The Dyslexia Adult Network (DAN) is a coalition of organisations and specialists working at a national level with adults with dyslexia. We also cover Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder and Dyscalculia – sometimes known as neurodivergent (ND). The issues that cause the most difficulty to this population relate to employment in its many aspects: recruitment, support, progression and career development, disclosure and workplace awareness.
Advantages of having dyslexic employees
The benefits to employers of employees with dyslexia (in particular) comprise a skillset which includes creativity, innovative and ‘blue sky’ thinking, the ability to grasp an overview, see links and connections and highly-developed visual-spatial skills.
Professor Roderick Nicholson highlights that high-profile corporations including the BBC, Virgin and Google are successful because they encourage dyslexic people in senior roles – see his TED talk. Research from the Cass Business school flags up high numbers of successful entrepreneurs with dyslexia: an area that has become ever more important in the BREXIT landscape. Very recent research by Margaret Malpas, founder of DAN, showed that many adults ascribe their talents to dyslexia. Her book, Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia: a blueprint for success, published this week, is a “how to” book on acquiring the ten characteristics that many successful dyslexic adults share. It also contains inspiring stories from successful adults who battled against the odds that their education had dealt them.
HABIA (The Hair and Beauty Industry Authority) is a beacon of good practice, redesigning all its training materials to be dyslexia-friendly. This sector consists of hairdressing, beauty therapy, nail services, spa therapy and barbering.
Identifying recruitment as a key area, we are engaged with the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission on Recruitment on Dyslexia/ND running from Oct 2016-Oct 2017 http://www.achieveability.org.uk/main/policy/new-commission Our final report (Oct 2017) will highlight barriers to successful employment and flag up good practice.
Accessibility is an important issue for people with disabilities, whether this is the physical aspect of workplace for wheelchair users or documents in braille for people who use this communication method. When considering dyslexia/ND a number of things can be done to enable better access to employment :
- Documentation well spaced, in font at least size 12, on off-white paper.
- On-line communications that enable the use of assistive technology such as text reading software
- Job application processes that clearly state the skills required
- An alternative to psychometric testing because this will usually probe areas of difficulty but not assess areas of strength associated with dyslexia/ND.
But most of all we need awareness of these widespread conditions that affect around 10% of the population representing a huge well of (often) untapped potential. Access to Work should provide workplace assessment, aids and support but all too often the service is inadequate, leading to frequent complaints to DAN.
Dyslexia and Apprenticeships
Data from 2010-11 showed that 18,940 learners participating on an apprenticeship programme self-declared dyslexia; this has been a feature of the winners of Apprentice of the Year.
Employers can expect people who come to them via this ‘on-the-job training’ route to have a higher than usual incidence of dyslexia – and should be prepared to support them. The National Apprenticeship Service is working on an action plan aimed at improving support provisions and exam accessibility using assistive technology.
College student, Rheanna Stiles has spoken out on this issue http://www.barkingdagenhamcollege.ac.uk/en/about-the-college/college-news.cfm/page/apprentice-speaks-out-about-dyslexia
Government commitment to halving the Disability Employment Gap
This BBC initiative is timely now that the government Green Paper on Disability and Employment ‘Improving Lives’ is under consideration. We welcome the idea of work coaches, as long as they are well trained, and the aim of changing employer attitudes. We hope that Disability Confident can become more robust in order to encourage a sea change in employer take-up of people with disabilities.
However the emphasis on health and a medical model is inappropriate to a number of common disabilities, including dyslexia/ND.
The disability-friendly workplace
In order to welcome diversity, the workplace should take the following steps:
- listen to (potential) employees with disabilities explain their strengths and their reasonable adjustments needs– which may be very low cost
- allow more flexibility so that employees can reach agreed goals in their own ways
- encourage disability networks for mutual support.
The Unions have an important role to play in diverse workplace
- to disseminate awareness and good practice
- to mediate if difficulties arise
- to provide support
SEE Prospect Union website for an example of helpful information https://www.prospect.org.uk/at-work/neurodiversity/?_ts=3240