Last month, we helped to launch a new and free eReading platform called LEO that has been designed to offer advertising students with dyslexia a way to access course material in a form that works for them. It was a project that further opened our eyes to the challenges that dyslexics face, but also just how many dyslexic creatives there are in the industry that are thriving.
I am no expert when it comes to the challenges that people with dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions experience, but I have witnessed and tried to help tackle some of the hurdles impacting those that I’ve worked with.
Dyslexia is a learning difference that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and how they relate to letters and words. It affects areas of the brain that process language – making it more of a challenge to digest information from text than neurotypical experience.
Nine out of ten dyslexics have poor spelling, punctuation and grammar, but many are brilliant communicators and creators. They’re usually better able to connect the dots, see patterns in stories, understand big ideas and are better at explaining them to others – these are just some of the reasons why dyslexia is often referred to as a superpower by the advertising industry.
However, according to research conducted by LEO, thousands of students with dyslexia looking to break into the industry are still being put at a disadvantage due to the reading lists.
LEO was conceived after advertising professional, James Hillhouse, came across a dyslexic student that he was working with through his organisation Commercial Break – a youth transformation agency designed to give working class talent a break in creative industry. The student was considering dropping out of an advertising university course because of the difficulty of the reading lists. James decided to investigate and, after commissioning research, found that almost two thirds of dyslexic students are not able to complete their reading lists, putting them at a disadvantage compared to neurotypical students, and a third are being put off going to university altogether.
It was that finding that inspired James and his business partners Kat Pegler and Alex Fleming to create LEO. The team worked alongside UX designer Evert Martin, who himself has dyslexia, and called upon his own experience with dyslexia growing up to help inform the platform interface and functionality.
LEO allows users to personalise how they consume the content to suit what works best for them, using text customisation, audio and video.
The platform launched with its first book ‘How to do Better Creative Work’ by Steve Harrison, who is regarded as one of the greatest direct marketing creatives of his generation. Each chapter is read by a different creative luminary of the advertising industry, such as Rosie Arnold (BBH and AMVBBDO), Joe Staples (Mother LA), Aidan McClure (Wonderhood Studios) and Stu Outhwaite-Noel (Creature). Staples and McClure are two of the most high-profile creatives in the industry with dyslexia.
Kate Griggs, Founder and CEO of the charity, Made by Dyslexia, once said: “In the real world dyslexia is an advantage, but in education it is a disadvantage”. But, with two more books due to launch on the platform later this year, LEO is on a mission to make the future of education more accessible for dyslexic students, and is calling for the help of authors, brands and potential funders to join the cause and back the platform.
If you’re interested in finding out more about dyslexia and working in the creative industry, check out The Bigger Book of Amazing Dyslexics’, authored by Kathy Forsyth and Kate Power – it’s full of encouragement and wise words from successful dyslexics working in the creative industry, from comedy to architecture.
You can also hear more from Kate Griggs in the video below – she kicks off with a clever stunt when she opens the world’s first dyslexic sperm bank – watch the video to see how she tackles some misconceptions…