United We Stand
United we stand against discrimination, prejudice and disrespect towards the neurodivergent community. During this difficult and unfamiliar time it is even more important and poignant to remain kind, empathetic and respectful towards one another.
Very recently I tuned in to watch the BBC documentary Katie Price: Harvey and Me. This was an extremely interesting programme exploring the challenging choices a Mum has to make for her disabled and neurodivergent son as he turns eighteen. Both heart-warming, yet distressing in places, the show not only explores differing disabilities, searching for a suitable college for Harvey and the life of a parent of a disabled child, it also touches on the number of people with learning difficulties or neurodiversites who are sectioned and kept against their will or choice in treatment units across the country. I would definitely recommend giving this a watch to anyone who is interested in this area. On viewing this, it got me thinking about cases of injustice or discrimination against dyslexics and other neurodivergents. Defined as unjust or unfair treatment against another person, we may not necessarily always openly here about these cases, but their existence is almost certain in modern-day society.
The emergence and application of the 2010 Equality Act was put in place to avoid and reduce potential cases of discrimination. Encompassing schools, further education centres, such as colleges and universities, alongside places of work the act states that it is against the law to discriminate or not provide reasonable adjustments for dyslexic and/or disabled individuals (British Dyslexia Association). Crucially, under this act dyslexia is classified and recognised as a disability. Within this vital legalisation, it is essential and an institutions legal duty to remove barriers to learning and access to services for disabled individuals. In this way, individuals should not be excluded from occupational or educational opportunities because of their disability or disabilities (Citizens Advice). It is strongly and widely encouraged that dyslexic, neurodivergent and disabled students or employees disclose their disability, health requirements and needs to prospective employers or education providers. Critically this is so the correct support, assistance and adjustments can be provide in a timely and effective manner. Specifically in relation to dyslexia, an interesting article by Liz Burton (2017) emphasised that a vast majority of dyslexia discrimination in the workplace may well be unintentional. Employers may lack knowledge, awareness or recognise that an employee is indeed dyslexic. Although not malicious, failure to provide for dyslexic workers is still discriminatory
Despite the existence and continued support towards the 2010 Equality Act, I deduced it would be highly likely that cases of discrimination towards neurodivergents in education and occupational settings have occurred. Time spent searching on the internet uncovered several British ‘case studies’ exemplifying examples of societal discrimination.
· A university student on the autistic spectrum and with a visual impairment was repeatedly denied reasonable adjustments to have course reading supplied in an accessible format.
· A dyslexic coffee shop worker was wrongly accused of falsifying work documents. Subsequent investigations discovered that no reasonable adjustments were put in place to assist dyslexic workers with reading and writing admin tasks.
· An NHS worker suffering with fibromyalgia and a depression and anxiety disorder was suspended from work after querying why one of her own medical appointments had been cancelled without her knowledge.
· A pupil with ADHD and sensory processing difficulties was reinstated after unlawfully being excluded from school.
· An inquest and investigation identified that some dyslexic university students were being unfairly asked to pay large sums of money to have their neurodiversity reassessed to be able to claim for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).
Although these headlines and cases are rare they can be devastating for the individual and their families. Daily life can be tough and strenuous enough for those within the neurodiverse population, without the added concern of not getting, or continuing to get, the support one needs. In its integrity, this post ultimately aims to raise awareness that even in the new millennium and contemporary society cases of discrimination persist despite when barred under legalisation. Although this discrimination can be unintentional and accidental, it is still contrary to common law that aims to protect and provide equal opportunities to all. The most important lessons and messages to take away are to promote empowerment, empathy and independence for those living with a neurodiversity; as stressed in the BBC Katie and Harvey documentary. By standing and uniting together, symbolising a supportive ‘great wall’ where each individual represents a single brick, knowledge, understanding and respect around neurodiversities can be spread far and wide.
Katie Price: Harvey and Me, BBC Documentary January 2021
British Dyslexia Association: Reasonable Adjustments in Education
Liz Burton (2017) How to Avoid Dyslexia Discrimination in the Workplace
Citizens Advice: Disability Discrimination in Schools
Discrimination in College and University Education
Discrimination Case Studies