“For example, for people with dyslexia who struggle to communicate with written text it is now possible to get the computer to help the person to write using [their] voice instead of typing,” he says. “Device screen readers can read back text instead of the person having to read text off the screen.”
In the UK, even faced with shrinking budgets, some public services are investing in technology which is proving successful.
Hampshire Police, for example, are actively embracing assistive technologies and adjustments for workers with dyslexia as part of their working day.
These include coloured hard-backed exercise books to help officers track words on the page in interviews; coloured overlay screens to make reading easier on computers; smart pens for meetings, which can record audio and digitise notes; extra time for paperwork, exams and assessments; and a quiet room to avoid distractions.
Hampshire Police also carry out screening at the recruitment and training stages so employees with dyslexia can be supported right from the beginning.
Inspector Peter Phillips, who leads the programme, says that this support “needs to be specific and bespoke to the individual (as their dyslexia can be very different to anyone else’s) and their role.” The benefits include “improved attendance (reduced stress and anxiety) and improved performance (increased confidence in their own abilities)."
Thomas Smith, who works in the Hampshire Police control room, had no idea he was dyslexic until he started working for the police three years ago.
“I’ve spent my whole life assuming I was slow or stupid,” he says.
“My job for the police requires me to concentrate for most of my day. I need to remember numbers, sequences, code and acronyms. Trying to juggle all of these words and numbers sometimes means they get mixed up. Now I’ve been diagnosed it has helped me understand myself. My dyslexia still owns me but it is not who I am.”
Tapping creative potential
Mark Evans, a managing director of marketing and digital at the insurance company Direct Line Group, has put dyslexia and other learning difficulties at the heart of the company. His daughter is also dyslexic.
The company brought in external specialists and speakers to encourage the conversation around neurodiversity. They then started to adjust their policies and procedures to help employees with dyslexia, including making reasonable workplace adjustments and forming support groups. In doing this, the company found that they were nurturing a really creative workforce.
“Neurodivergent employees are an untapped potential,” Evans says. “If properly supported we can unleash their ‘superpowers’.”
He feels it’s becoming increasingly relevant to do this; as machine learning and artificial intelligence develop, businesses will have to put more emphasis on creativity to be competitive.
Margaret Malpas from the British Dyslexia Association adds: “There is no doubt for me that the dyslexic brain, with its different way of processing information, confers specific talents such as greater creativity of thought, that isn’t to say dyslexia makes you a genius or vice versa…
“The best way to foster the talent in people with dyslexia is to identify it early and provide tailored support. With the right support, the dyslexic mind has amazing potential.”
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