Microsoft has developed a campaign to raise awareness of how technology supports the daily, lived experience of people with dyslexia, lower levels of functional literacy and other learning differences.
“Be You” will be available from Dyslexia Week, which runs from 3 October, and seeks to empower people with Dyslexia and dispel popular misconceptions and stigmas associated with the world’s most common learning disability.
The campaign will highlight how a range of Microsoft digital tools can make everyday life more accessible for people with Dyslexia, whether attending a university lecture, writing a best man speech or simply reading a large amount of text online. This campaign aims to reach people traditionally missing out on access to assistive technology, those that are potentially not accessing advice through education or workplace initiatives.
This follows on from a series of successful kids bootcamps run by Microsoft – Think Differently About Dyslexia. The campaign has been designed by dyslexics for people with dyslexia and includes digital tools and workshops, launching with partners like Currys.
“Disability is a strength,” said Hector Minto, Microsoft UK’s Lead Accessibility Evangelist and the UK Government Tech Sector Ambassador for Disability. “Technology should always aim to meet people where they are. In this case we want people with Dyslexia to create and consume information in a way that works for them, but far too few people know these options exist.”
The Value of Thinking Differently
The NHS states that dyslexia affects one in 10 people in the UK, but global charity Made by Dyslexia believes it is closer to 1 in 5. The charity describes dyslexia as: “A genetic difference in an individual’s ability to learn and process information.”
Dyslexia can make life more difficult because it affects individuals’ ability to process information. That expresses itself in reading and writing difficulties, makes memorising facts more challenging and affects organisational skills.
For all the perceived disadvantages of dyslexia, there are a huge number of strengths and skills that many businesses need for the future. The ability to think differently, provides diversity of thought, new ideas and perspectives. Dyslexics are often brilliant problem solvers because they have unconsciously devised strategies to overcome their own difficulties.
Dyslexics are incredibly creative, very visual and have strengths in communication skills. These skills as a collective are known as “Dyslexic Thinking”, a skill you can now list on LinkedIn.
Some of history’s most successful people, including businessman Sir Richard Branson, rock star John Lennon, artist Pablo Picasso and scientist Albert Einstein had the gift of Dyslexia.
Helping to Empower People with Dyslexia
A commonly held image of the Dyslexia is that of a child struggling to read and write. Yet frequently those with Dyslexia are first diagnosed when they hit adulthood.
That often comes during some of life’s major – and most stressful – turning points, such as when students begin university, or an employee makes a career change. As a strongly hereditary condition, once diagnosis is understood, often parents and even grandparents realise they too have it.
Recognition in adulthood can give clarity and explanation for previous struggles, yet 75 per cent of people with dyslexia do not inform their employer they have it.
The “Be You” campaign is hoping to help people understand how technology can support them, regardless of when they are diagnosed or whether they choose to self-identify.
“As a dyslexic myself we wanted the campaign to move beyond children and education. Many people with dyslexia are not diagnosed until later in life, university is a common stage and these young adults soon move into the working world. People live with Dyslexia, they don’t just learn, it stays with you your whole life and it can impact your everyday life. We wanted to focus on helping people be themselves and have technology make the everyday a little easier,” said Kelly Monday, Consumer Channel Sales Director, Microsoft UK.
The campaign seeks to put the individual’s needs front and centre and highlight the digital tools that are available to help them. While Dyslexia is the initial focus, the campaign hopes to expand to cover other conditions such as hearing and vision disabilities.
As part of “Be You”, Microsoft will run in-person and virtual workshops supported and hosted by tech retailer Currys to show how technology can break down barriers for neurodiverse children and adults.
Some adults admit that a prejudice against dyslexia led them to mask their condition for many years. “But Microsoft believes neurodiverse people should be true to themselves — especially as technology is there to help if they need it,” continued Minto.
“Making accessibility the foundation of product design is key to Microsoft’s belief that living and working in diverse environments benefits us all. Hearing voices from people with disabilities opens us up to different ways of thinking. After all, dyslexia is also associated with better reasoning, visual and creative skills — valuable attributes in any environment.”
You can read more about the value of Dyslexic thinking in the workplace, in a research report commissioned by Made By Dyslexia “The Value of Dyslexia”.