Dyslexia is broadly considered to be a learning disability, as it can significantly affect an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell. Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects language processing and can cause difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling despite normal intelligence and educational opportunities. It is therefore important to provide appropriate support and accommodations to help dyslexic individuals achieve their full potential.
Classifying dyslexia as a disability has helped establish a legal basis to provide support and prevent discrimination again dyslexics. For that purpose, it has been helpful to recognise dyslexia as a disability. However, as we argue below, we believe that we should be careful in labeling dyslexia as a disability or handicap outside of this legal discussion, as dyslexic children can overcome their difficulties and show many gifts and talents outside of reading.
Is dyslexia a disability in the UK?
Yes, dyslexia is considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK. The Equality Act provides legal protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities in many areas of life, including education, employment, and access to goods and services. Dyslexia is specifically listed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which means that dyslexic individuals are entitled to protection and support in the same way as people with other disabilities.
The Equality Act defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” Dyslexia meets this definition in the sense that it is a neurological condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell, which can affect their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Under the Equality Act 2010, dyslexic individuals are entitled to reasonable adjustments to help them overcome the challenges they face. This includes, for instance, extra time in exams, the use of assistive technology, and support from specialist teachers or tutors. Employers, educational institutions, and service providers also have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate dyslexic individuals, and discrimination against them on the grounds of their dyslexia is unlawful. Unfortunately, dyslexic individuals still face significant challenges in education, employment, and other areas of life, as we saw recently after a dyslexic employee was fired from Marks & Spencer in 2022 for making spelling mistakes in emails.
Why we should not necessarily consider dyslexia to be a disability or handicap
We believe that we should be careful in labeling dyslexia as a disability outside of this legal discussion. It is important to note that dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty rather than a general learning disability. Dyslexics have different ways of processing information and often excel in other areas, such as logic, creativity or problem-solving. With appropriate support and intervention, dyslexic children can also overcome the challenges they face with reading and spelling, and thrive in their adult life and professional career.
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that can make it harder for individuals to read, write, and spell. However, it is important not to see dyslexia as a handicap, as this perspective can reinforce negative stereotypes and stigmatize individuals with dyslexia. Here are some reasons why we do not see dyslexia as a handicap:
- Dyslexia is a difference, not a deficit: While dyslexia can present challenges in certain areas of learning, it is also associated with strengths such as creativity, problem-solving, and out-of-the-box thinking. Seeing dyslexia as a handicap can overlook these strengths and create a negative self-image for dyslexic individuals.
- Dyslexia is not a measure of intelligence: Dyslexia is not related to intelligence, and many individuals with dyslexia have above-average intelligence. Seeing dyslexia as a handicap can wrongly assume that dyslexic individuals are less intelligent than their peers.
- Dyslexia can be managed with appropriate support: Dyslexia can be managed with appropriate support and accommodations, such as extra time on exams, the use of assistive technology, and support from specialist teachers or tutors. With the right support, dyslexic individuals can overcome the challenges they face and achieve their goals.
- Dyslexia is not a personal failing: Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects the way individuals process language. It is not a personal failing or a lack of effort, and dyslexic individuals should not be blamed or shamed for their difficulties.
In short, it is important to see dyslexia as a learning difference rather than a handicap. This perspective can help promote positive self-image and reduce stigma for dyslexic individuals, and can also help to ensure that they receive the appropriate support and accommodations they need to succeed.