Accommodating for Dyslexia in the Workplace

People with dyslexia often need help with written documents.
i Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Dyslexia is a learning disability that interferes with visual, auditory or motor processes, making reading and comprehension difficult. Dyslexics don’t see the written word the same way others do. Letters or numbers may appear jumbled and meaningless. Because their reading ability is challenged, dyslexics take longer to perform certain tasks. The condition is most often recognized in children, but it is a life-long impairment that can greatly restrict you at work. If you are dyslexic, don’t be afraid to ask your boss or a prospective employer for assistance to help you succeed on the job.

Reasonable Accommodations

    The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Learning disabilities such as dyslexia are included. Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, unless such accommodations would create a substantial hardship to the company. Such accommodations include changing the way a job is performed, acquiring equipment and making alterations in the workplace to accommodate the disability.

What You Can Do

    Ask someone to read important documents to you. Ask your boss to give you verbal instructions rather than written notes and tape record important instructions or information. Break the job down into smaller tasks and allow enough time to finish any reading that is necessary to get the job done. Use your computer’s voice output, if you have one. Use your word processing program’s spell check and grammar check functions.

What Your Boss Can Do

    You are entitled to accommodations, even if your workplace has fewer than 15 employees, but you must ask your employer to provide them. Many workplace accommodations don’t involve extra expense or undue hardship. Simply allowing you to take more time to complete tasks involving reading may be all that is necessary. Other accommodations include scanning documents into a computer and converting text to audio, or using voice-output software, also called screen-reading software, that highlights and reads text out loud from the computer screen. An on-screen ruler or copy highlighter can help you to focus on computer text. Use screen-reading software that reads text out loud, and try electronic and talking dictionaries. Other accommodations could include providing large-print documents or typewritten material in a large, clear font.

Get Help

    Adults with dyslexia and other learning disabilities should seek assistance from testing and evaluation professionals. The Job Accommodation Network provides a searchable online resource for accommodation options for people with disabilities.

the nest