Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service – support for dyslexic employees
Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service employs around 600 people, and we support some 30 employees who are identified as dyslexic. We started this support work in 2008/9, and as people became aware of the support available more have been coming forward. We offer a range of support and started to increase awareness of the support, depending on the role of the individual employee. Examples include:
- Large monitor screens on computers
- Changing font size and colour of paper on printed material
- Adapting how information is provided – for example speech formats rather than writing, text broken down into smaller chunks, using bullet points.
- Computer software such as Texthelp Read & Write to help with spelling, grammar etc and with writing longer documents.
- Changing the colour of the computer screen to make it easier to read
- Tuition by a specialist dyslexia tutor to help with spelling, grammar, organisation skills, memory techniques (mind mapping) – our employees have found this particularly helpful
- Electronic dictionaries
- Dictaphones to help with memory and organisation skills
- Highlighter pens to highlight important information for memory recall
- Note books to record key words
- Providing documents in audio formats and headphones to listen to them
- Coloured overlays to help with reading
- Providing documents such as Power Point presentation printouts in advance
- Adapting training delivery to suit employees’ learning styles
- Allowing extra time for written assessments and tests when appropriate
We have recently set up an employees’ Dyslexia Network, which will meet regularly to enable people to exchange ideas, information, try out different equipment, have questions answered and to socialise.
Employees may identify themselves as dyslexic, either when they apply for employment, during initial selection teats tests, or during training or employment – some after many years with us.
Our training staff are aware of the signs of an employee having dyslexia through attending dyslexia awareness training, and with the employee’s permission may refer them for assessment. Line managers may also, with employees’ consent, refer them for assessment.
The whole dyslexia support programme is administered by the Equality and Diversity Officer. The first stage in the process is to send the individual a British Dyslexia Association self-assessment checklist. If this indicates the probability of dyslexia, they are invited to attend a full specialist assessment with an independent psychologist. She prepares a report identifying whether the individual is dyslexic, and if so what support and equipment they may need. We then ask the employee to contact Access to Work, who carry out a workplace assessment and may provide us with funding for some of the support recommendations.
Tuition is provided by another independent consultant, who is herself dyslexic and therefore has a deep understanding of the issues and barriers faced by our dyslexic employees. She has worked closely with us over a number of years, and through a comprehensive induction process and her experience of supporting our employees has gained an excellent understanding of our operational and other requirements, and the work-related needs of our dyslexic employees.
We aim to make sure that there is a named employee who can provide ‘buddy’ support for each of our dyslexic employees; somebody with whom they feel comfortable, and who can help with day-to-day problems or queries.
The Equality and Diversity Officer and the Head of Development, Safety and Risk work closely with managers, trainers and all operational employees with dyslexia. When they have completed their full dyslexia assessment, employees meet with them to discuss the report and the support and equipment they may need in their work. The Equality and Diversity Assistant maintains regular contact with dyslexic employees to arrange tuition and order necessary equipment.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue is proud both of the support we provide for our dyslexic employees, and of the high reputation we have gained for this work with our employees and sister organisations.