Counting the positives for Dyslexia Awareness Week
Dyslexia can be more of a help than a burden.
That’s the view of Chris Hind, 33, Senior Sales Executive at Recite Me, who has dyslexia.
This week (7 – 13 October) is Dyslexia Awareness Week 2019 and the theme for this year focuses around empowering people.
The British Dyslexia Association, which runs Dyslexia Awareness Week, wants relevant people to share their thoughts on dyslexia.
This includes discussing the strengths dyslexia brings and how it has helped the roughly one in ten people in the UK who have the condition achieve success.
Un-tapped hidden brain power
According to Chris, his experience of dyslexia is that it’s actually a strong point. Not a weakness.
It helps him to think differently, which makes him good at finding creative solutions to problems.
“For me, the plus sides of having dyslexia probably outweigh the negative effects. For example, I know that my creative thinking is heightened due to dyslexia.
“That tends to be a common characteristic among people with dyslexia. So it helps my ability to methodically work through a problem.
“It helps me find resolutions to problems and find ways around things that other people who have slightly more linear thinking patterns may not consider.”
This hidden extra brainpower of people with dyslexia is clearly something that organisations can use to their advantage by exploring different ways of problem-solving.
What’s it like to have dyslexia?
Before we think more about that, it’s worth understanding more about how dyslexia affects individual people. So how does Chris experience dyslexia?
“Sometimes I can see letters in a word mirrored or jumbled up, and words can also look mirrored and jumbled up to me” said Chris.
“And I can struggle to follow lines of text onto the next line. So when I get to the end of a line I find it hard to find the start of the next line without having to look back at where I was.”
As reading is grinding for Chris, he benefits from working here at Recite Me for an assistive technology company that understands accessibility.
Because of this the Recite Me assistive toolbar is built into our internal IT systems, which Chris and the rest of our team use.
And as Recite Me has a unique range of features that each user can customise to suit their specific needs, Chris can use it to read content in the way that works best for him.
“I'm lucky because we've got the Recite Me assistive toolbar built into our internal IT systems, which I spend most of my working day using on my PC. It’s great to make micro-adjustments using Recite Me’s features.
“I like to change the text and background colours. A grey background with black text works a lot better to me than a white background with black text.”
Small changes make a massive difference
Chris also uses Recite Me to make small changes to the layout of text on-screen that make an immeasurably positive difference to his reading experience.
“I'll slightly increase the font size as well as the line-height.
“As I mentioned earlier, getting to the end of a line of text and picking up the next line can sometimes be a bit troublesome, especially if I’m trying to consume text quite quickly.
“Recite Me gives the option to increase line-height, which is the amount of space between each line of text.
“Just increasing the distance between the text in this way has a profound effect on me.
“And sometimes if I have really large blocks of intricate text to read I can pop my headphones and use the text-to-speech feature to listen to the content, rather than having to read it myself.”
How to harness the power of dyslexia
During Dyslexia Awareness Week people across the UK are exploring how to empower dyslexia in organisations, and it’s clear that a greater understanding of the positives of having dyslexia is essential.
For Chris, the key lies in organisations understanding that dyslexia effects people differently and each person’s experience needs to be listened to in order to get the best out of them.
“Dyslexia, like other forms of neurodiversity, is quite a wide spectrum of experience. Not everyone with dyslexia is the same. We don't experience it the same way.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that helps everyone with dyslexia to flourish.
“So I think an organisation should understand its individual staff members and what that individual staff member’s experience with dyslexia is like.
“Find out what they see as the positive aspects of their dyslexia, what their key strengths are as a result of dyslexia.
“And then play to that individual's strengths. Recognise that there are strengths to having dyslexia, there aren’t just negatives.
“This kind of holistic approach would certainly benefit not just the organisation but the individual within that organisation as well.”