How to deal with dyslexia

Starbucks, in the judgement of an Employment Tribunal, clearly did not know how to do this. The Tribunal found the Company guilty of discrimination. Employers need to be inclusive and recognise that dyslexics, among others, bring different perspectives to the workplace. They may also, according to the British Dyslexic Association, have an increased ability to think outside the box.

The challenge is to handle the characteristic in the work place.

The first challenge may be to spot it. Many dyslexics fear discrimination and therefore the first step is to be prepared to accept that as many as one in ten employees have dyslexia to some degree. An opened minded view is likely to stand you in good stead.

Where you become aware of a dyslexic employee, watch out for disparaging remarks from other employees. Counter by encouraging acceptance and understanding, so the affected employee can retain their confidence.

An equal opportunities policy is important so employees are alerted to unacceptable behaviour and, if appropriate. feel comfortable making a complaint.

The Equality Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments so that those with disabilities are not placed at a substantial disadvantage as a result of their disability. Most adjustments are small and inexpensive.

For example, consider the use of dyslexic friendly fonts, eg Opendyslexic, a choice of background colours on a computer screen and foster “speech to text” and “text to speech” software. This can assist dyslexics in writing emails and checking them.

You might consider, while respecting an individual’s feelings, implementing one-to-one training for a dyslexic employee in areas such as time management and personal organisational skills, including concentration/memory-improvement techniques. Take care not to be condescending.

Significant changes, such as re-structuring a person’s job tasks may be beneficial too; but consult with the employee and get their genuine “buy-in” first. Imposed changes, however well intentioned, may be used subsequently as evidence of discrimination.

At its heart, the strategy you adopt needs to lead to the employee being seen by all as just as a valued member of your team as any other employee. The dyslexic employee needs to feel this too.

Achieve that and you won’t be following Starbucks into an Employment Tribunal.

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