In my research, one of the ten factors for success was “the support of others”. This related to support by parents, mentors, specialist teachers and coaches but it also embraced colleagues and supportive bosses. There has been a significant growth in dyslexia networks and I am optimistic that we are on the threshold of a significant change within large workplaces. Here is some of the evidence for this.
Banks like Lloyds and Barclays have been persuaded of the need to enhance productivity by making assistive technology routinely available, and have done so. The large software companies like Microsoft are incorporating accessibility features into their latest versions as an essential aid to business. More importantly though, is the rise in networks by and for dyslexics within organisations. So, just to mention a few, we now have dyslexia networks in E&Y, Hampshire Police, the National Audit Office and other government departments, STEM volunteers group, the BBC, and the Enable Mentoring programme at Shell UK, and the Dyslexia Champions programme in Imperial College.
We can attribute the growth in these tremendous networks to several factors. I think one is the effect of the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). Graduates with dyslexia have received support from the DSA for over a decade now. Consequently, it has been normalised to receive reasonable adjustments for academic work. These individuals expect to receive similar support on entering the workplace. They are more confident in their dyslexia than those who have not received such support and are prepared to be more extrovert in canvassing support. There does appear to be a rise in disclosure. My research showed that most respondents had disclosed their dyslexia to an employer, a greater proportion than we would have seen in years gone by. There is also safety in numbers. If you can persuade other dyslexics to join you in disclosure, it is much less risky. Networks are cheap to run for employers so are encouraged. Finally, I think there is a societal change where people seem to be more motivated currently to take action and not accept the status quo.
BDA, with its expertise as the leading dyslexia charity, has been critical to this growth in networks. It has a guide for those who want to set up networks. It provided speakers for inaugural meetings. It has linked up those who want to set up a network with those who have experience doing it. As Chris from Shell’s Enable Group said “involve BDA from the outset if you want to set up a mentoring programme” as this helps you from making inconvenient errors.
There are two other reasons why I am hopeful of even more support networks. In September, the Commission for Recruitment and Dyslexia, undertaken by Achievabilty, will publish their research and this will make recommendations for workplaces which extend beyond just recruitment. Having been an expert witness to this Commission, I am sure that this will result in changes in workplaces.
Secondly, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which is the lead body for HR management, is running a research project now on neuro diversity in the workplace with the intention of publishing a guide for employers. This is something I have been pushing on for some years and I am delighted to be contributing to the round table discussion on this in mid July. This will create much greater awareness in the workplace of dyslexia, autism and all the other ND conditions through HR managers.
So the scene is set favourably for many more networks to grow and many dyslexics to gain support and solidarity from other dyslexics. The BDA has just started a new committee for adults. One of its primary goals is to encourage further networks. If you would like to be involved in this, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Margaret Malpas, MBE, Joint Chair of BDA.
Margaret’s book “Self Fulfilment with Dyslexia; A Blueprint for Success” is available through all good bookshops and online. All royalties have been donated to the BDA.