Employers responsibility
31 Aug 2021

How Employers Can Support Employees With Dyslexia

A diverse workforce is a source of creativity and potential. And as an employer, you have the unique opportunity to recognize both the needs and the contributions of your employees to achieve the best results for your organization.

About 10 percent of the working population has some level of dyslexia. Supporting your own employees with dyslexia helps everyone work to the best of their ability. Fortunately, simple and inexpensive adjustments make a world of difference in the workplace.

Discover how to support employees with dyslexia with efficiency, effectiveness, and compassion.

Employers’ responsibility

People with dyslexia have rights in the workplace and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure these rights are observed. Legally, US employers cannot discriminate on the basis of an employee’s reading disability. This means employees must not be treated differently because they have dyslexia – for example, promotion opportunities should be equal, no one should be penalized for having dyslexia, and reasonable adjustments must be made to help employees work.

Dyslexia is a form of reading disability that affects around 1 in 10 people, according to the British Dyslexia Association. It impacts reading and writing skills, yet it also affects other areas of information processing. Dyslexia causes challenges in retaining and processing information that can result in a delay in acquiring literacy skills. Dyslexia also may hinder organizational ability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (or ADA) seeks to protect employees against discrimination at work. In the UK, employers have obligations under the Equality Act 2010. Other countries also have legislation in force to safeguard workers from being discriminated against based on their dyslexia.

Yet in addition to ensuring compliance with legal and ethical responsibilities, supporting employees with dyslexia makes sound business sense.

But when you have identified a need for support, how do you help as an employer?

Reasonable adjustments

One way to support dyslexic employees is through careful consideration of the need for reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace are the ways an organization helps an employee to make the most of their abilities and to lessen the impact of the challenges they experience through their dyslexia. Reasonable adjustments vary depending on the employee’s role, responsibilities, and needs.

Remember that your employee does not need to be formally assessed for dyslexia in order to receive workplace adjustments from an employer.

When considering the reasonable adjustments you can make for an employee, consider how dyslexia affects the individual. Every person with dyslexia is different. Talking to your employee and getting their direct input is imperative. Think about how dyslexia affects their ability to do their job and what changes could be made in the working environment or the way they work. You may need to look at training and further assessment.

Once reasonable adjustments have been made it is important to review the impact of the changes. Consider, however, that it may be many months before the implementation of dyslexia support at work takes effect.

Assistive technology

Many employers look to technology to help minimize the work-related challenges of people with dyslexia. And assistive technology is indeed an effective toolbox to use.

Many specialist tools and technology exist for employees with dyslexia that can minimize struggles that lower work performance and increase stress.

For example, pens that “read” text from paperwork and scan it to a computer, cut down errors, and speed up note-taking, for example, the ReaderPen from C-Pen. These pens also speak words aloud and provide definitions.

Software that converts text to speech is useful for large amounts of written text. People with dyslexia often struggle to process copious amounts of text and will fare much better when listening than when reading. Software for converting speech to text is also useful for producing reports and writing emails. Mind-mapping packages allow more efficiency and a greater degree of creativity.

Many employees will work better with two screens rather than one, which minimizes the need for keeping multiple windows open on one device. Headphones can promote better focus, especially in a noisy workplace or open-plan office.

Dyslexia-friendly fonts make it easier to read on-screen. And spelling and grammar software installed on a PC or mobile device comprehensively checks for errors and helps streamline proofreading.

Other simple adjustments

Low-cost solutions make an impact in the workplace to maximize productivity and increase confidence and inclusion. Employers may, for example, consider the color of paper used for printed materials and on-screen – black text on a white background is not the most effective combination, while a yellow or blue background may be more appropriate.

As well as written communications, consider leaving verbal instructions including voicemail as well as email. And when communicating verbally make sure that instructions are clear and spoken slowly.

Highlight the most important points in long documents and don’t expect a dyslexic employee to take the minutes during a meeting. Different formats for information, including diagrams or videos, also help promote information intake.

To improve focus, allow an employee to sit away from sources of distraction like an open door or a noisy machine, and provide a private work area if necessary. This could be a library, or another enclosed area that is not currently being used by others.

To help memory and processing, provide access to calendars, planners, and time management apps that help employees organize their time and their information retention.

And make sure that the working environment is well lit, calm, organized, and as tidy as possible.

Why you should support your employees with dyslexia

You want the very best from your employees so that they deliver true value to your business. But when you do not support dyslexic employees you risk limiting their access to full productivity and workplace satisfaction.

It is in your interests to foster a diverse workforce that has access to the support people need to reach their full potential. Dyslexic support can result in increased productivity and performance – both for the employee and the team as a whole.

You will cut down the time you spend on performance management, disciplinary proceedings, and the associated stress of these tasks. You can also help to cut general work-related stress and manage absences.

With a fully supported workforce, you reduce turnover of staff and therefore cut your recruitment outgoings. Plus, you ensure you stay fully in compliance with your legal and ethical obligations.

And at the end of the day, a more inclusive workplace is a happier workplace. Which is something all employers seek to achieve.

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