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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Steve Purr

Digital Programme Delivery Manager

Being dyslexic in a digital age, blessing or a cursor?

4 min read (6 mins plus with dyslexia)

I hate writing, full stop. It always sounds good in my head but it never comes out that way, when I try and write it down.

But with digital tools available to support almost anyone, has this moved the goal posts? Can any Tom, Dick or even Steve write a blog post?

Well, you can be the judge of that…

I’m taking one for the team, to share the pain of what it feels like to have a lower reading, writing and spelling age than almost everyone I work with, and how this impacts me in a digital world.

The pain of dyslexia

I find my reading to be very slow. I often add words, replace words, or misread words altogether.
I can understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty if information is written down. I also have poor and inconsistent spelling. 
One of the worst examples of this was on a large project with a social care team… ‘someone’ signed off an email with ‘Kind retards’. Completely unintentional but still not my best move.

The benefits…?

Personally, I know I understand things better if there’s an image or process flow, or just something to point at when talking. But I’d also add that dyslexics can see solutions where other people see problems. This is because living with dyslexia forces you to find alternatives to impossible tasks, on a daily basis.
We become excellent delegators, surrounding ourselves with great people who can provide the skills we don’t have. In my job as Digital Programme Delivery Manager, this means combining other people’s strengths and weaknesses to form resilient teams – which helps get stuff done.

“If digital tools can banish the Apostrophe Police that have plagued me all my life and send them crawling back under the rock they came from, it just makes me love them a little bit more.”

Steve Purr

Digital tools to support dyslexia

Please share your own tools @SDPurr

Digital tools can be like an extra team member, supporting us when we go wrong…

If these tools can banish the Apostrophe Police that have plagued me all my life and send them crawling back under the rock they came from, it just makes me love them a little bit more.

Tools that I use every day are:

  • Browser ‘search by voice’
  • Voice recognition
  • Video conferencing (to see the whites of people eyes)
  • Audiobooks
  • Touchscreens (to draw and explain what is in my head)
  • Sketchnoting and infographics
  • Synonyms (to try and use longer words to mask my dyslexia, shame on me)
  • Voice recording (to take notes)
  • My amazing colleagues that I bounce everything off first, and who proofread my work.

Being dyslexic in a digital team

In our team, we start with service design at a very human level, and support this with technology when we know where the gaps or weaknesses are. As a dyslexic, seeing these gaps is instinctive, and having the ability to find, explore and even encourage mistakes is a really valuable skill.A blend of human-led problem solving and tech seems to be the best way forwards. Couple this with agile methodology (which helps us accept the first iteration will never be perfect) and this is the foundation that we build our delivery model on.

Seeing dyslexia differently

I would like to see more people being open about dyslexia. I’ve found that telling everyone I work with has helped me get to where I am today.

I’d also like to see companies do more to combat the stigma and misinformation about dyslexia. I love how MadeByDyslexia is approaching this challenge, by breaking down people’s perceptions and explaining what it actually means to be dyslexic.

I would like to see things like updated job descriptions – ‘Excellent collaborative and communication skills’ instead of ‘Excellent in verbal and written communication skills’. Whether you’re dyslexic or not, we should talk to each other and be collaborative, not hide behind emails.

For me, digital tools really help me carry out my day job, but I’m old enough that they were not available to me when I was learning to read and write.

When my son comes to learn, will he not just opt for the easy way out? Only time will tell. But if this blog changes the way just one person thinks or acts towards their dyslexic colleagues, then this will make me proud.

Meanwhile I will never understand nouns and pronouns.

The End.

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