Six things I wish employers knew
by Sarah Cleaver, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Genius Within Assessor and Coach
“Oh, so you’re dyslexic? Not to worry. We’ll get you a laptop and some blue glasses and you’ll be fine.”
To be fair, I’ve never actually heard anyone say this – it just captures what seems to be an underlying set of assumptions in some employer’s heads. And don’t get me wrong – it’s a lot better than the alternatives, e.g. the secret belief that life would be easier if you didn’t have any dyslexic thinkers on your payroll at all!
Enabling your dyslexic thinkers to work to their full potential needn’t cost a bomb. Really, a change in the way you think can work wonders. I wish employers knew that these things could be really helpful…
- Stop caring about spelling. If it’s an internal document, and it communicates, who cares, really? Your dyslexic thinker may well be working longer hours and sweating bullets to try to spell things correctly. Is that really adding value?
- Help your colleagues to understand how dyslexia works – particularly the strengths that many dyslexics have. Need a tricky problem solved? Often, your dyslexic thinker can see it in a flash. Need to care for a customer, or a member of the public? Often, your dyslexic thinker has had years of feeling like a second-class citizen, and it’s rare to meet one who doesn’t have a heart of gold.
- Host a dyslexia group – it costs nothing other than time and room. The group can try out adjustments and share information about what works (apps, for instance – there are some beauts out there); help you to write an effective dyslexia policy; and act as a resource for your business. Remember, 10% of your customers are dyslexic too; can they use your web site with ease? How about the font on those expensive posters you are about to print? Ask the experts. You’ve got some in-house, and they don’t charge a dime.
- Really, just listen. What is it about their job that they struggle with? What are their ideas for fixing those things? They need a visual prompt so they can see where they are with the project? A whiteboard could be the very thing. (The rest of the team will find it useful, too). They find it hard to remember things when the office is noisy? A pair of headphones could make all the difference.
- “The Basics”. Is your workplace stuffed full of long, wordy documents? Policies, procedures, reports…? Here’s the truth: Plain English. Short sentences. More pictures and diagrams. Fewer TLA’s. This basic stuff makes it easier for everyone to read and remember things – not just your dyslexic thinker. And what does it cost? Not one bent farthing.
- If your corporate style is double-justified (so you get a nice neat edge on the right hand side of the page, as well as the left)… stop. Your clever computer does this by erratically increasing the spaces between words. For some people, the spaces “run down the page like rivers” and it can make them feel nauseous. Why do that to someone, if you don’t have to?
I could go on – but that’s enough for now. We’d love to hear your ideas. What would you add to this list?