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Posted 19th October, 2011 by Jocelyn Gronow

For many years Pat had been employed by a large public body, working at a small local site.  She was conscientious, enjoyed her work and felt valued by her line-manager.

During reorganisation, she was moved to a large open plan office at the main site. Her role and the tasks to be undertaken remained the same but Pat felt unable to work effectively in this new environment. There was continuous background noise she found it impossible to cut out; telephones and mobiles ringing and pinging; people talking to colleagues, sometimes calling across the office; people talking on the telephone;  scraping of chairs; closing of doors. Additionally, the bright light made it difficult for her to see a clear image of text, both on the screen and on paper.

Pat made errors, fell behind with her work and found the whole situation extremely stressful, which only exacerbated the problem. A once happy, experienced and competent worker, she became anxious and miserable and was unable to cope. Prior to reorganisation, her attendance record had been excellent. Now, she was having time off work; the stressful situation was affecting her health. Her new line-manager was unhappy with her performance. Pressure was applied, more stress was created and the situation worsened.

For some months, Pat had been attending her local college to improve her literacy and numeracy skills. There, she was assessed as dyslexic and with appropriate support she gained Level 2 qualifications in both subjects. Pat showed her Dyslexia Assessment Report and Recommendations to her line manager, together with her new qualifications. She hoped that this would improve their relationship and that recommended reasonable adjustments would be made, to enable her to work efficiently, but there was a complete lack of understanding.

Sadly, the situation was not resolved satisfactorily. The case went to tribunal. The tribunal found that the employers were at fault and awarded Pat compensation. After months of ill health, she left her job; a sad end to a formerly happy and successful career.

In contrast:

Jill, a chartered surveyor, worked for a small organisation. A conscientious student, she had achieved both at school and university. She recognised that she needed to work harder than most of her contemporaries but was happy to do so. At work, she was struggling with day to day office tasks; taking telephone messages, writing reports and business letters, particularly with interruptions and time pressures.

A family member had recently been diagnosed as dyslexic. Jill recognised some of the identified traits in herself and sought assessment. When she too was assessed as dyslexic, it answered a number of questions; why she could solve quite complex technical problems but often found it difficult to put her ideas in writing; why she could remember faces and places but had difficulty with names, telephone numbers and messages.

Jill was referred to Access to Work and provided with a range of assistive technology; a screen reader enabled her to tint the computer screen to aid reading and concentration. It also helped her to proof read and edit letters and reports. Mind mapping software was the perfect way to use her visual skills to plan written tasks. She was now able to produce coherent written work efficiently, reducing the long hours she had been working and the stress which had been building.

Both she and her employers were delighted with the outcome. The reasonable adjustments made, enabled Jill to achieve her potential at work.

 

Similarly:

David’s experience of assessment and diagnosis of dyslexia was a positive experience. Like Pat, he worked for a large organisation. Unlike Pat, he had a supportive manager, who recognised his strengths and valued his contribution to the team.

David was an efficient and capable technician. Unfortunately, in this large organisation, most directives were sent by email. Each morning he was required to read a large number of detailed requests for the day, re-read earlier e mails which may be pertinent to the day, prioritise jobs and plan the day. This task took Davis so long that he was often left with insufficient time to respond to the various requests on time. Staying late at work did not always resolve the problem, as other staff often made last minute requests.

As in Jill’s case, his manager was supportive. David was referred for assessment and given time to learn how to use the assistive technology recommended. He said that the screen reader alone changed his life. Lessons to improve planning and organisation and note taking also had a positive impact on his job.  Additionally, David was now sufficiently organised and confident in his abilities to recognise that some of his apparent inefficiency was caused by the inadequacy of others.  He set reasonable timescales for requests from staff, to enable him to meet the many deadlines. Work life improved.

These stories demonstrate that unrecognised and undiagnosed dyslexia can cause major problems in the workplace; stress and unhappiness for the individual involved; a poor working relationship between colleagues; inefficient work practices and dissatisfied managers. Equally good practice can enable dyslexic employees to reach their potential and make a strong contribution in the workplace.

Under the Equality Act 2010, the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments so that an employee who is dyslexic is not placed at a disadvantage compared to none-dyslexic employees. Reasonable adjustments can apply to working arrangements or any physical aspects of the workplace like adjusting working hours or providing adaptive equipment.

Although there is no legal obligation for the employer to pay for a diagnosis, it may be in the employer’s long term interest to do so, as the assessment will identify the employee’s strengths and areas of difficulties to be supported. Recommendations will be made to enable Access to Work to provide adaptive technology and training for the employee, to give them an equal opportunity with others in the workforce. Employers need to understand that dyslexic employees have strong protection from the DDA.”

 

  • Peter Irons

    I have seen this sort of situation on many occasions. If the computer screen and lighting conditions were properly optimised, it is likely that her difficulties would have been minimised to the extent that her positive attributes clearly outweighed any residual problems.

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