Working with dyslexia: Abbie's story

International Day of People with Disabilities is a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disabilities and increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance.

When thinking about this topic, we don't always focus on the 'hidden' disabilities that can affect people in life and in the workplace. We spoke to Abbie Hare, Business Readiness Analyst in our IS department, about her experiences with dyslexia.

Can you tell us about your disability?

I am dyslexic and struggle with writing, reading (words look blurred or moving around), processing information, organisation and memory. On a positive note I am very creative, love to interact verbally and have very good problem-solving skills.

What is dyslexia? 

Dyslexia is a learning difference which primarily affects reading and writing skills. However, it does not only affect these skills.

Dyslexia is actually about information processing. Dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact on other areas such as organisational skills. [1]

What has your experience within Cadent been like, and how has the work environment adapted to your needs? 

When I started with the company, I didn’t know I was dyslexic (dyslexia was not recognised when  I was at school), but I have always known that I struggled with reading and writing.

As I progressed through different roles it came apparent that I was also struggling with taking in and progressing information, memory and organisation skills. Following this I did some research and had a psychological assessment at Dyslexia Action which the company kindly paid for. The assessment was very intense and covered Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Organisation, Working Memory and Processing Speed. When I got the report and tried to make sense of it (still to this day I don’t fully understand it) I was saddened about the areas where I struggled in, but now I don’t let them bother me and I concentrate on the areas I excel in. The great thing about the report was that it highlighted recommendations, such as allowing me extra time to complete tasks and exams and software for my computer.

Through another colleague with dyslexia I found out about Access to Work. Access to Work is an employment support grant scheme which provides practical and financial support for people who have a disability or long-term physical or mental health condition. Through this process I have got some great applications on my computer to help me in my role such as:
  • Idea Mapper, which helps with organisation and getting my ideas down 
  • Read & Write to help with writing, reading text and most importantly screen masking to change the colour of my screen so all the words are not jumping all over the place and a bit easier to read 
I also had coping sessions to help me with Organisation/Prioritising & Time Management, Stress Management and Self-Care.

My managers have been so patient and supportive with me, they are considerate about how much work I have got on and if I have enough time to get it done and understand when it can get overwhelming.  

What is the one thing that you wish people knew about your disability or disabilities in general?

With many disabilities they are hidden, and people assume there is nothing wrong with you. Just be more mindful that someone may have a disability and don’t judge or think they are incompetent for a role. If someone opens up about having a disability, then take an interest to understand how this affects them.

What can people can do to support those with different ability needs? 

Research disability and take the time to understand someone's needs. Don’t be afraid to ask the person with the disability what support and help they need. Don’t dwell and try to fix the weaknesses, but thrive on the strengths.

Anything else you wish to add?

I find more now with working from home that we are sending more and more emails, but for people with learning difficulties these are the worst. Does the communication need to be an email? Pick up the phone and have a conversation!

“Dyslexia is not due to a lack of intelligence, it’s a lack of access. It’s like, if you’re dyslexic, you have all the information you need, but find it harder to process.”
— Orlando Bloom


[1] Definition of dyslexia - The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has adopted the Rose (2009) definition of dyslexia

Cadent

Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

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