How Technology Can Help (And Trouble) Workers With Dyslexia

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Between 5% and 12%of Europeans have dyslexia or an associated learning disorder, and for those who live with it, dyslexia continues to affect us in adulthood. Technology can be used to help children with dyslexia to work with their condition and develop ways to read and write. But unlike today’s dyslexic youth, adults with dyslexia don’t have any assistive technology specifically designed for them. In today’s online world, the space given by online communication and the speed at which online work-based communication happens can both help and hinder dyslexic adults. While word processors, spell-checkers, and online workspaces can benefit dyslexic adults, it can sometimes be overwhelming to receive information as quickly as it’s given in the ‘information age’.


Online Workspaces And Online Chat

One of the greatest benefits of online communication for adults with dyslexia is the ability to process information at their own pace. Online workspaces – such as bulletin boards, shared document folders, collective websites – allow their users to consume and understand the information posted there at a rate that the user chooses, which means people with dyslexia don’t feel pressured to attempt to process at a faster rate and risk misunderstanding and consequently mismanaging a task. Self-pacing also allows managers and professionals with dyslexia more autonomy in their work, meaning they can develop their own style of management.

On the flip side, however, are the existence of online communication tools like chat rooms. Instant messaging in chat rooms is fast-paced and constantly updating, especially in larger chat rooms with more participants, so people with dyslexia often have trouble processing each message before it scrolls up the screen. This difficulty processing others’ messages leads to a reticence to send messages themselves and can sometimes lead a user to cut themselves off from communication in the chat room at all. The common perception of virtual spaces is that they allow information to be shared and consumed much more quickly, which is true in cases like chat rooms. However, slowing down the consumption and processing of information via online communication has been greatly beneficial to professionals with dyslexia.


Assistive Technology In The Workplace

Aside from online communication, technology designed specifically to assist people with learning disabilities is developing. For those with dyslexia, most assistive technologies are focused on helping the brain process written words by supplementing them with audio, but studies on adults with dyslexia suggest that this may not be the best way to help. Most adults with dyslexia have already developed strategies to process written words, and even when adults without dyslexia performed better when given both text and audio, those with dyslexia surprisingly performed better with only text. Of course, screen readers, spell checkers, and other assistive technology can still be a huge help to professionals with dyslexia – sometimes taking extra time to fully process written words isn’t an option, and sometimes those professionals may prefer to have information read to them rather than struggle with it.

As both assistive and information communication technologies develop, so too will their utility to professionals of all kinds. Currently, online workspaces that allow managers the autonomy to set their own pace are a huge benefit to professionals with dyslexia, but online spaces that move faster, like chat rooms, can be troublesome. Solutions like asynchronous chat rooms have been proposed, and it’s possible that assistive technologies will develop in that direction. As the ‘information age’ continues, dyslexic professionals are able to more thoroughly engage with their coworkers and their work.


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