Last week I attended the British Dyslexia Association member event titled Positive Dyslexia and Employment. I was really excited about attending as there is loads of support for childhood dyslexia and not really that much on adult dyslexia. Add to that a great line up of speakers and the trip to the big smoke was worthwhile.
I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed.
How to recruit dyslexic employees and their value
Matt Boyd from Exceptional Individuals was the first speaker after the introductions. Matt explained that while only 1 in 10 in the UK are Dyslexic about 4 in 10 of the unemployed are dyslexic. This represents a massive pool of untapped talent.
One reason for the disparity is the fact that many employment practices disadvantage dyslexic candidates – even those with proven track records. This can be through insisting on particular qualifications, or through the employment screening process.
We (the dyslexic community) need to change perceptions about neurodiversity and spiky profiles. There needs to be a focus on the strengths rather than an overall average. We need relatable examples too – big hitters like Richard Branson can be counter productive. The EI Great Minds Think Different campaign is hoping to make a difference here.
Employers need to consider the accessibility of their recruitment process. Exceptional Individuals is undertaking a piece of work to determine the points in the selection process which deter dyslexics.
Neurodiversity at Work
Next up was Andrew Sutherland from ACAS. ACAS are the folks who get called to help with workplace disputes. They get nearly 1 million calls a year from employees and employers to their helpline asking for support and guidance. Neurodiversity appeared to have become a common issue so they conducted research to find out more.
The report (a detailed 68-page tome) is available on their website along with a summary of key points (which were reviewed in Andrews presentation)
A different perspective: The Rise of the ‘Chief Dyslexic Officer’
John Lavell was the next speaker up. Until recently John was an Associate Partner at EY (where he also ran their dyslexia support network) and he has just launched Lavell Partnership – a consulting company that harnesses the power of different thinkers. He’s a seriously smart cookie and it’s comforting to see that he too struggles to remember names.
John explained how now is a great time to be a dyslexic in the workplace. Assistive tech is covering some of our weaknesses allowing out strengths to shine. The only challenge is standard performance management systems look for well-rounded individuals which do not align well with our spiky profiles.
Characteristics of Successful Dyslexics
Margaret Malpas gave an overview of her recent book Self-Fulfilment with Dyslexia. I’ve recently read this book and the presentation reminds me I need to do a book summary for it. I’ve got a backlog of book summaries to type up as my 2017 book binge continues.
What was news to me is that the book is available as an eLearning programme through the BDA website for just £12.99
Dyslexia, Technology and Accessibility
Rounding the event off was Hector Minto from Microsoft. Hector described an interesting paradigm Microsoft is using to consider assistive technology. While only a small fraction of the population is permanently disabled (making a small and financially unrewarding market) a much larger proportion may be temporarily disabled. If we consider limb loss a number of people with unusable limbs as they are set in plaster cast is larger than those who are permanently impaired.
So what’s that got to do with dyslexia? Well, Microsoft has a third category – situationally disabled. If you can’t type on your computer because you have your hands full then you will benefit from voice control. Can’t ready your phone screen in the bright sun then you’ll benefit from contract control.
Microsoft is moving on from assistive technology to an operating and office suite that is easier to use for anyone. The biggest challenge with this is that people are not aware of the many great features (like one note learning tools).
And there is more
On top of all that I got to connect with fellow professional dyslexics. A highlight was Sally Davis who runs a workshop called Make Me Dyslexic which builds an understanding of dyslexia in neurotypical folks by a series of exercises that will make them feel dyslexic. This is definitely something I want to look into more.