October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and this year, we are excited to be a part of the global community that is Going Red for Dyslexia. Dyslexia impacts 10% of the global population, or as many as 43.5 million Americans and 11.5 million British people. As the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties, we are dedicated to providing dyslexic individuals with the tools they need to break down barriers and unlock their full potential.
It’s an unfortunate reality that there is still a stigma around students with dyslexia or other learning difficulties. As the Society for Neuroscience reported, “For years - until advances in neuroscience helped reveal a biological basis for the disorder - people with dyslexia were called ‘dumb’ or ‘lazy’.” But even today, there is still concern about how labeling a student as dyslexic can impact their education.
For neuroscientist John Gabrieli, “It’s even sometimes been a worry - if we could screen perfectly, would we set low expectations for a child?” For Dr. Gabrieli, while early identification and intervention is critical, it also raises a concern that expectations for the student would be lowered, both by the school and the student themselves.
Instead, Dr. Gabrieli hopes we can make dyslexia “objective and scientific.” Just like students are given glasses if they have trouble seeing the whiteboard, they should be given educational supports if they have trouble reading or writing.
At Texthelp, we’ve built tools to do just that. Read&Write, our flagship literacy product, is designed with key tools to support dyslexic students, including text-to-speech, dual highlighting, screen masking, built-in dictionaries and picture dictionaries, and more.
But, Read&Write also has the added bonus of being built with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind. Yes, those tools are great for dyslexic students, but they can also help ALL students. For example, text-to-speech can be useful if you’re trying to read on a road trip. Or, screen masking can be beneficial when you’re working in a loud study hall and need some extra help to concentrate.
By creating a tool that is required for dyslexic students but helpful for all students, we’ve normalized the supports, helping to remove the stigma from the tool and the diversities that benefit from it, including (but not limited to) dyslexia.
Just as students that require glasses grow up to be adults that require glasses, students that need supports for reading and writing need those same supports once they join the workforce. But, like the dyslexia itself, the stigma can also stay with them.
As Margaret Malpas, the former chair of the British Dyslexia Association, explained, “If you have been given negative comments or experiences about your dyslexia throughout your education, which is very common, then most adults would prefer to put that behind them and not refer to their dyslexia.”
Therefore, while companies are required to give accommodations under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK and the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US, there is a good chance those employees may never disclose their dyslexia to their employers.
That’s why it’s so important for organizations to take a look at all of their processes - from recruitment to onboarding, retention to internal promotions - to ensure they are inclusive. As the Westminster AchieveAbility Commision (WAC) discovered in 2018, there were “systemic barriers to employment for millions of potential employees in the UK who are [neurodiverse] - meaning that their brains function, learn and process information differently.”
At Texthelp, we’ve created solutions that can help employers bring inclusivity to the workplace - at every stage. With Browsealoud, companies can add literacy supports directly to their website to ensure their job openings and application processes are accessible to all prospective employees.
And once a new employee is hired, companies can continue to provide them with the necessary supports through Read&Write. Like in the classroom, Read&Write has a wide variety of tools that can support all employees. Whether the employee needs assistive technology to complete their tasks or simply works more productively with digital supports, Read&Write can benefit all employees, making the workplace truly inclusive.
To help you, your students, or your colleagues, we’ve compiled several resources to get started:
In education -
Help students reach their full potential:
Empower dyslexic students:
Support all learners:
In the workplace -
Championing inclusive recruitment:
Empowering dyslexic employees:
Supporting your customers: