Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that mainly causes problems with reading, writing, and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing (NHS, 2022)
It’s estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia. A “specific learning difficulty” which includes dyslexia, is City’s largest disabled group for staff and students.
This week, 3-9 October 2022, is Dyslexia Awareness Week. To mark the week and participate in celebrating the occasion at City, we have put together a short list of three things you can do in your work to help dyslexic students and colleagues.
Use a dyslexia-friendly font
All staff are encouraged to use Arial (part of the City brand) in all of their materials, which is a dyslexia-friendly font.
OpenDyslexic is a typeface that has been created with input from dyslexic users and is a helpful resource to be aware of, for targeting specific needs that users may have. It is free to use for all, including for educational resources.
The font will be available on Microsoft office applications. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all, inclusive font does not exist but the weighted bottoms and different letter shapes of OpenDyslexic offer marked improvements in experience for dyslexic people.
To install it:
- Navigate to the Windows search field.
- Type in Software Centre. Select Enter.
- Select the ‘FONT: OpenDyslexic’ font pack. Select Install.
- The font pack will install on your machine for use in authoring software, such as Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign.
Create an inclusive classroom or workplace culture
Creating an inclusive classroom culture will build ‘A sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best work’ (Miller & Katz 2002). This can help combat low levels of confidence that dyslexic people can often experience.
Some things you can do:
- Offer learners or colleagues choices in how they engage with their studies or work. For example, offer the use of flashcards and real objects to assist conversation rather than rely on writing notes or on a board to support the activity.
- Stick to reliable routines and clear schedules in the environment. This is helpful for all people, and will also ensure dyslexic people receive adequate, planned time and resources to engage in activities effectively.
- Classroom or workplace accommodations will encourage dyslexic people to feel more involved and comfortable in their activities. This can include blocking out unnecessary stimuli in the environment and ensuring the availability of applicable assistive technology.
Consistency, consistency, consistency (location, location, location)
Embed consistency and structure in any materials you use. This ensures that teaching or working is systematic and cumulative, meaning that dyslexic people can depend on being presented with a logical order of information to process, from basic concepts to more difficult ideas. As a result, your audience will be able to build on their knowledge as well as confidence.
Some things you can do:
- Consult the dyslexia-friendly style guide published by the British Dyslexia Association. The style guide provides principles that can help ensure that any of your written material considers the difficulties experienced by some dyslexic people and allows for the use of text-to-speech technology to facilitate ease of reading.
- Consult and share the ‘Designing for users with dyslexia’ Dos and Don’ts poster published by the Home Office Digital, Data and Technology team. It illustrates general guidelines and best design principles for making your practice more accessible and consistent for dyslexic people. You can use these for your own purposes, as well as share them far and wide.
- Miller & Katz (2002); ‘Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity’. In The Inclusion Breakthrough; Berrett-Koehler Publisher
- Dyslexia, NHS (2022)