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Creative Communications: Working in Comms with dyslexia

Category: social housing, local housing association, Digital Marketing, Neurodivergent, Neurodiversity Network, Neurodiverse colleagues, Housing Associations, testimonial, Housing, Neurodiversity, Dyslexia, Digital Accessibility, Digital Inclusion, Digital Innovation, Disability and Neurodiversity, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, PA Housing, digital, digital career, digital media, Neurodiverse, Neurodiversity in the workplace, Neurodiverse candidates, Neurodiversity awareness, Neurodiversity ambassador, Neurodiverse people

Neurodiversity

A Testimonial by Ben Nandrame, Digital Communications Officer

Ben Nandrame, Digital Communications Officer - “Personally, I don’t see it as a hinderance but more of an insightful perspective on the world.”

Hi, I’m Ben. I’ve been working here for 5+ years now and as a Digital Communications Officer, I’m responsible for a lot of the digital aspects of the business. This can involve developing pages for the website; editing and creating some of the posts on our staff page; creating surveys to obtain feedback from residents; and posting PA Housing merchandise here, there, and everywhere.

One thing that people may not know is that I have dyslexia. I’d mainly say it affects me subliminally. For example, when I’m reading a paragraph, my eyes and my brain will miss out certain words and not on purpose. So, it takes me longer to check things because I have to read them several times to grasp them. It affects my writing too, so it benefits me to use a speech-to text program and type talk. When I do that, it can make me come across in a more articulate way, largely because I do have quite a good vocabulary. I just struggle with the spelling sometimes.

In my Communications role, I have to write quite a lot. Sometimes, writing a paragraph can be easier than just writing one sentence because it gives me the time to get into the swing of things, whereas I can be reading the same sentence on its own over and over but still not get the hang of it. That’s where Grammarly comes in to help.

PA actually pays for me to have the pro version of Grammarly which is really helpful. It is more than just a spell checker; it helps with grammar, sentence structure, and highlights words to suggest alternative choices. It’s an advanced program that is built into social media, emails, and more. Also, the new version of Microsoft Office has dictation which is how I can use the speech-to-text function. I’d say that PA Housing stacks up well in comparison to other places I’ve worked as I’ve never had this level of help and engagement with my dyslexia before. I’d say they’re a very inclusive employer in that way, whereas some other employers can be less willing to understand.

I think it’s great that inclusivity is such an intrinsic part of our process here at PA. It’s threaded through a lot of what we do, and we actively take Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion on board. I’ve never felt any malice while I’ve been here or felt degraded in any way because of my dyslexia. I think some people here may not even know I have it, but there may be certain instances where it affects the speed at which I process information.

I’d say the most challenging aspect of my role is the reactive side of social media, managing residents’ expectations. Although I may be able to respond to queries quickly through social media, I still have to send them through the proper channels. I can write them a personalised message, but then I need to contact somebody from the relevant team to deal with the issue.   

A great thing about working here though is the flexibility. Since our Flexible Working Policy came in, it’s nice that I don’t have to work from the same desk each day. I can sit with other departments around the office to help us collaborate more, and I can work from home a few days a week. This is great because it fits into my life and allows me to have more of a balance.

As well as working for PA Housing, I’ve been a first responder for the past 6 plus years. I had been doing some work performing the fourth emergency service, Search and Rescue. Then, I was headhunted by EMAS (East Midlands Ambulance Service). They approached me to be a first responder then trained me up. We wear the same uniforms as EMAS, and I drive a blue light vehicle.

I see a lot as a first responder – stabbings, cardiac arrests, serious injuries. And the thing is, as somebody in the medical profession, I’m never really off-duty so I find myself carrying a pair of blue medical gloves everywhere I go just in case. For example, it often happens in public areas where I’m just going shopping or something and somebody will call out, “is there anyone who is medically trained here?” and that’s when I have to step up. Friday nights in the city centre can also be quite hectic when I’m on duty.

If somebody has had a cardiac arrest and you can revive them, or if somebody is trapped and you can be there as a reassuring, helpful voice as they wait for the Fire Service to arrive, it’s very rewarding. I love it.

When there’s a call near your GPS location and say, it’s asthma or a heart attack, your intervention can be lifesaving. An ambulance could be 20 minutes away, especially if they have high grade emergency calls coming in. It’s an unpaid service, but I genuinely think it’s one of the best things people can do. EMAS are always calling out for more volunteers.    

Overall, I’m not really a big authority on neurodiversity myself, but I think it’s important for people to understand that there are different ways of perceiving the world – whether that’s with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or any other neurodivergent condition. A bit more awareness would be nice, even when it’s a mild form like mine. For instance, when I’m asked to remember a sequence of numbers or relay complex information, I can do it, but I might ask you to repeat yourself. It’s just about having a bit of patience. In PA, everybody does, but in the wider world where people don’t know, it can be a challenge.

Personally, I don’t see it as a hinderance but more of an insightful perspective on the world. In some ways, it makes me more hyperaware of my surroundings and others’ emotions. So, to me, that’s a gift.

When I’m not at work or doing first responder stuff, I like going for walks and taking my camera with me to take some nice nature shots. I’m also a big gardener. I’ve been in my house for 3 years now, but I’m still doing more to my garden.

One of my favourite things to do is mountain climbing and dangling off cliffs with ropes and safety equipment. Just with nothing above me or beneath my feet, looking down over a great view. I know a lot of people would really hate that, but it’s one of my favourite things. I like going below ground too, exploring caves etc. I’m really not averse to caves and the dark. I’ve been called a night owl in the past and I can see why. It helps to be quite fearless in these kinds of situations when you’re a first responder and trained in mountain rescue.

A true Comms Hero in every sense! If you would like to join our lively and diverse team, take a look at our current vacancies here.

Everybody is unique, and we're committed to promoting diversity, inclusion, and a culture that actively values difference. This commitment is promoted by our Board and applies to all customers, employees and other stakeholders, such as contractors, volunteers and partners. We believe that everyone is entitled to respect and dignity and we are committed to building an environment where our employees, customers, contractors and visitors are treated in this way.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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PA Housing

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