Dyslexia affects more people than you may think and it is now understood it is a different way of thinking with strengths and weaknesses. The dismantling industry is a common career for people with dyslexia but often the ever increasing administration and compliance burden can be a problem – there is help available though.
Gillian Temple, President of the Scrap Metal Dealers Association provides us with her knowledge of dyslexia, how it affects many in the industry and how having this condition should not stop people from achieving their goals.
Dyslexia – a ridiculously difficult word to describe a condition that makes it hard to read difficult words. I’m sure the irony is more apparent to those with the condition.
Dyslexia affects 10-15% of the population. It has been known to exist since the 1800s. Some thought it was an issue with the eyes and it was often called word blindness, although it is not related to vision but is to do with how the brain processes information. It is genetic so commonly runs in families. There are estimated to be between 6-10 million people in the United Kingdom who are dyslexic.
Now you might be wondering why you are reading this in ATF Professional. The Scrap Metal Dealers Association recently did a survey of our members and discovered that the percentage of members that had dyslexia in their immediate family was higher than the national average.
We weren’t surprised by this. After all the old rag and bone man, the founders of our scrap metal and recycling industry weren’t known for their PhDs. They were “good with their hands” and used brute force to lift anything on a sack barrow. Generally they left school early to help in the family trade. Generations on, and just as the sons and daughters followed their family members into the business, so too did the dyslexic condition.
Education in schools will usually pick up the condition (although those in their 40s and 50s now may not have been diagnosed at school) but there are still many that find it difficult to read and concentrate. And here’s the problem: As the industry has changed and become more regulated with licensing and in particular with the Environmental Agency (EA), the paperwork has become a huge part of the job that had previously been manual labour. Businesses are forced to employ consultants or are employing office staff, and compliance officers. In effect the business is being run from a desk and the owner, unless computer and word literate, no longer has control of his business. Sites are required to comply with one of two options; the CIWM/WAMITAB Operator Competence Scheme and the EU Skills Scheme (see here), either of these schemes can be difficult for those with dyslexia. Do trainers need to change their techniques to cater for the man that can’t read? Should more help be made available to this condition that is in nearly a fifth of the industry, yet the qualification is aimed at them?
Dyslexia is a recognised disability and therefore, we would like to think that the EA would also recognise this in its literature. Dyslexics can find reading easier by changing the writing style and font. We as an Association would like members to not be ashamed or feel that they can’t do training. Dyslexics are not stupid, research shows that dyslexia has no impact on intelligence. In fact, new research is starting to show that dyslexia brings big strengths. Dyslexics excel at connecting ideas, 3D mapping, and seeing the “big picture”. People with dyslexia often find success in the fields of art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics,(ATFs) music, physics, sales and sports. Knowing these visual elements perhaps powerpoint presentations are going to be a better way to train, this and future generations, rather than through booklets and guides, that no one seems to read.
Dyslexics tend towards areas we traditionally associate with “right-brain thinking” more than average, which is associated with art, emotion, spatial relationships, intuition and synthesising of ideas – partially explaining their strengths in these areas. But before you get too big headed, due to finding it difficult to match rhyming words, you’re apparently rubbish at hip hop! Which is probably why you’ll never hear it at any ATF, well, any that I’ve ever been to.”
Karen Mace, Head of Assessment and Professional Level Training, British Dyslexia Association provided us with her professional advice on those who have dyslexia and how having it shouldn’t hold them back.
Dyslexia is what is known as a specific learning difference as it affects certain capabilities but not someone’s underlying ability, i.e. it has no bearing on intelligence. It is thought to affect around 10 to 15 percent of the people.
Someone with dyslexia will commonly have difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. This is because dyslexia means it is harder to understand and manipulate the sounds needed to read and spell. It also brings challenges around working memory, for example, recalling a phone number you have just been given, and the speed dyslexics take in absorbing some types of information.
Although less measurable compared to the difficulties, dyslexia comes with many strengths. These are becoming much better understood. It is now well established that dyslexics excel in grappling with complex and nuanced information, especially visual information – which is why so many dyslexics gravitate towards hands on jobs. These innate abilities are recognised most commonly as being strong problem solvers, creative and good with people.
In an industry like end of life vehicle dismantling and salvage, the strengths of dyslexia make dyslexics particularly great employees.
However, at times, the difficulties of dyslexia can be problematic. These challenges need not hold you back though. We would encourage dyslexic employees and their employers to seek out the support available – known as reasonable adjustments – to tackling points where dyslexia could be a barrier.
The law (Equality Act 2010) means reasonable adjustments should be made wherever relevant. We find that often government money can be accessed to pay for these and any cost to the employer is far outweighed by returns likes increases in efficiency and staff retention. You can read more about this topic here.
Exams are one of the most common times people with dyslexic need access to extra support. The law provides for this and it can make a massive difference to results, so make the most of what is available.
Most commonly, it might be possible to apply for extra time to complete the exam. In addition, many exam boards allow the use of a person or technology to read the questions and/or a scribe to write the answers. You may also be able to use a computer instead of handwriting an exam.
Any body running exams will be geared up for requests from people with dyslexia for reasonable adjustments. You should just be able to explain you are dyslexic (as early as practical to give them time to make any changes) and ask what accommodations they can offer. Mostly, you should not need an official diagnosis, it should be enough to just say you believe you are dyslexic. If an exam board require a diagnostic assessment to make reasonable adjustments please contact the British Dyslexia Association as this is bad practice.
You can find lots of information about dyslexia on the British Dyslexia Association website, www.bdadyslexia.org.uk. If you can’t find the answers you need there, then call the British Dyslexia Association Helpline on 0333 405 4567.
We asked WAMITAB how they assist those with dyslexia and here is what they provided us on the subject:
Firstly, it is important to remember that there are two components to the CIWM/WAMITAB Operator Competence Scheme. The first element is the primary qualification, which is assessed on-the-job and provision is made for the needs of the learners by the training provider who delivers the qualification. Once individuals have achieved their primary qualification the next stage is to take their Continuing Competence test and people can apply for “reasonable adjustments” to make the test more accessible, ie, a reader or scribe can be provided. ‘As a Regulated Awarding Organisation, WAMITAB is required by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments where a learner, who is disabled within the definition of the Equality Act 2010, would be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. Reasonable Adjustments take steps to overcome that disadvantage, for example, provision of a bilingual dictionary and extra time for English Speakers of Other Languages.
WAMITAB has a duty to make reasonable adjustments, and is committed to doing so fairly.
Further details can be obtained directly from WAMITAB