Dealing with Dyslexia as a UX’er

Hey, keeping to my promise of an article a month with my second post, here I am, just about. This time I look at the the key struggles a person with dyslexia might find in the workplace from an academic slice and what makes us ‘awesome’ UX’ers.

I am aware my level of dyslexia is quite low, I was not diagnosed until my second year of university and as a result, I learnt to deal will certain situations and pushed myself to overcome issues I faced without the knowledge there was an underlying reason behind it. Though, I still hope this article will be of use to at least a few.

Firstly, What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a brain based learning difficulty, which means individuals process information in a different way. Although, dyslexia does not affect those individuals in the same way, their difficulties could range across a spectrum and also be more emphasised on reading, writing or even numbers.

It is also quite common, with one in 10 of the population estimated to have dyslexia, which means more than 6.3 million people in the UK are potentially affected by dyslexia. This is only an estimate, as there are cases where people are diagnosed throughout their education or career and only consider the possibility in hindsight.

Key issues & How to Cope

Difficulties in processing the sounds of words: Ever find yourself asking for the spelling of a word, and the respondent says the letters back too quickly. Which is then worse, has you then have to process each individual letter and it feels more embarrassing asking more than once, so you move on, choose another word or come back to it later.

Tip: Google is your friend (or even a messaging apps on your phone if you have a vague idea)… Also don’t be afraid to ask that person again but at a slower pace, i’m sure they will not mind.

Difficulties with pronunciation: Do you avoid saying certain words as you know you will always get the pronunciation wrong or you have a presentation and are terrified that you will mess up the pronunciation of a word. So you end up constantly repeating the word over and over in your head before you have to say it.

Tip: Try not to over think it and let it be said naturally. If you do get it wrong, be confident and correct yourself, allow your brain to learn and develop.

Keeping track of conversations: When you are in a large group, whether it they are your friends, people you work with or those who you don’t know, are you the silent one? Do you spend a lot more time listening than contributing, especially when there are people are talking over each other or your learning something new?

Tip: Listen, there is nothing wrong with listening and you are likely to learn a lot more about the project, how your colleagues speak and think. In time this will help you in contributing when you are comfortable enough to do so.

Listening & taking notes at the same time: Do you need to focus on one particular task at a time, therefore, in meetings you have to switch your mind between listening and writing, so you put less effort on your contribution.

Tip: This is a difficult one as a UX’er note taking is a given, also this is more difficult for some than others. Similarly to user testing, why don’t you record the session and jot down key points to help the process of going back and picking apart later on.

Following Instructions: In the workplace, I believe that this is more explicit towards remembering instructions and daily tasks.

Tip: Train yourself to be organised, write to-do lists then check and tick off once you have completed them. Do not rush through the tasks in hope you will not forget them, take your time and in the end it will save you time having to go back and amend your mistakes.

Expressing your point of view: Are your constantly find it difficult to get to the point efficiently without going round in circles? To overcome this you try running your thoughts through your head first to condense it as much as possible, then you realise the moment has passed as you took so long.

Tip: In regards to your work and subject matter, If you believe in your project and the decisions you have made, this should be less of a problem as you have captured those thoughts to share. Then your confidence to share these thoughts and opinions will develop with knowledge and practise.

Inability to see errors: Not matter how many times you re-write or re-read you work, there will always be an error that you will spot when you are presenting or when you return to it a few hours later.

Tip: Spell check is your best friend. Sketch has finally introduced spell check but for an application which is suppose to have the shallowest learning curve, it is not simple when you compare it to Adobe Illustrator. Type up your annotations and emails in Word or Notes in order to spell check and re-write till you are happy. Don’t forget to use Google if you get stuck on the spelling of a word.

Slow, untidy writing: Do you find that your hand-writing changes every time you put pen to paper or take forever to write down notes?

Tip: Let capitals be your friend, you might find it takes more time to read back to yourself but when taking notes in meetings or for yourself, you could find that it ends up being tidier and easier to read. Or type it, for those who are diagnosed at school, using a laptop throughout their education is encouraged and it does help in cases. But don’t worry too much, you will definitely find colleagues with worse hand-writing than you in the creative industry.

Incoherent writing: When you realise what you said or what you just wrote makes no sense at all. This might be down to the sentence being back to front or that you have used the wrong word to explain what you mean.

Tip: Well, this blog has been re-written a number of times in hope to have it reading more coherently, lets hope it has worked. So unfortunately the trick is to simply re-read and re-write, which I know we all ‘love’ to do (yes, I am being sarcastic), and then get someone to check over it if required. If I go back to when I had to write essays at school, I would hand write my plan section by section, then re-write it again whilst reading through before typing it up and making further changes if needed. It was long process but it made me question the order of sentence that I had written to what I was speaking and thinking.
Example of spell checking illustrator, my plan (and WIP) for this blog and various project notes.

Dyslexia Does Have Its UX Advantages!

We have an unique approach to creative problems: It could be said that we are more likely to consider all the information in front of us separately before trying to piece it together into hierarchies and patterns.

In trying to mask our daily issues we have become problem solvers: From a young age many of us have found solutions to our every day problems, we develop our own strategies. Skills that become very useful later in life in very different situations. There is also logic, though we might not be more logical that the person sitting next to us, many of us believe that our logic helps us on a daily basis to solve problems and put things into perspective.

We know there is not one solution that fits all: Everyone is unique, they have their own problems which we cannot all solve but we can try our best to find the solution that will help them and others at the same time.

Considering accessibility is high up on our agenda: The layout, the typography and sizing are all elements of the page that can influence how much we take in, what we can read and understand and there are those with greater disabilities that struggle with this much more on a daily basis. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), are a collection of web standard guidelines created to help improve accessibility online, released graphical guidelines that deal with text and contrast to help improve the experience for those with a disability or even just those with suffering with old age and eye deterioration.

A Round Off

This might help you, it might not, but I just might give you the reassurance that you are not alone, that there are ways to cope and adapt, its not all bad. Though it may take you longer to learn, you do learn and you can be the brilliant UX’er you desire to be.

For those representing the other 90% of the population; hopefully this has given you more of an insight into individuals with dyslexia and will help you to aid and encourage those around you who struggle with some of the issues mentioned.

Next up will be Accessibility.