23 Aug 2019

By Petra Wainwright. (Strategist)

There are lots of benefits of Neurodiversity being recognised as a disability under the Equalities Act. It means that throughout formal education most schools, colleges and universities are geared up to support students with the challenges related to their conditions. What about once you are in the workplace though? Well we know that through the Access to Work scheme employers can receive grants to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

There does, however, appear to be a gap in provision and understanding, and that is in the ever-increasing area of Continuous Personal Development (CPD). I have heard several times from clients with Neurodiversity that their needs are not being met when it comes to furthering their careers through professional training. I am not exempt from this as I have been trying to increase my knowledge and understanding of Autism. As the course I am doing is online I intended to use the assistive software but found that the online resources were not compatible with the software not being able to read some of the animated slides and also not being able to either dictate into the assessments at the end or even copy and paste what had been dictated into another programme. I had informed the organisation running the training that I was dyslexic however I was not offered any reasonable adjustments.

As I was struggling with this, I received a call from a client I had worked with last year who was having problems getting reasonable adjustments for a professional development course. Likewise, the online learning resources were not compatible with her text to voice software. Even more unsettling was that when she called the professional body running the training for support, she was told that her dyslexia assessment, done as a child, was no longer valid and she needed to pay for a new assessment. To be fair to the body in question until recently that was the case, however a change in the law recently means that childhood assessments done by an approved assessor are now lifelong. In being told she was not able to have reasonable adjustments she asked if the tutor would be able to access the work she had completed and give her feedback, the tutor on the phone appeared to bring up her work and laugh at the inevitable mistakes made. She was obviously upset by this and called me for advice. She used my advice to make a formal complaint and a representative contacted us at Enabling Technology for advice on how to better support their learners with dyslexia so she is now receiving the support she needs.

This wasn’t the first time though, previously another client had been told he would receive reasonable adjustments for an exam but on arrival the exam paper wasn’t on the different colour paper and the separate room was adjoining a busy café divided by a thin partition wall, not suitable for someone with Dyslexia and ADHD. Eventually he received a coloured exam paper and was moved to an attic room but the stress and confusion meant that he started the exam late and was not in a good place mentally to concentrate on the exam. It isn’t surprising then that he failed. He made a complaint at the time and then again when he received the result but was told that he would be able to take the exam again but this time with no reasonable adjustments.

Not only are situations like this upsetting for the people involved but they are also contrary to the Equality Act 2010 which states that “Where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to provide the auxiliary aid.”

It is understandable that much of this lack of provision is not done out of malice but rather a lack of understanding. We can only hope to increase the understanding and knowledge of the needs as well as gifts, of Neurodiverse people in the workplace. If reading this you think your knowledge is lacking in this area please contact Enabling Technology and we would love to help you increase your understanding.

I am happy to report that, in my case, after a call with the provider of the Autism training, I was send the information in a pdf format that Texthelp Read & Write can read with no problem, however the assessment still has to be typed directly into the page with no dictation so my Dragon is getting a rest! Small steps!