Is Dyslexia a Disability?

A man is holding a book and looking upwards.

Featured image by Yogendra Singh, Pexels.com

Is dyslexia classed as a disability?

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

A woman is leading a meeting. Several employees are sitting around a long table.

Image by Christina Morillo, Pexels.com

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:

 

  • Determining “the nature of the individual’s dyslexia.” The nature “could be obtained from a diagnostic assessment.
  • Considering “the requirements of the job” and any additional requirements that “should be obtained through a Workplace Needs Assessment.”
  • 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.
  • Finally considering “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

A man's clothed chest and hands are visible. The man is holding a pen in one hand.

Image by Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com

Employers should use the following methods of written communication to help dyslexic employees:

 

  •  Verbal instructions as well as written instructions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Highlight key points in documents
  • Allow the employee “plenty of time to read and complete the task.”
  • “Different formats to convey information.” These can include audio recordings, online videos, drawings, diagrams and flow charts.
  • Encourage employees to make audio recordings of meetings and training sessions so that employees do not have to rely on written notes or memory.
  • Discourage dyslexic employees to write minutes for meetings.

Computer work

Some man's hands are visible. The man is typing on a laptop.

Image by Burst, Pexels.com

Employers should use the following methods to make computers more user-friendly for dyslexic employees:

  • Change the background colour of the computer screen to suit the individual preference of the employee.
  • Supply an anti-glare screen filter.
  • Allow regular breaks, for example, one 10-minute break every hour.
  • Alternate computer work with non-computer-based tasks, where possible.
  • Install assistive technology onto computers.

 

Verbal communication

A woman in a spotty blouse is talking. She has her hands on her chest.

Image by SHVETS production, Pexels.com

Employers should use the following forms of verbal communication to help dyslexic employees:

 

  • Give verbal instructions clearly and slowly, minimise distractions and ask if the employee understands.
  • Support important communications by supplying information in a hard copy format besides an audio format.
  • Encourage note-taking from verbal instructions.
  • Offer the use of a digital recorder to record important instructions as well as meetings and training sessions.
  • Back up several instructions in writing or with diagrams.

 

Concentration

A man is sitting at a computer. He is also writing in a book.

Image by Ivan Samkov, Pexels.com

Employers should use the following methods to enable dyslexic employees to maintain concentration:

  • Minimise distractions for dyslexic employees to carry out focused tasks away from doors or noisy machinery for instance.
  • Allocate a private workspace for individuals if possible.
  • Allow 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.
  • Provide quiet working environments for dyslexic employees such as libraries and private office when others are not using them.

 

Memory

A woman is sitting at a wooden table. A diary is lying on the table.

Image by Anete Lusina, Pexels.com

  • 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

A man's hand is touching a calculator.

Image by RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com

  • 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

A bus is crossing a bridge. Tower Bridge appears in the background.

Image by Olga Lioncat, Pexels.com

Employees and employers should use the following methods to make travelling to work easier:

 

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

Reasonable adjustments for dyslexic pupils and students at educational institutions

A close-up of an analogue clock showing twelve minutes past two.

Image by Stas Knop, Pexels.com

Teaching staff at educational institutions, such as school, college and university, should do the following to help pupils and students:

  • Provide pupils and students with coloured overlays to make reading easier for them.
  • Provide pupils and students with handouts rather than ask them to copy from the board or take notes.
  • Printing handouts on coloured paper.
  • Using a dyslexia-friendly font on printed material such as Arial or Calibri. The text should be in font size 12 or above.
  • Change the background colour of the interactive whiteboard or computers.
  • Provide highlighters so that pupils and students “can track text that has been read or highlight important pieces of information.”
  • Provide school pupils and college or university students with assistive technology. University students can order assistive technology as part of their Disabled Student Allowance (DSA).
  • “Use multi-sensory ways of teaching.”
  •  “Allow additional ‘thinking’ time” for pupils students.
  • Break up information into smaller chunks to make it easier for students to digest.
  • Give pupils and students extra time for examinations.

Dyslexia as a hidden disability

A person is hiding behind a plant.

Image by Min An, Pexels.com

Like all other types of neurodiversity, dyslexia is a hidden disability because nobody can tell if someone has it on the outside. If you think you might have dyslexia, try taking our online dyslexia quiz to see if you have any traits of this neurodivergence.

Blog Author

April Slocombe


Neurodivergent