Is Dyslexia a Disability?

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According to the Equality Act 2010, dyslexia is a disability because it is a lifelong condition that affects a person’s ability to read, write, spell and have a good sense of direction. A condition is classed as a disability if it “affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” whether physically or mentally.

 

Some people who have dyslexia would consider it a learning difference rather than a disability.

 

While the Equality Act 2010 of the U.K. defines dyslexia as a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the USA discusses how it interferes with a person’s “life activities.” In 2008, the US Congress amended the ADA “to update the definition of disability” after a number of Supreme Court hearings narrowed it. In 2016, an additional rule went into effect in America. It includes “detailed guidance for employers and educational institutions on providing accommodations to people who have a disability” including dyslexia.

Reasonable adjustments for dyslexic employees

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At work, an employer “has a legal duty under the Equality act 2010” so that they can put reasonable adjustments in place for someone who has dyslexia. These can include the following:

 

  • The employer determining “the nature of the individual’s dyslexia.” The nature “could be obtained from a diagnostic assessment.
  • The employer considering “the requirements of the job” and any additional requirements that “should be obtained through a Workplace Needs Assessment.”
  • The employer checking if the working environment and working practices are suitable for those with dyslexia. The employer should also consider “any impact on performance.” For example, if an office is deemed too noisy for an employee to work, the employer could provide them with noise-cancelling headphones.
  • The employer should finally consider “requirements of any associated training and assessment.”

 

Here are some key areas in which reasonable adjustments can be put in place for dyslexic employees:

 

Written communication

 

  • Employers should give employees verbal instructions as well as written instructions.
  • Employers considering the availability of assistive technology. This can include screen-reading software, a pen that scans written text into digital files, text-to-speech software and mind-mapping software.
  • Providing hard copies of resources on coloured paper to make the content more legible. It is also worth finding out which colour helps the employee read best.
  • Highlighting key points in documents
  • Allowing the employee “plenty of time to read and complete the task.”
  • Using “different formats to convey information.” These can include audio recordings, online videos, drawings, diagrams and flow charts.
  • Encouraging employees to make audio recordings of meetings and training sessions so that employees do not have to rely on written notes or memory.
  • Discouraging dyslexic employees to write minutes for meetings.

 

Computer work

 

  • Employers should change the background colour of the computer screen to suit the individual preference of the employee.
  • Supplying an anti-glare screen filter.
  • Allowing regular breaks, for example, one 10-minute break every hour.
  • Alternating computer work with non-computer-based tasks, where possible.

 

Verbal communication

 

  • Employers should give verbal instructions clearly and slowly, minimise distractions and ask if the employee understands.
  • Supporting important communications by supplying information in a hard copy format besides an audio format.
  • Encouraging notetaking from verbal instructions.
  • Offering the use of a digital recorder to record important instructions as well as meetings and training sessions.
  • Backing up several instructions in writing or with diagrams.

 

Concentration

 

  • Employers should minimise distractions for dyslexic employees to carry out focused tasks away from doors or noisy machinery for instance.
  • Allocating a private workspace for individuals if possible.
  • Allowing an employee to occasionally from home where feasible; however, in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employees are encouraged to work completely from home where possible.
  • Providing quiet working environments for dyslexic employees such as libraries and private office when others are not using them.

 

Memory

 

  • People with dyslexia can find either digital calendars (available on desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets) or physical diaries, calendars and wall planners helpful.
  • The use of mnemonics and acronyms can also be useful.

 

General considerations

 

  • If any employees have numerical difficulties, employers should supply them with talking calculators.
  • Employees should ensure that their workspaces are organised, neat and tidy.
  • Employers should make sure that the team members they supervise “return important items to the same place each time.
  • Both employers and employees should ensure workspaces “are well lit.”

 

Travelling to work

 

  • Employees should try to use the same route whether they are using public transport or driving.
  • Employers should share routes and visible landmarks to employees whether they are using public transport or driving.
  • Employees should plan their routes effectively in order “to practise going from one place to another.”
  • Employers should supply detailed maps to employees.
  • If employees drive to work, employers should supply them with GPS/satellite navigation systems.

Reasonable adjustments for dyslexic students at educational institutions

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  • Teaching staff should provide students with coloured overlays to make reading easier for them.
  • Teaching staff should also provide students with handouts rather than ask them to copy from the board or take notes.
  • All handouts should be printed on coloured paper.
  • All printed materials should have a dyslexia-friendly font on them such as Arial or Calibri. The text should be in font size 12 or above.
  • Teaching staff should change the background colour of the interactive whiteboard or computers.
  • Highlighters should be provided so that students “can track text that has been read or highlight important pieces of information.”
  • Teaching staff should provide school and college students with assistive technology. University students can order assistive technology as part of their Disabled Student Allowance (DSA).
  • Teaching staff should “use multi-sensory ways of teaching.”
  • They should also “allow additional ‘thinking’ time” for students.
  • Information should be broken up into smaller chunks to make it easier for students to digest.
  • Students should be given extra time for examinations.

 

Like all other types of neurodivergence, dyslexia is a hidden disability because nobody can tell if someone has it on the outside.

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