Homecall to actionDyslexic in the Workplace

I’ve written before about whether or not to disclose my dyslexia when searching

I would not be able to handle that office design.
By Артем (my own file) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

for work. It’s a tricky question, because there’s still a huge amount of ignorance around all disability issues, but especially LDs.

Dyslexia is a fundamental difference in my neurology which gives me some great advantages, but the way people’s ignorance makes them act turns it into a disability. With the amount of ignorance in schools and workplaces, it’s a disability in those areas.

Anyway, the only way people know I’m not “normal” when I don’t disclose is when my work suffers. If my job involves a complicated routine or constant interruptions, I seem to make careless mistakes, when it’s just the environment interfering with how I process information. If I happen to lose my job over that, I can’t take advantage of the protections given by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), because my employer didn’t know about it.

When I have disclosed my dyslexia, these events have happened at different workplaces:

  • My application was ignored. I found that out later from a former employee of the place.
  • Otherwise decent co-workers turned into bullies and management changed my scheduling without my saying anything.
  • A temp agency removed that disclosure completely from my paperwork without my knowledge, resulting in a borderline traumatizing work experience.

That’s one of the trickiest things about invisible disabilities/differences. No one can tell just by looking at us that we need some special accommodations. When we ask for them, we run the risk of being seen as selfish and lazy.

People with high functioning autism, other LDs and chronic illness all deal with the same issue.

Being a woman compounds those struggles.

More often than not, you can identify a woman just by looking at her, and our gender has its own unique stigma attached to it. We’re seen as weaker, less intelligent, needy and perhaps lazy, depending on how we present ourselves. We’re also reduced to sexual objects and expected to be more interested in domesticity than our careers.

There have been many instances in which the pressure from co-workers to start a family, sexual harassment or just poor treatment by male co-workers have interfered with my work. To say nothing of the stress involved with simply getting to work without being followed, touched inappropriately or saying “no” in the wrong way to a stranger on the street.

Disability may not be sexualized in the same way being a woman is, but there are a lot of the same labels applied to both groups. As a result, the stigmas associated with one are reinforced by the stigmas associated with the other. That, in turn, results in things like pay inequity, failure of the educational system, crime, depression, and the list goes on.

Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to make some changes for the better. This weekend, I discovered a couple of ways folks in the US can make their wishes known.

What Questions Would You Ask President Obama About Your Paycheck, Your Job, and Your Future?
This is a livestreamed town hall meeting about the wage equity for women. It’ll be happening 4/15, which is this Wednesday. If you’d like to make your voice and story known, please fill out the form in the link.

I’ve already done so and told a little about my work related discrimination experiences as both a dyslexic and a woman.

Include Dyslexia in ESEA/No Child Left Behind – Approve the Cassidy Amendment
This one is a little last minute, since the discussion will happen on 4/14, which is this Tuesday. The Cassidy Amendment would let schools use federal funding to train their teachers how to identify and help students with dyslexia and other LDs.

That, in turn, will eventually bleed into the professional world. Teachers must be more aware of dyslexia, because dyslexic children will come through their classrooms, but that knowledge may be applied to other adults in their lives. In the long run, those kids with dyslexia will be more secure in their lives, and their peers will have a more realistic view about dyslexic individuals.

Dyslexia is by far the most common LD, but it’s not mentioned at all in the current language. The Cassidy Amendment would remedy that.The link provides access to a petition, a letter to send to your senators, phone numbers and twitter addresses.

It won’t take you long to urge your senator to support that amendment. It took me all of maybe twenty minutes to sign the petition, send the e-mail, pester my reps via twitter and make my customarily awkward phone call to my senator’s office.

If we all work together, we can make changes for the better.

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