Today we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2023 by advocating for increased accessibility in order to accommodate different abilities and ways of thinking.
Read below for Zoe's story of coping with dyslexia, and the ways that we are increasing accessibility to our products at Pogo Digital Healthcare.
1 in 7 people in UK have brains which function, learn and process information slightly differently. These people are known as neurodivergent, a group which includes me.
I grew up in a family where everyone was good at science, very creative and very slow to learn to read and write. We didn’t have lots of rules as my mum would just forget what they were, so things were kept as simple as possible, including our names which are all spelt phonetically. Scrabble was banned as words were just made up and opponents didn’t realise until it was too late.
At the age of 7 I was in one of the top reading groups at school (I was always very competitive) and everyone thought I was great at English. That was until my older sister, annoyed that I appeared to be doing better than her, suggested that my mum try getting me to read an easier book that I hadn’t seen before. I couldn’t read a word. I’d got through without anyone knowing as I’d memorised every book. I was sent off to a clinical phycologist and diagnosed with dyslexia.
Living with dyslexia, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to read or write; it’s just harder and can take longer. Some of our greatest scientists and business minds have been dyslexic, but despite some brilliant role models, there’s still a huge amount of stigma and shame attached to poor literacy, with many being labelled as “stupid” or “thick”. People with dyslexia don’t tend to give up quickly and are good at finding ways around problems, perhaps because our brains work differently, but it might just be because we’ve been forced to do so our whole lives.
Poor literacy is a far bigger issue than many realise. The average UK reading age is only 9 years, and research from the National Literacy Trust suggests that 1 in 4 adults in Scotland struggle as a result of poor literacy skills.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was given extra support throughout my childhood which meant that as an adult my dyslexia has not held me back. However, I am aware that certain tasks take longer and require more brain power and energy. If I’m sick, over tired or stressed my reading and writing skills are the first to go.
At Pogo Digital Healthcare, when we were piloting Tailored Talks Long COVID pathway, our patients fed back that they were sometimes too tired to read the information we provided. This resonated hugely with me. It’s not that people with Long COVID can’t read, the majority can, it’s just that it takes more energy – a resource that’s in limited supply. This is often the same for the stroke patients who receive our Tailored Talks at hospital discharge, struggling with fatigue and language issues, alongside families and carers struggling to cope with stress.
Tailored Talks now has a wide range of accessibility functions, to better cater for those who are neurodivergent, and those who just need the extra support, for whatever reason. These include a readback function, bookmarks and even options to change the slide colours. Our Long COVID pathway now also includes short films created by medical experts. If a person using our pathway struggles to read, no one has to know, there’s no stigma, they can simply press a button and it’s read out loud for them.
Technology will continue to make life so much easier for the next generation of slightly different brains. As we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I have huge hopes for the future and am pleased that we can play a small part in that change.
For more information about Tailored Talks and our Long COVID pathway, please visit our website: https://pogodigitalhealth.com
For more information about Global Accessibility Awareness Day: https://accessibility.day