Written by Saira Khan, Conference & Outreach Officer for the Fairness, Inclusion & Respect Programme.
Dyslexia Awareness Week: ‘Uniquely You’
From 2nd to 8th October 2023, we’re celebrating Dyslexia Awareness Week. This year’s theme is ‘Uniquely You.’ This theme focuses on celebrating the strengths and unique qualities of people with dyslexia. My experience here at Action Sustainability during this special week demonstrates how workplaces can support team members with different needs.
I’ve been with the Fairness, Inclusion & Respect (FIR) team at Action Sustainability for just over a month now, and I have to say, it’s been a fantastic experience. The people here have been incredibly welcoming and supportive, making my transition into this new job incredibly smooth and enjoyable.
Today, I want to share my story and talk about some of the great ways my team has helped with my reasonable adjustments for my dyslexia. What’s really interesting and exciting is that some of the support they have offered is new to me, and they’re super helpful. I love learning new things and finding ways to do my best at work, and working in an environment like this has not only increased my happiness but also improved my productivity.
The Importance of Meeting Unique Needs
The reason why I want to highlight these adjustments is that it’s so easy to meet someone’s unique needs and, in turn, gain an employee who brings something truly special to the team. The rate of representation of people with disabilities and additional needs in the built environment sector is very low and needs significant attention. Only 4.5% of people in the sector identify as having a disability, despite representing 17.8% of the population. It is more difficult for people with disabilities to get a job, we know it exists, but the disability pay gap is not measured by most businesses, and more than a quarter of businesses do not have a reasonable adjustment policy in place, the basic requirement to support people with disabilities.
Without accommodating for everyone’s needs, we miss out on talent and perspectives that add incredible value to teams and the work they do.
Being Prepared: Equipment and Software
Before my first day, my team was already busy getting everything ready for me. They read my Accessibility Statement carefully and made sure all the equipment I needed was set up, and the necessary computer programmes were installed by our IT providers. This was a big help because it meant I could get to work right away without any hiccups.
Extra Help with Proofreading
Dyslexia makes it tough for me to catch spelling and grammar mistakes that regular computer checkers might miss. But I’m lucky to have an amazing boss who takes time to check a lot of my work before it’s sent out. She’s really good at finding errors, helping me to make sure our messages and documents are free of mistakes.
Making Pronunciation Easier
Another thing that can be tough with dyslexia is pronouncing certain words, especially during meetings. My boss has been super supportive in this area. She records herself saying words and names I have trouble with and sends these recordings to me. This is a thoughtful gesture that helps me with pronunciation and makes me feel more confident, especially when I have important meetings.
Meeting Notes and Email Follow-up: A Game-Changer
One of the best things my team does is taking detailed notes during meetings and sending them to me by email afterwards. This may seem simple, but it’s been a big help in my participation and understanding.
With dyslexia, it can be hard to process spoken information quickly, especially in fast meetings. Having notes to look at lets me take my time to understand and go over important points later. This makes sure I don’t miss important details shared in our discussions.
Getting good notes by email is a great reference for me. I can read them when I have the time to focus, making sure I stay well-informed and involved in ongoing projects and conversations.
An Open Environment for Questions and Lots of Patience
One thing I really appreciate is that my team has created a space where I’m never afraid to ask for things to be repeated or to ask lots of questions. They’re incredibly patient and understanding. They take the time to explain things, discuss ideas, and repeat information when I need it. This makes our work environment open and helps me keep learning and improving.
I’m really thankful for the flexibility and support I’ve received from my new FIR team. They’re doing a great job creating an inclusive work environment, and the new techniques they’ve introduced me to have been a big help. It’s nice to see how they’ve embraced these changes, making my time here not just smoother but also enjoyable. I feel confident that we will continue to find ways to help each other and continue to improve on accessibility within the team and across the organisation.
As we celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Week, I want to express my gratitude to my wonderful FIR team members – Cathryn Greville, Sara Gouveia and Berta Santos – for going the extra mile and making an environment where everyone can do their best. Their support and patience have not only made my transition easier but also show what real inclusivity, teamwork, and dyslexia awareness mean.
Thank you for being a part of my journey, and let’s keep celebrating our uniqueness together.