There are over 6 million people in the United Kingdom with dyslexia – that’s nearly 10% of the whole population.
In fact, dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities globally.
Despite this, there’s a lot of misunderstanding around dyslexia. One of the common questions is whether or not dyslexia is a disability.
In this article, we will clarify if dyslexia is classified as a learning disability and share the impact of the condition.
Dyslexia and its impact varies substantially from person to person, and depending on the support in place.
Common difficulties include phonological awareness difficulties impacting reading and writing, slower processing speed leading to struggles grasping rapid language, coordinating text with sound, trouble distinguishing similar words or letters, and difficulties with working memory around language.
Dyslexia can prevent individuals from reaching their academic, professional, and personal potential without proper interventions.
However, with the appropriate assistance and by adjusting systems and attitudes to embrace neurodiversity, people with dyslexia can enjoy achievements on par with peers without the condition.
Many people with dyslexia also develop strengths in areas like creative, intuitive and spatial thinking – which is often overlooked.
Dyslexia And The Impact On Major Life Activities
When support is lacking, dyslexia frequently stops individuals from reaching the literacy competencies and educational outcomes expected of their peer groups.
For example, by the age of 11, 14% of children don’t reach their age-expected reading levels.
Reading and writing struggles, combined with slow processing speed, often significantly limit school performance.
Without proper individualised assistance, many dyslexic students struggle through primary and secondary school.
The challenges associated with dyslexia continue into adulthood as well – adults with dyslexia experience higher unemployment rates.
In fact, it’s thought that four in ten people who are out of work and using the Department for Work and Pensions’ Jobcentre Plus are dyslexic.
Beyond workplace hurdles, symptoms like reading difficulties and disorganisation frequently strain relationships.
We’ve shared the difficulties those with dyslexia face, but before we label the condition, we need to understand a little more about what a disability is.
The predominant medical definition considers disability as any physical or mental impairment that restricts someone from typical function.
However, the social definition recognises that environmental and social factors can “disable” people as much or more than medical conditions alone.
Under these models, dyslexia falls into a grey area – it can challenge particular realms of function like reading, writing and verbal processing.
However, adjusting societal systems, teaching materials, technologies, and attitudes to make language accessible may allow those with dyslexia to excel both in school and beyond.
In short, disability depends heavily on context.
Is Dyslexia A Learning Disability?
If you or a loved one has received a dyslexia diagnosis, understanding specifics can help dispel myths and help you feel less alone.
At the basic level, dyslexia qualifies as a specific learning disability under both UK education law and international consensus.
As a neurological condition, dyslexia reflects differences in how the brain processes written and verbal language.
People with dyslexia have strengths in many cognitive areas but experience challenges with things like reading fluency, reading comprehension, understanding syllable patterns, learning letter-sound connections, word retrieval, writing organisation, and spelling.
So Is Dyslexia A Disability?
Whether dyslexia is considered an outright disability depends heavily on the framework and definition used.
In daily life, dyslexia symptoms can negatively impact individuals across school, work, relationships, health and beyond without the proper support in place.
However, the medical view tends to wrongly label diagnoses as deficiencies needing to be “fixed” rather than embracing wiring differences.
Dyslexia itself has no relation to overall aptitude – those with the condition often exhibit incredible strengths in areas like visual-spatial thinking, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, mechanical skills, insight and creativity.
Under equality laws, though, dyslexia may qualify as a disability if persistent struggles substantially limit life activities even with reasonable interventions tried.
Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) in schools and accommodation and adaptation in workplaces serve to provide equal opportunities to those with dyslexia.
Further reading: Is dyscalculia a disability?
Unfortunately, the term “disability” still carries a stigma from misconceptions linking diagnoses to inherent deficits.
People may assume those with dyslexia lack intelligence or capability if they are labelled as disabled.
However, the reality clearly counters this – people with dyslexia can achieve anything given the proper environmental support and assistive tools to hone in on their strengths.
Famous entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, inventors and leaders thrive with dyslexia across numerous industries.
Rather than treat dyslexia as something to “fix”, societal attitudes must shift towards embracing neurodiversity across learning styles.
Diversity initiates innovation, and providing reasonable adjustments allows those with dyslexia to excel equally alongside non-dyslexic peers.
Understanding UK Disability Rights
Within the UK, prominent laws like the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protect individuals with disabilities from unfair treatment across education, employment, access to spaces and services, transportation and all aspects of participation.
These regulations make it unlawful for schools, employers, landlords or any establishment to discriminate against people with a disability – including guaranteed rights around dyslexia in school admissions, hiring practices, and more.
Institutions are expected to make reasonable adjustments and accommodations – adapting environments, materials, and procedures to ensure equal access and opportunity for anyone with dyslexia.
Ultimately, when societal barriers lift, dyslexia ceases to disable people.
The Benefits Of Reasonable Adjustments
While dyslexia can be disabling without accommodations, laws like the UK’s Equality Act mandate “reasonable adjustments” to policies, spaces, materials and assessments to prevent discrimination.
Common academic accommodations include extra time, audio textbooks, accessible font styles, dictation software, and assistive reading tools.
Workplaces may provide adjustments like written job instructions, screen reading programs, speech-to-text applications and flexible work arrangements.
When systems adapt to support dyslexia rather than forcing individuals with the condition to fit narrow moulds, people can thrive.
Further reading: How To Get A Dyslexia Diagnosis
Our Final Thoughts
Dyslexia, which affects around 10% of the UK population, meets the criteria to be classed as a disability.
Classing dyslexia as a disability may come with a certain amount of stigma.
However, with the proper support and adaptations in place, the condition doesn’t have to be disabling.
Those with dyslexia, when they have the right accommodations, can be successful in education and in their careers.