It’s said that dyslexia affects approximately 10-15% of the population. While there are many negative stereotypes about the condition, LinkedIn has recently added “dyslexic thinking” as a skill on their website, due to the positive effects the condition can give a person. Two of the most viewed articles on my website area ‘Irish Start-up Founders Embracing Their Dyslexia’ and ‘Leaders of Medium or Large Organisations in Ireland who have Dyslexia’. However, what are the products and services in the workplace or education that can assist dyslexic people and aid their performance? Here are just a few:
Possibly the biggest innovation for dyslexic people in recent years has been in the area of technology. At no time in history has there been so much choice in the area of Apps and websites that assist people with Dyslexia than the period we are currently living in. Instead of listing out all the different Apps, Callscotland.org has an excellent list for every area that a person with dyslexia may find difficult. Although the article says that it is iPad Apps, many of these are available on other Android tablets or iPhone and Android devices too. There are also several suggestions on this YouTube playlist as well
I never enjoyed reading, I didn’t understand certain words, I’d skip over others and lose my place on the page. This still happens to me. So in recent years I’ve become obsessed with podcasts. They allow me to delve into my interests, while not having to read about them. I retained much more of what I learnt in school by listening to information instead of reading it. Similarly audiobooks allow book lovers to hear the books being read rather than reading it themselves.
Bookshare.ie was created by the NCBI, since it’s also useful for Dyslexic people as it allows the user to access thousands of audiobooks that they may need for education or the workplace.The Dyslexia Association of Ireland also has a wide range of Podcasts and discussions available on their YouTube channel, which you can see here.
The Dare/Hear Schemes
The Dare Scheme – “The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education.”
The Hear Scheme – “The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to those who are resident in the Republic of Ireland and under-represented at the Higher Education level due to their socio-economic background. This site will give you all the information you need to make an application.”
CEO Mary Moran Mary has worked at the coalface of illiteracy in our education system for years. Up to 20% of students struggle to read and teachers, parents and students suffer the consequences, often for life in the case of the student. Structured literacy holds the key to unblocking this problem and Mary is an Orton-Gillingham trained tutor who has helped countless dyslexics to read. During Covid lockdowns she captured her training, experiences and her unique methods, i.e. those that she developed and refined over 30 years of tutoring, in an eight-book structured literacy programme. The reaction and welcome from struggling readers, teachers and parents has been massively positive. Social Entrepreneur Ireland recognised the transformative potential of Mary’s programme and work, and she was awarded one of the five places on their prestigious Impact Award Programme in 2022-23.
The programme uses colour coding, interactive lessons and has a range of books and other resources for users to purchase. There are a set of 8 books in the programme, each building on what has been learnt previously and a blog where you can see all of Mary’s latest updates.
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland
Ireland’s national association for Dyslexic people. The charity “works with and for people affected by dyslexia, by providing information, offering appropriate support services, engaging in advocacy and raising awareness of dyslexia.” The association currently provides:
- Physiological assessments to see if the person is Dyslexic
- Training for young people, parents, teachers and corporates on what Dyslexia is and how it affects people
- An information hub that has resources for the groups mentioned above
- Tutors for children and adults with Dyslexia to develop their skills and their self-esteem
Based in Cambridge, England, Ben Lewis created The Dyslexia Box with an aim to make the world more accessible by providing the most innovative solutions to those who need them. The company now provides workplace assessments, coaching, assistive technology and training on that technology to all organisations in the UK and abroad. But the company also expanded to sell software technology that can assist people with Dyslexia such as Read and Write Gold, scanning pens, Mind Mapping software and visual or hearing aids.
As its title suggests, The Dyslexia show is a unique event where people from all over the UK and the world come together to speak about, learn and network with each other and their interest in Dyslexia. Founder Arran Smith opened The Dyslexia Show in 2019. The event, which took place at the NEC in Birmingham, was then postponed due to the pandemic. However, it returned in March of 2022, and featured more than 5,000 attendees, more than 50 exhibitors, more than 50 CPD certified seminars and 19 sponsors and supporters. The speakers included some of the biggest names and thought leaders in neurodiversity in the world and some of the exhibitors included many organisations on this list, as well as major corporations that could explain what they are doing to hire more dyslexic people. The show also featured information for workplaces, education and parents so that they could be up to date on what the experts think about Dyslexia currently.
Grammarly and other Spell Checking services
There are other services available in addition to the spell checkers on Microsoft Word and Google Docs (I use the latter for collaboration purposes, it’s excellent). Some have started using AI to auto-predict and finish your sentences for you.
Grammarly is a Google Chrome extension that acts as a spell-checking service. Personally I’ve been using Sapling lately and find it better than most of the other options.
Group Chats – WhatsApp Desktop, Voice Notes or use of emojis
It’s very common for different teams within education or the workplace to organise themselves on communication channels such as WhatsApp., Microsoft Teams or Slack. However for some people with Dyslexia this is a nightmare. Dyslexic people can misread a text or misspell a word, which results in them feeling like they don’t belong there.
However, there are several simple tools within these group chats that can make them easier to use for Dyslexic people:
However, there are several simple tools within these group chats that can make them easier to use for Dyslexic people:
- Asking people in the group to show their emotions using emojis can decrease the receiver’s dependency on spelling and increase context of the sentence.
- Letting users use voice notes can also reduce their dependence on spelling
- Using a keyboard gives the user greater control and more accuracy
iDyslexic is the world’s first bespoke social network to assist children and adults living with dyslexia and ADHD. It’s a social network to connect parents with schools and professionals and for people to make friends with dyslexics around the world. Brendan’s son was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was six, he was struggling at school and he thought he was the only person in the world living with dyslexia so Brendan built him a social network to show him that he’s not. The community has seen huge growth in recent years and is continuing to look for new users to add to the community
Job Coaching can be a game changer for people from under-represented groups looking for employment. The job coaches can assist with CV and cover letter development, interview practice, or mentoring once the candidate is taken on in the company. Some can also provide assistance to the employer in terms of the financial benefits of government schemes for hiring people from certain groups, expertise in reasonable accommodations or training, or just be a go-between for the new employee if they need assistance.
Here’s a link to some of the job coaching services available to Irish people not just with Dyslexia but a range of other disabilities
Created by Irish woman Nicola James, who was working as a psychologist when she was diagnosed with dyslexia, the company was founded in the UK in 2007. It now works with businesses and educational establishments offering psychological assessments to diagnose and screen for all types of neurodivergent conditions, workplace needs assessments, and one-on-one coaching. They also tailor eLearning solutions for individuals and managers so that they can understand and improve their knowledge of neurodivergent conditions. The company also offers webinars and information resources on different conditions in the neurodivergent spectrum.
Created by Irishman David O’Coimín, The Nook Wellness Pods are inclusive workspaces that can be used to increase concentration, decrease noise and reduce office anxiety.
The Pods are useful for everyone to increase focus and concentration. People on the neurodivergent spectrum, particularly those with Dyslexia, find the Nooks assist them in cutting out distractions, resulting in better quality of work.
You can read my review of The Nook Wellness Pods here.
I’ve previously interviewed the CEO of Peer, Graham Broadrick (you can view that article here). In the article, I explain “Graham Brocklebank went back to college in his late twenties to study, only to realise that text-to-speech and speech-to-text software hadn’t advanced whatsoever since he had last been in education. As he was studying Computer Science in Mobile Applications, he put together an app that helped him with his reading and studying. Once he graduated college he founded www.Peer.ie, a text-to-speech and speech-to-text web-application for people with Dyslexia or other intellectual disabilities.”
Peer allows greater text-to-speech capability, with the option of having the software on a number of devices. This allows the user to listen in multiple places too.
One of my favourite companies. Sarah Lumsden-Watchorn and Sarah Dieck-McGuire are two teachers who used to work together in a school for Dyslexic children in Dublin. It was there that they saw the need for a programme for Dyslexic school children to teach them how to read. As they say on their website “We knew that once our students mastered the foundations of how to read, they would be able to practise and read accurately, comprehend and read for fluency…
Since we started our first classes, more than 240 children have benefitted from our programme. We have trained more than 10 teachers and have gone from having 2 to 4 successful reading centres in Monkstown (Co Dublin), Greystones (Co Wicklow), Castleisland (Co Kerry) and Belmullet, (Co Mayo), to offering individual and group classes, training, webinars, and tutorials online.”
CallScotland.org.uk has a range of reading-aids, posters and other resources available that can assist Dyslexic people in reading, writing and organising their thoughts. Similarly simple aids like paper with larger space between lines, or some of the text-speech software that I’ve mentioned in this article can also help.
The innovative technology allows its users to read sentences of text ensuring that they understand every word. It also has multiple dictionaries and accents and it allows the user to record on the device and play it back later. This means the user can dictate or record, taking minutes of meetings for example and then typing these up later.
I used this when I worked in Dell Technologies and found it very useful for meetings and when I was working from home.
TextHelp – Read and Write Gold
Created in Northern Ireland, Text Help’s tagline is to “help students understand, engage and express themselves“. This led the company to licence and sell accessibility software such as Read and Write Gold, Dragon and other services that offer text-to-speech software. The company predominantly works with third level institutions throughout the world, but they also have webinars and training available for employers to ease any issues they may have in the workplace.
Experts in Assistive Technology, Urability, was created by James Northbridge, who is himself Dyslexic. According to the Urability website “We use technology to bring learning to life for children with additional learning needs, including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia / DCD, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and ADHD.” This includes resources on training on assistive technologies, courses for children, parents, teachers and SNA’s, articles for people, parents or educators of children with these conditions.”