If there’s one thing the digital age has not brought, it’s the paperless office. Handling effectively all the information you receive in your business is still just as tricky for everyone as it always was. This has a knock-on effect for business performance, and up to 20% of business owners could find that they can increase their confidence to handle the paper mountain and be more efficient around the office by simply adjusting their habits to take into account one thing they have in common – dyslexia.
One in five entrepreneurs in the UK is dyslexic. That’s more than 300,000 self-employed people with additional challenges to their information processing abilities, organisational skills and short-term memory. Research from Cass Business School in London showed that entrepreneurs with dyslexia varied from non-dyslexic business owners in two important trends: how many businesses they set up and how many people they employed. The dyslexic entrepreneurs did more of both.
These trends make the actions of this group highly significant to economic growth. They thrive on their self-reliance, yet a great number of them are avoiding the office paperwork and – as a direct result – missing the business knowledge which could solve their problems, provide a new opportunity or introduce them to the right help for their business needs. This group would benefit from tools which help dyslexic people harness commercial information more effectively, as they are a means of boosting efficiency and personal confidence, without which there cannot be economic growth.
One of the most valuable tools in this area is software which allows the user to improve their processing of information. Typically, these packages convert text into speech, meaning documents can be listened to by users, rather than read over. Some packages can also repeat back written work, helping users to spot grammar and spelling mistakes, and also recognise words that sound the same but have different meanings, such as to, too and two, or witch and which. The outcome is that they improve the image of a firm’s business correspondence, while adding to the skills set of the user. These are triggers for increased confidence in individuals and better productivity from the company, making these products important aids for growth.
The provision of literacy support software should become the norm for more than economic reasons alone. Due to historic low recognition of dyslexia by schools (bar the most obvious examples) many dyslexic people are not aware that they have a particular style of learning that requires adjustments in how they are communicated with by others. Because these individuals do not recognise that they are dyslexic they are not seeking support and aids sold in the dyslexic market, even though they might need or would benefit from them.
These ‘hidden’ dyslexics also require access to effective support for their literacy difficulties, so it can be seen that literacy-support software is not to be viewed as a tool exclusively for those who have the label of dyslexic. Recent OECD reports showing poor UK literacy rates compared to other developed countries means that an all-round effort to improve standards appears to be required, and innovations in digital technology are going to play a key part in achieving this aspiration. They may not lead to a paperless office, but they will create one where people can shuffle it around with new-found confidence and purpose.
Links to text into speech software:
Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business. She is dyslexic.
Recent research on dyslexic entrepreneurs: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs
See her dyslexia training events for businesses coming up this autumn.