Dyslexia Awareness Week 2015: Making Sense of Dyslexia in Communications

Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and I all share one thing in common: each of us is dyslexic. Dyslexia is a specific type of learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to read fluently despite normal or above-average intelligence. So what does it mean for the communications industry that 15% of adults are dyslexic and may not be able to properly access information?

Even though dyslexia is recognised as a disability under The Equality Act 2010, there is a growing struggle for people with dyslexia to engage in a society that is more text-based than ever. With people and companies choosing to communicate primarily via e-mail and text there is a strong possibility that these methods are inaccessible to dyslexics. Communicators need to understand the potential discrimination that can arise from not considering the communications requirements of disabled people (and other groups). Standards for accessible information have been implemented by the NHS to ensure that by 31 July 2016, all NHS and publicly funded adult social care organisations will produce their information in accessible formats for patients and carers with disabilities.

Developing dyslexia-friendly practices requires businesses to consider first, how accessible their current communications are across all fields (such as employment, recruitment and customer communications). For example, the average reading age in the UK is nine-years old. This is not commonly known, but it has a significant impact on how your communications are reached. Particular fonts can be inaccessible to people with a learning disability like dyslexia. Some fonts make it difficult for the reader to tell the difference between letter shapes, such as ‘m’ and ‘r & n’ when written together as in: modern and modem. See here for best practice advice on font selection.

Overcoming potential communication barriers also means recognising the significant part of audience engagement that takes place in a digital and mobile environment. Whether by computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or even a wearable device, businesses need to be confident that their communications can reach all of the audience, how and wherever they want to access your information.

Your businesses website is one of the most important communication channels that audiences will use to find information. Imagine if a person with dyslexia finds your website, they click through the site and cannot find or read the information contained within it. To avoid this troubling start, businesses need to think about inclusive fonts, colour contrast and layout to comply with web accessibility guidelines detailed here.

There are also a number of specialised technological strategies available to businesses that can greatly increase the accessibility of their online communications, such as rulers to guide the reader and a dictionary to help with tricky words. Solutions like Recite Me, offer a Cloud-based accessibility and language toolbar that allows website users with dyslexia to access your on-line content across all devices to meet the diverse needs of all your customers. Software that provides text-to-speech, language support, and website customisation features ensures that you are using online communications to the best effect to drive business benefits and reach people with dyslexia.

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