At 17 years of age I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, and throughout most of that time I had no real difficulty in getting jobs, as I faxed or emailed my CV through with a covering letter or registered for a agency that would call me up and ask me for an interview. I worked in housing regeneration as a liaison officer on big local authority projects and sometimes on private developments.
Then, in September 2008, after I finished my Masters, suddenly the economic crash happened, and the combination of the global banking crisis and the new digital influx of online recruitment campaigns began to change drastically for me in a not so good way. I'm one of those dyslexic people who are very comfortable with talking and communicating verbally, but processing data on online filing and any kind of admin will take me a tremendously long time coupled with extreme eye stress. I found progressively that all recruiters were starting to ask for online applications which would not show my full ability or skills. This technological change I tackled by using my voice assisted software, but what I found that some online applications were not compatible with Dragon. This knocked my confidence because I didn't ever have a problem in getting an interview before. I understood that recession meant less jobs, but I wasn't getting any interviews at all. This led to stress and negative thoughts about my skills as people less qualified were able to complete an application online with ease, but it took me a whole week.
I literally cheered out aloud when the Equality Act 2010 came through (my first and second degree are both in law) and thought "this is good day for all dyslexics, diverse and disabled employees and jobseekers", but alas, that has not been my experience. I once had to explain to a HR director why an online application might not be an appropriate mode of recruitment for a severe dyslexic like myself. He said that if I couldn't complete the application form in the traditional way, then there was nothing he could do as this was the only way show my ability to do the potential job. I explained I had the qualifications with my two degrees, but my learning difficulty had a negative impact on me filling out forms. All I had asked for was to have a covering letter and CV instead of on line application - not much to ask for to support diversity. So I thought, "Why, with all our digital advancement in technology i.e. Skype, video phones, why can't we have the recruiters do applications this way?" After all, recruiters are embracing technology on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, so why does the traditional way of recruiting with still persist? It would help a lot more dyslexics towards getting over the big barrier of getting the interview from the application form.
The increase use technology to make positive changes can enhance everyone especially people with disabilities. I have been using Twitter for 6 months and made connections with many dyslexic people around the UK who have used social enterprise as a way to get themselves into work. Some stated to me that the same recruitment difficulties, as well as the increase number of jobseekers going for jobs, have spurred them on to work for themselves as entrepreneurs.
HR and Senior Managements need to embrace digital technology in all ways to promote a diverse workforce so they don't lose the uniqueness of a talented cognitive profile which can be a advantage in business. Cass business school and Management today have both written articles which state that a high percentage of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic.
Submission by Claudette Jacobs
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