Most of these ‘accessible’ organisations have a set process which they follow should they know that an individual has ‘processing differences’ such as dyslexia and dyscalculia – or any other ‘disability’. (This formal process is usually a well tested procedure which fits with their internal systems and links into their current Disability Policy). Of course, an employer may not have had a 'declared' dyslexic employee previously and organisations may only be at the beginning of their ‘accessibility journey' (meaning they are not aware of what they need to do). If this is the case it is important to approach disclosure with confidence and clarity to help employers' to understand. You will need to point out the strengths that your dyslexia gives you alongside your challenges/needs. For instance ' My dyslexia effects my short term memory which means that I have become very good at being organised, keeping written notes and check-lists. What I would like is some software/support to help me manage this even better.'
Having a good rapport with a line manager can make it much easier to discuss any work related challenges & concerns. Therefore working on your relationship with your manager and having regular appraisals/catch-up meetings can help you to feel 'safe' with them before disclosing your dyslexia. (If there is someone else within management or HR that you enjoy a good relationship with then this may be the best person to talk to first). The line manager would most probably then liaise with Human Resources for guidance and then dyslexic individual would usually be guided according to the organisation’s Dyslexia Policy or established process.
Telling your employer does not only avoid misunderstandings but can lead to the support you deserve. The type of support will vary according individual needs but would most likely be one of these:
· One to One Coping Strategies Coaching
· A Workplace Needs Assessment
The first step would normally be to arrange for a Workplace Needs Assessment in order to get a full documented report on the specific challenges related to day to day work tasks outlining a recommended program of support – such as specialist coaching and any suitable assistive software. (An employer that has previous experience of dyslexia may simply arrange for the individual to have a series of coping strategies coaching sessions with a trusted specialist).
Attitudes towards dyslexia and other processing differences (specific learning difficulties) vary depending upon the level of awareness within the organisation, the corporate culture, internal procedures and the personal experience of line managers and supervisors. Consequently, each individual dyslexic person will need to make decisions on how best to approach their own employer. Doing some initial ground work on how the organisation has worked with dyslexic employees in recent times should help to ensure you approach any future dyslexia focused conversations in the way you feel you will get the best outcome.
Finally, whether to tell your employer about your dyslexia has to be your own personal decision. This post focuses on what should be put in place by the employer (as per the British Dyslexia Association's Code of Practice for Employers) following disclosure but unfortunately some organisations are not yet aware of the need for them to comply with the Equality Act 2010 in relation to dyslexia !
Janette Beetham BA Hons., MIC., FRSA
It is now becoming more widely recognized that an ‘accessible’ workplace, particularly a 'dyslexia friendly' one, makes good business sense. It can result in a more effective and a more productive work environment which has the potential to improve both internal and external communications. In the more ‘enlightened’ organisations (those that understand dyslexia and associated processing differences) it would be anticipated that disclosure would be received with a much better understanding on the part of line managers and HR Personnel.