Most of the focus and supporting resources for dyslexia awareness is aimed at school children. Supporting those with learning difficulties at an early stage in their development is critical in preventing them from falling behind. However, many professionals don’t receive the help they need to flourish with their dyslexia at work.
Under the UK Equality Act 2010 dyslexia and dyspraxia are explicitly called out as disabilities. They sit in there with a number of other mentally impacting hidden disabilities such as depression, autistic spectrum disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. The act offers two critical protections for disabled people: legal protection from discrimination, and legal rights to reasonable adjustment.
The provisions of the Equality Act provide critical protection for many disabled individuals. However, the label disabled draws focus to what can’t be done. This steals attention from what can be done. Considering dyslexia as a disability means many people do not consider how to harness the many strengths it can bring.
Dyslexia affects people differently and like there are common challenges (reading, writing, memory) there are commons traits of strengths. These include spatial reasoning, interconnected reasoning (pattern spotting), verbal reasoning particularly in situations of incomplete and contradictory information, big picture thinking, creativity, and empathy. With strengths like that it’s starting to sound less like a disability, isn’t it?
Dyslexia in business
Many larger employers have people or departments ensuring company compliance with the Equality Act. Much of the focus for this is on providing reasonable adjustments. Some may even go as far as coaching on areas of weakness. Some have networks to support staff who think differently and to raise awareness. This focus on mitigating difficulties means many employers are failing to release untapped potential within their workforce.
There are enlightened companies that are seeking to harness dyslexia or other neurodivergent conditions. Those organisations that have got Disability Confident Leader status in the Governments Disability Confident scheme are seeking to harness the potential of disabled employees. Marketing firm the garage actively recruited dyslexics for the creativity they can bring. Microsoft and SAP recently targeted autistic with more accommodating selection processes to ensure they did not lose out from recruiting the best talent.
I suspect one of the reasons Professor Julie Logan found so many dyslexic entrepreneurs is because many businesses don’t do enough to help their different thinkers excel. Dyslexics are not constrained by tradition when the set up their own company. This can lead to breakthroughs as their untapped potential is released.
With the increasing power and spohistition of assistive technology coupled with the need for “out of the box” thinking I believe dyslexics and other different thinkers bring a real competitive advantage to businesses.