities.
  • Dyslexic people can often find ways around their difficulties to minimise, overcome or mask the effect of their disability, especially if they are able to do things their way.
  • If, however, for any reason, a dyslexic person cannot find ways round their difficulties, the effects can be severely disabling.

Dyslexic people may have coping strategies which cease to work under certain circumstances (for example, when someone is placed under excessive stress or a change of job). This must be taken into account when assessing the effects of the disability.

In addition to considering the strategic organisational aspects, such as culture and policies, each disabled person's work environment and needs will differ and will require specific reasonable adjustments to be made.

Dyslexia-Friendly Practices

  • Some people may not have had their dyslexic-type difficulties formally identified or may not realise they are dyslexic. Consider offering dyslexia screening.
  • Consult individuals about their own preferences for doing tasks in the most suitable way and at the right pace. Where necessary, make adjustments to work allocation, such as creating an environment with minimal background noise and interruptions.
  • Enable the use of assistive technology to help with a range of skills. For example:
    • a digital recorder for messages and meetings;
    • text-to-speech software and also speech-recognition software;
    • portable spell checkers and grammar-checking software;
    • personal organisers, mobile phones, sat-nav. etc.
  • Consider one-to-one support consultancy from a disability specialist to develop an 'individual workplace strategy' with the most appropriate adjustments for the specific needs of the individual in the context of their role.

Specialist dyslexia and product training is available through iansyst; these are just some of the products: