HOW SOCIETY CAN DISABLE OR
EMPOWER ADULT DYSLEXICS
The issue of whether or not dyslexia is a disability is an emotive one. Some dyslexic people accept that it is a disability, but others find the idea totally unacceptable. United Kingdom law recognises dyslexia as a disability in a number of separate pieces of legislation, most importantly, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, but individual cases are judged according to how they fit the legal definition. In other words, it is not the case that every dyslexic is automatically disabled; whether they are or not is for a judge or chairman of an employment tribunal to decide. The World Health Organisation's definition of disability is equally open to interpretation. The World Health Organisation distinguishes between disability and impairment, the latter referring to a psychological or anatomical disorder, while disability is defined as the impact of the disorder on everyday living. Again, in this definition, some dyslexics will be disabled and some will not. Disability is not a fact about an individual; it is the product of a relationship between the individual and the society to which the individual belongs.
This chapter examines how disabilities are created by society and how society can be changed to reduce or eliminate disabilities. After examining the effect that different relationships between individuals and society have on disability generally, we examine dyslexia as a special case. The importance of experts on dyslexia understanding how society can disable dyslexics is discussed, and an argument for occupational psychologists becoming more actively involved in the field of adult dyslexia is presented, together with comments on how employers stand to benefit from their expertise.
Beliefs about disability in society are the product of a number of influences. Medical science, advances in genetics, the political climate, economic factors and religious convictions all make a contribution. Consequently, explanations and perceptions of disability vary across