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Is dyslexia a disability?

As a recognised difficulty under the Equality Act 2010, dyslexia can be a disability. However, this depends on whether its severity has a substantial adverse effect on the person’s normal day-to-day activities. To understand this neurological, often genetic, difficulty let’s take a closer look to offer some clarity on the matter.

What is dyslexia?

Unrelated to intelligence, dyslexia creates problems with reading, writing and spelling which affects the overall process of learning. Symptoms differ from case to case, but the most common symptoms can include:

  • Delayed speech development / speech problems
  • Inconsistent and unpredictable spelling
  • Describing letters and words appearing to move around or appear blurred
  • Poorly organised written work, lacking in expression
  • Difficulties revising for exams
  • Avoiding reading and writing
  • Numerical memory issues

Many people who have dyslexia find their condition is accompanied by one or more Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), which affects the way information is learned and processed in the brain. Most commonly, these related difficulties include:

  • Dyspraxia (DCD) – difficulty with planning and executing movement, difficulty with spatial and perceptual skills & difficulty with social skills
  • Dyscalculia – affecting the ability to grasp arithmetical skills
  • Dysgraphia – severe difficulty with handwriting
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness

How many people suffer from dyslexia?

With estimates showing that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some degree of dyslexia, for each girl that is diagnosed with dyslexia, three to five boys are diagnosed. The reasoning behind this is currently unclear, as medical opinions are split between brain development differences VS the way diagnosis is made.

Dyslexia diagnosis and treatment

The earlier someone is diagnosed with dyslexia; the more effective educational interventions can be. However, dyslexia is notoriously difficult to identify in young children because the signs are not always obvious and can be confused with other underlying health problems such as vision problems, hearing problems or ADHD. A dyslexia assessment is the first route to a definitive diagnosis, although it can be a time-consuming and often frustrating process that can last for months or even years.

A life-long difficulty, dyslexia can be managed with educational interventions that can range from regular teaching in small groups to 1-to-1 lessons with a specialist teacher, primarily focusing on phonological skills as well as multisensory teaching methods.

Dyslexia and the workplace

Although dyslexia counts as a long-term physical or mental impairment, it is very hard to receive disability benefits solely based on a diagnosis of dyslexia. This is because sufferers are perceived to be able to generally perform the vast majority of tasks related to performing full-time work.

Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure that disabled people are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments or support. Older dyslexia sufferers typically feel more comfortable working with computers, tablets and digital recorders/speech-to-text software to assist with writing and organising daily activities, so this should be seriously considered by employers. Other reasonable adjustments in the workplace for dyslexia sufferers include:

  • A ‘low-stress’ working culture
  • Verbal instruction, rather than writing
  • Extra time for particularly difficult tasks
  • Access to additional support, e.g. literacy or numeracy courses

The British Dyslexia Association has published guidance on managing dyslexia in the workplace, which sufferers of this learning difficulty, as well as employers, may find useful.

What careers are most suited to dyslexics?

Did you know that Richard Branson is dyslexic? Many successful people have reached their true potential without letting dyslexia get in the way of their dreams. Able to do particularly well in business thanks to a unique ability to think flexibly, creatively and solve complex problems, good career choices for people with dyslexia include machinist, carpenter and graphic designer thanks to enhanced visual capabilities.

Disability doesn’t restrict Shelforce employees

Firmly focused on what employees can offer rather than what they can’t, at Shelforce we work hard to challenge and change perceptions of disability via a totally integrated workforce with family values at its core. If you would like to learn more about who we are and what we do, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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