1 November 2018
I had been working for a charity in a job I loved for just over a year when things started to go wrong. I am severely dyslexic but wasn't aware of my rights or of what the organisation should be doing for disabled employees so I hadn't asked for adjustments. I had been excelling in my role up until the point where I got a new, very chaotic manager and was given a very large project to manage. This proved really difficult to manage with my dyslexia and I found myself struggling. I asked for more support and said my dyslexia was making it really difficult for me and that I was getting very stressed which was exacerbating my dyslexia. My manager didn't know how to offer me more support and rather than helping or arranging for an access to work assessment and thinking properly about how to support disabled employees I was instead put on performance review and told unless I improved my performance I would lose my job.
As soon as I was put on performance review I thought that this couldn't be right and started to seek advice. I called the British Dyslexia Association and they told me all about working adjustments and access to work assessments. I raised my concerns informally about how I was being treated and when they weren't taking me seriously I raised a grievance of disability discrimination.
As someone with severe dyslexia I struggled throughout school and have always tried to prove people wrong and overcome my internal voice that tells me I'm stupid and lazy. My manager telling me that I'm not working hard enough, that I should be able to do the work, that I would be paid less or fired if I wasn't and that we needed to figure out "what parts of me under-performing are because I'm dyslexic and which parts because I'm not able/trying" were incredibly damaging to my self-esteem and mental health. I developed severe depression for the first time in my life and had to take weeks off work, two years later I am still recovering.
Eventually, after support from my union and a lengthy greivance procedure, I was taken off performance review and the organisation formally apologised for how I'd been treated. This took over 6 months and by the time they apologised and took me off performance review the impact on my mental health had been catastrophic. My manager or the director never apologised to me personally and it was clear they thought I was playing the "disability card". I left this job shortly after the result of the grievance hearing. I have heard that the organisation is now better at supporting disabled employees and understanding their legal obligations and I am glad that despite the cost to my own mental health that the next disabled employee may have an easier time because I stood my ground. I am now in a job where they have been more understanding of my dyslexia and so far done all the right things but I still worry that my dyslexia will always prove to be a big problem for me when all work is set up for people who don't think or work like I do.
As a disabled person in work I had learnt that you always have to advocate for yourself and educate the people around you. In addition to having a disability which makes operating a work more difficult and tiring, this adds a huge amount of mental work and it's exhausting.
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