People and Place

Dyslexic Identity and the Working Environment

Introduction and Aim

This research project examines dyslexic identity in the working environment and aims to support the design development of an aide for people with dyslexia in home office environments.

The project concept was born out of the 2020 pandemic and how I was personally affected by the sudden change from working in an office to working from home. I had previously held roles that offered work-from-home, but I preferred to go to the office. For a long time, I thought this preference was because I enjoy the social aspect of being around colleagues in the office.  While social connections are important to me, being forced to work and learn from home helped me fully realize all the coping mechanisms I used to work around my dyslexia in the workplace.

My employer froze hiring early during the COVID lockdown. Consequently, they asked if I could help cover a different role.  For me, the pandemic created a double whammy: I needed to adjust to working from home and I needed to learn a new role. In this situation, I found coping with dyslexia becoming increasingly difficult.

When I was hired by my employer four years ago, I disclosed my dyslexia to human resources. I never asked for any accommodation or adjustments. Thinking back to when I was first identified at a young age with dyslexia, in-school supports were limited. For example, I took typing lessons instead of spelling lessons; there was no dictation software, I simply had an old tape recorder. My reluctance to seek accommodations may be because I felt there was limited help available. Or it may be because of the perceived stigma around dyslexia and learning difficulties in general.

I wanted to use this research opportunity to better understand dyslexia and see if I could design something to help me or others with dyslexia that didn’t look or feel like an “aide”. When I set out, I did not know what this aide would be. Would it be an object, an app, a piece of software, a support programme? It could be anything that might help people with dyslexia who do office style work or study.


An edited version of my self ethnography from this project was published in Dyslexia Scotland’s Spring 2021 edition of their Dyslexia Voice magazine.

This magazine is available to members and supporters of Dyslexia Scotland. Click here to open their website and become a member to receive your copy.

My article can be found on pages 34-35 and is entitled ‘How a pandemic shifted everything’.

Methods and Processes: What I Did, Why, and How

I took a mixed-method approach for this study of dyslexic identity in a home office environment. (I used the term home office to refer to the spaces we use to work or study at home and the term workstation to describe the desk or work area.) Specifically, I used a combination of self-ethnography using photo elicitation and visual research using autophotography supported by an online survey.

Self-Ethnography using Photo-Elicitation

I started with self-ethnography and a reflection on my experience working from home during the pandemic because my personal experience was a large driver of my interest in this area. Even though researchers aim to minimize personal bias in their research, autoethnography is “written in first-person voice” (Carolyn Ellis, 2000, p. 739), so this approach gave me a unique opportunity to look from the inside out. Also, due to the constraints of the pandemic, this approach was ideal because I am the primary data source, eliminating the need for face-to-face contact with other people.

Photo elicitation is a type of visual research using photographs or other visual media alongside interview questions. Photo-elicitation can “contribute to trustworthiness and rigour of the findings” (Glaw, et al., 2017, p. 1) because this method can reveal deeper and richer data than a reflective approach alone. This visual approach uses photos to help generate verbal discussion and is especially effective as it “evokes deep emotions memories and ideas” (Glaw, et al., 2017, p. 1). Luckily, I had taken photographs of my home workstation at the very early stages of the pandemic to share with colleagues—we were sharing our stories as our home workstations evolved. Figures 1 to 4 show the photos I took and subsequently used as elicitation tools for my self-ethnography. In the photos, you can see the evolution of my home workspace as I changed the environment, furniture, objects, and equipment to help me better manage working from home. Starting from the kitchen table (Figure 1), I moved to a bureau set up in the living room (Figure 2), to finally really committing to the ‘work from home’ premise by ordering a desk (Figure 3), and then working to find an ideal setup with incremental changes (Figures 4 to 6).

Data Gallery: Photo-Elicitation Workstation Images

Visual Research using Autophotography

After completing my self-ethnographic exercises, I expanded my dataset to include others. I was interested to see if their experiences were similar or different from my own. I included neuro-typical participants because I was interested in designing was something that wouldn’t look out of place in a typical workstation. I asked myself what does a typical workstation look like?

Rather than asking participants to describe their workstations, I chose a type of visual research called autophotography to delve deeper into individuals’ environments through snapshots of their current workstations. According to Glaw, Inder, Kable, and Hazelton (2017), visual research is a qualitative research approach that provides rich data by capturing “more detail and a different kind of data” compared to traditional research methods. Visual research can be a helpful method in gathering robust data when the researcher is unable to follow or watch their participants in their environments (such as when we are all asked to stay home).

Autophotography involves asking participants to take photographs of their environment, then the researcher uses the photographs as data. I chose this approach because “autophotography captures the world through the participant’s eyes with subsequent knowledge production” (Glaw et al., 2017). To capture this data, I developed a short questionnaire that I posted online. To recruit participants, I reached out to my colleagues at work and the Dyslexia Scotland Dyslexia Adult Network (DAN). Using an online medium allowed me to collect data from individuals in dispersed geographic locations without making in-person contact. This approach was particularly useful during the pandemic lockdown, as online data collection respects social distancing guidelines.

When communicating with potential participants, I referred to their areas of work as workstations rather than desks. Through personal experience, I recognize that working from home does not always happen at a desk. I was also curious about the objects in and around participants’ immediate working environment and wanted to ensure the photographs provided a comprehensive view of the participants’ understanding of their work area.

Through the online survey, I asked participants to send a photo of their current workstation. To help me better understand the collection of images, I asked participants to answer a short questionnaire to provide supporting data points to what would be visible in their photographs (Figure 7).

In the questionnaire, I also asked participants to identify whether they had a learning disability, specifically dyslexia. I did not read their responses before analysing the photographs so I could examine the photos to see if neurodiverse persons’ workstations were systematically different in a visible way.

Figure 7: Online response form

My Self-Ethnography

A Dyslexic Identity

At the age of 10, I was identified with special learning needs in the Canadian school system. My formal identification was dual exceptionality, which describes individuals who score high on standardized IQ tests, yet have Specific Learning Disabilities (Brody & Mills, 1997). I received some additional support during my primary and secondary educational schooling in Canada. Further reading on dual exceptionality is available in the Journal of Learning Disabilities noted in my reference table. In this self-ethnography, I concentrate on my identification of dyslexia.

International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as follows:

“a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” (International Dyslexia Association, 2020)

Simply put, dyslexia is a type of learning difference where the brain approaches communication tasks in a different way to most people.  According to Dyslexia Scotland (2018), approximately 10% of people have dyslexia.

I started contemplating returning to education in 2017 (at age 28) and had an up-to-date adult assessment completed by a Chartered Psychologist. The purpose of the assessment was to identify strengths, any specific areas of difficulty, and to confirm the presence of a Specific Learning Difficulty (SLD). It also would help outline what support strategies might be useful in education and employment.

Being dyslexic at work

At the time of the assessment, I was employed in an administrative role at a large international company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I identified that several of the difficulties I was experiencing were the result of my learning difficulties. My SLDs (I have dyscalculia as well as dyslexia) were having an impact on aspects of my performance at work, including errors in data entry. I was in an entry-level position – I discovered my Canadian education and experience had less weight in the UK than I was expecting! Like in elementary school, I found tasks that were seemingly ‘simpler’ for the general population were more difficult for me. It was frustrating that the more I struggled, the more ‘simple’ (as perceived by neuro-normative colleagues) tasks I was given.

So, I worked hard to change the environment around me to better suit my strengths. I used my other inter-personal skills to secure a sideways transition into an entry-level analyst role that did not require data entry but an understanding of the data. Then I received a promotion, and another, and another. I learned how to adapt to the neuro-normative environment by avoiding roles that would rely heavily on areas where I struggled due to my SLDs. The higher grade roles put more importance on critical thinking, creativity, leadership, and other skills.

It may sound strange to think that even after being re-assessed the second time, I didn’t ask for more support at work. I had only disclosed my SLDs to human resources on hiring as a matter of process, but I never went further than saying I thought I had what I needed. I was never ashamed or embarrassed about my diagnosis, but I wasn’t shouting about it from the rooftops. I wouldn’t deny I had it, and if someone else mentioned they were dyslexic I would disclose it as well to them. The world has come a long way in understanding dyslexia, especially in educational settings. However, I still feel that while some people are accepting, many either don’t understand or still have a bias (whether conscious or unconscious) towards people with learning differences. Therefore, I work very hard to adapt to neuro-typical environments. I have rarely asked others to adapt their style of communicating or work to help myself, and I never asked for formal assistance or accommodations at work. Even during my second assessment, my goal was aimed towards educational support, so I didn’t think of the suggestions in a work context.

It is also easy to forget how quickly technology has progressed in my lifetime. The year I graduated from my undergraduate program at university was the same year the first iPad was invented! Back in my early school days, the accommodations I received included typing lessons instead of spelling tests, a tape recorder, spell check, calculator, and extra time on tests. Not one of these accommodations needed a special request during my undergraduate design degree! I always figured I could mention it if needed. During my school days, the goal of my dyslexia support seemed to be directed towards independence and self-study, getting into university, and then graduating – that was the definition of success.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with independence or self-study, I do sometimes wonder if some crucial elements of support are missing. Perhaps a way of keeping up with the understanding of the diagnosis you’ve been given? If I had felt there was no longer a stigma and knew about the new technologies available, would I have spoken up sooner? I’m not sure.  Self-advocacy is a challenging aspect of having a learning difference and isn’t something that comes to people naturally. Let’s not forget, challenging myself to be adaptable plays to my creative strengths and has given me an excellent transferrable skill, so it’s not all struggle for nothing.

How a pandemic shifted everything

Things at work were going well. Then in March 2020, the Covid19 pandemic hit hard – and the environment I had designed for myself was completely flipped on its head. Both my physical working environment and the tasks I would be asked to complete.

The message was clear. Stay Home. Save Lives. Protect the NHS (Department of Health and Social Care, 2020).

I became a home-worker overnight.

At first, I just had my kitchen table my work laptop and an external mouse, as shown in figure 1. Not only did this set-up quickly become uncomfortable, but I also soon realized working without two screens was extremely difficult. A common misunderstanding about dyslexia is that it only affects reading and writing? But dyslexia is a cognitive difference and can present in other ways. With me, I have relatively poor cognitive processing speed and poor working memory. When analysing information from two different sources, or using a reference to write an email, flipping back and forth between programs displayed on one screen was almost unbearable long term.

Figure 2 shows an old monitor I hooked up to help solve the one-screen problem.  I also moved to a writing bureau we had in the living room/kitchen in our open concept main floor. At this point, we were still thinking that working from home would be temporary, and some people were still going into the office.

By the time I took the photo shown in figure 3, working from home was getting more serious and long term. I found it too uncomfortable to work on a kitchen chair, so I upgraded the chair. We were also able to get into the office to pick up some equipment before the office officially closed. I collected a widescreen monitor, docking station, external keyboard, and mouse. Things were changing rapidly. Information was communicated more and more through email, with people tiring of video conferences. I was also asked to step away from the role I had worked so hard to get myself into and help out in another team. This request was flattering because the team knew me and the work I had done and asked for me by name. So even though I had no experience in this area, I agreed to help out.

Working from home is challenging but learning something new is another story. I was again given ‘simple’ administrative style organizational tasks to ‘learn the ropes’. Sitting alone at home meant I couldn’t get up and walk over to other people, talk through the tasks, get further clarification. The system of working just did not follow a logic I was comfortable with and this made it more and more difficult. Repetitive frustrations started; I had always struggled with the alphabet and need to recite almost the whole thing to know where a letter sits. Now try organizing emails and digital files alphabetically, manually, in high numbers. Man was my brain getting burnt out quickly doing something that was meant to be ‘simple’. That’s when I had to say “stop”. I told two people about my learning disability: my manager and the colleague who was teaching me. Their responses were ‘oh you would never have known’ and ‘I didn’t have any idea’. I also raised the subject again with human resources, but this time in a more direct way, describing the challenges I was facing and the supports I needed.

I was surprised at my employer’s response when I spoke up. The response seemed very much like a checkbox exercise. And some of the supports I requested never did get organized. One large positive was that the colleague who was showing me the tasks started to change her delivery approach and got permission to spend more time with me.

I also finally committed to finding a quiet workspace in my house and to purchasing a desk. ‘Work from home’ was becoming more long-term. Figure 4 shows my initial desk setup. I realized that more is not always better when it comes to the number of screens and reduced back to 2 (from 3).

Now, just a few months later, I receive praise such as ‘you are as effective part-time as someone who is here full time’. My workstation has continued to evolve. Figures 5 &6 show this development. I added lamps and moved to a new location in the house. This was due to the lighting conditions in the room not being ideal as we started to head away from the summer months. I have a notebook and paper always available so I can make quick notes, a stand for my mobile phone, a ruler if I need help reading and separating lines. What can’t be seen in the photo are the new software tools I have been using such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech software, screen adjustments, and a new sense of understanding.

Embracing my identity and engaging in the dyslexic community

While I didn’t get the response from human resources that I was expecting or hoping for – after somewhat of a breakdown, it did become one of those defining moments in my life. I finally started practicing some self-advocacy and investigation. I joined Dyslexia Scotland’s adult network, started being more engaged with the Dyslexia charities I had been following online, and started talking more and more regularly about my dyslexia.

I’ve followed Made by Dyslexia on Facebook for a while and enjoy the positive messaging. But a lot of content and drive is around dyslexia awareness, getting people identified, spotting dyslexic strengths, and helping children through school. Even though I followed a dyslexia charity, I did not know about new supports available or the best way to self-advocate!

Even asking for support through the university when I started my master’s course wasn’t as I was expecting. There is a weird balance between the support you believe you need and what someone else perceives. There is an assumption that you know how to use various “aides” and software. The amount of literature to read, emails, websites, flyers, is overwhelming. The paperwork and forms to fill out are what I would define as the classic word ironic. I struggled to complete the university paperwork related to SLDs, because the forms were on a poorly formatted word document and because repeated data entry (let’s call it what it is) is not a strength for dyslexics, even when it’s your own information.

Learning about using colour aides

The experience of being pushed to work in an environment that wasn’t initially of my choosing (working alone in my kitchen), has made me more understanding about what’s happening in these dyslexic groups and media. A young dyslexic posted a story on the Made by Dyslexia page saying that she had highlighted it in separate colours to help dyslexic readers. I found this curious as I had also enjoyed highlighter pens as a young dyslexic but hadn’t fully considered the connection. My research further into this area revealed that some dyslexics place coloured screens over printed reading materials to make them easier to read. Also, members of DAN often commented that their reading improves when they use coloured screens. I have not been tested to see if coloured screens would help my reading ability but this learning about colour piqued my curiosity. In their paper entitled How to present more readable text for people with dyslexia, Rello et al. (2015, p. 31) support these comments and state “there are visual difficulties associated with dyslexia that could be alleviated by modifications of the visual display.” However, authors are keen to clarify that coloured filters are often used to elevate Meares–Irlen Syndrome, a perceptual processing disorder that is distinct from Dyslexia and is identified “by symptoms of visual stress and visual perceptual distortions” (Glaw, et al., 2017, p. 31). Regardless of the specific disorder, there is evidence that colours can affect reading. For example, tinted eye-glasses have shown some success with different readers (Denton, et al., 2016).

Denton et al.’s (2016) study on coloured overlays as a treatment for dyslexia, entitled The Effect of Colored Overlays on Reading Fluency in Individuals with Dyslexia, found that coloured overlays “either had no effect on words read correctly per minute …or resulted in a decrease in words read correctly per minute” (Denton, et al., 2016). This study is limited and can be interpreted as the authors attempting to support previous literature that discounted the effectiveness of coloured overlays. They note that “preference for an intervention, such as colored overlays, is not indicative of effectiveness.” However, the study does not look at the effects of long-term use of these aides, or the social aspects of increased confidence or a reduction in anxiety that creating a preferable environment can have on people managing dyslexia. From my personal experience, confidence and comfort have great effects on getting the positives out of my dyslexia, rather than the frustrations.

In summary, the literature offers arguments on both sides of the effectiveness of colour sheets as an aide for people with dyslexia. What’s clear is that confidence and comfort play a large role in understanding text as a mode of communication. If design can help create an environment that makes the frustrations of living with dyslexia less, then it deserves consideration.

Sparking reflections and ideas

In addition to participating in the dyslexic community, reading the literature on dyslexia, and engaging in self-reflection, I also started watching a show called “The Write-offs”, which is a television program about illiterate adults learning how to read. Many of the characters have dyslexia. One scene showed one of the participants trying to rent a car, but they can’t fill out the form. While everyone with dyslexia is different, and I have stronger reading skills than that participant, watching how he reacted to this task, and how he felt seeing a classroom, getting a spelling test, and just generally feeling overwhelmed triggered a lot of emotions for me. Everything is relative but I know exactly what he was feeling, the way your heart races, your face flushes, and your brain stops function even in the ways that make dyslexic thinkers unique like problem-solving and reasoning. It seems to me that the goal of independence is good, but we should be fostering a sense of community and sharing knowledge of new developments in support into adulthood.

In reflecting on my experience with dyslexia and this self-ethnography, I am regularly reminded of moments in my childhood (they don’t call them formative years for nothing). Such as when we had formal standardized testing. For a bit of context, I was educated in the Ontario education system in Canada in the late ’90s, standardized tests were not every year – and they were not delivered like a British exam. I genuinely enjoyed my experience with the Canadian standardized test, which is a strange thing to say as a dyslexic. We normally dislike testing situations more than most. This testing was different, it was very well organized and professional. It also took place over several days and was activity-based. I recall one writing exercise where you were asked to write a short persuasive essay. After writing your draft essay, we went outside for recess (a nice break). Afterward, we returned to class and exchanged our essays with other students, reviewed the work, and were allowed to rewrite for the submission. Imagine if all English exams were delivered this way? Even just with the break and time to edit. 

Another huge factor that contributed to my enjoyment of the testing, and probably my most favourite part, was the notebooks. They were made of high-quality paper. The ink was clear and beautifully printed. They were perfectly straight and well bound. While paper and print quality sound like small things, let me tell you that when words like to have a little dance about, a boogie, or enjoy playing Houdini and change letters when you look away for a second – the small things matter. Having clear words printed on high-quality paper—as opposed to a photocopy of a photocopy, with inconsistent ink levels, misaligned paragraphs cobbled together by photocopying two separate cut pieces onto one sheet—made a huge difference to me.

Summarising my self-ethnography

Through my self-ethnography and reflections, one thing became clear: experiences in the workplace are not the same for everyone, and developing a dyslexic identity in the workplace requires self-awareness and self-advocacy. In my experience, environments that have other neuro-diverse or people with disabilities are more understanding, supportive, and relaxing. You don’t have to have dyslexia to know what it’s like to be different and understand the complexities of what that means.

Autophotography as Visual Research


Ten people responded to the questionnaire that I posted online to gather autophotographic data. Five of the ten participants identified as having dyslexia. Of the 10 participants in total, only 1 described themselves as a ‘regular’ homeworker before the pandemic. The remaining 9 either never worked from home or described it as ‘for short periods of time’ or ‘1 day per week’. Their stories are similar to mine; they described how over time their workstations have changed, from location to adding of screens and moving loved ones to other rooms.

Autophotography findings

Describing the change in one word

I asked participants “How would you describe the change in working (or studying) from home in one word?” and labelled their photographs with the response. It is surprising the participant who describes their working from home as “Confined” appears to have a relatively large workstation comparative to others (insert image #). They however do not have external screen(s) set up with their laptop, and we are also unable to see the real size of the room they are set up in. The participant’s feelings of confinement may be less to do with the workstation and more to do with equipment or the room, or even the more social aspect of being told to stay home during a pandemic.

When describing their experiences in one word, participants with dyslexia used less positive language than participants not identifying with dyslexia. Specifically, four of five respondents with dyslexia used negative words (“isolated”, “confined”, “enlightening” and “scheduling”). In contrast, four of five participants who did not identify with dyslexia used positive words (“improved”, “quieter”, “good”, and “structure”).

Figure 8: How participants describe the change to working or studying from home in one word.
Workstation variety

One commonality I observed when reviewing the submitted photographs is the variety of workstation set-ups. People located their workstation in different areas of the home, and the size and type of desk varied greatly. It’s also interesting to see how clear of clutter some desktops are compared to others. While some participants may have wanted to present themselves in a more organised light, these differences could also demonstrate the wide range of tolerances for clutter.

Common home workstation objects

Some common objects that appear in the photographs include; computer equipment, pen and notebook/paper, lamp, and a beverage of some kind (such as a glass of water, a bottle, or a mug.) Five out of the 7 photographs that included a piece of paper or notebook had the pen placed on the top of the notebook rather than somewhere else. I noted that in the most recent photograph of my workstation that I have done this as well, even though I also have a penholder right next to it. I also have all the same objects that appear most often in the respondent’s workstations.

Dyslexic’s workstations look like other workstations

When comparing images from participants who identified as dyslexic against those who did not, there is little that suggests what a dyslexic’s workstation looks like in an office environment, you would be unlikely to be able to point out the 10% of the staff who were dyslexic. I noticed the workstation which appeared the most cluttered in appearance belonged to the one respondent who revealed having recently been diagnosed with ADHD as well as dyslexia. Although there is not enough data to conclude a possible correlation, it is interesting to observe this as a possible connection.

Most Helpful aides

When asked “What objects or aides help you the most when working or studying from home?” 3 of the 5 dyslexic participants included headphones in their list. Reasons for this included “It has been easier to use my headphones to listen to text to speech at home” and “to help focus”.

Their comments about their ability to concentrate and be motivated remind me of my own experience during the beginning of lockdown. I was told by my manager to respond to our own internal survey by saying that I was more productive at home (she was motivated to make homeworking more of a staple when this pandemic is over). However, I think that I am like many of these participants when they say things like “When life returns to normal, I will be looking for a mix of home and office-based work.” There are some pros and cons to the working from home setup and it can be even more complex to navigate as a dyslexic home worker.

Findings & Design Ideas

Dyslexia and design go hand-in-hand

Although dyslexia primarily manifests itself through reading and writing, other ways of thinking and communicating can be different as well. For some, this neurodiversity is seen as a problem. But in the case of SLDs, slow cognition doesn’t mean poor comprehension or less complex thinking (Brody & Mills, 1997). Dyslexic thinkers may take a longer time or different path to grasp a concept or understand an idea, but this path can be positive, especially when it leads to new discoveries, such as in design or research where the method and process can be just as important as the result. Reflecting on my written self-ethnography and photo elicitation, it could be argued that the challenges and difficulties I had to overcome contributed to a personality defining experience as understood by Kazimierz Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (Ackerman, 2009). Dabrowski’s theory describes a “developmental process by which a higher-level personality structure replaces a lower-level structure” (Ackerman, 2009, p. 82).  In this view, the negative emotions and anxiety over the experiences I had positively affected my development.

At the very least, during my self-ethnographic reflection, writing, and research, I found a couple of areas where design could improve my (or others) experience as a dyslexic, but would also either fit in a normative world or even help as well.

Application app

As discovered in my self-ethnography, completing DSA and other academic forms is not easy. The forms are lengthy, repetitive, and the boxes that separate the letters in the words make them very difficult to complete. Although the boxes are intended to make it easier for the person reading the form or entering the data into a database, they make it more difficult for me to complete the form accurately because the boxes create an added visual distraction. 

I also perceive a security issue with the way that personal information is collected for DSA and other support services. Currently, personal information is stored is entered repeatedly and stored in a variety of repositories, increased the potential for hacking.

To address these two key problems with filling out forms, one idea for an aide is to have a central repository, like an app or a website, where individuals can securely store their data in digital format.  Institutions could request access to what they need when they need it. A central, secure storage app would mean our information is not duplicated all over the net. By using a central storage app, you would only need to complete specific additional questions on forms. You would not have to fill forms out with the same information repeatedly, helping not just dyslexics but everyone.

Adjustable desk lamp

Dyslexia is different for everyone, so what works for one person might not work for another. However, some research suggests that altering the contrast between paper and printed text can help people read more easily (The Dyslexia Shop, 2020). While altering contrast may be most helpful for people with the perceptual processing disorder Meares–Irlen syndrome (Rello, et al., 2015), this distinction is not always made within the dyslexia community. Print contrast is an important consideration for dyslexic readers because the dyslexic community has determined its value. Rello et al. (2015) remind us that “Meares–Irlen syndrome is prevalent in the general population and possibly a little more common in dyslexia. Children with dyslexia seemed to benefit more from coloured overlays than nondyslexic children” (p. 31).

What I learned about dyslexia and coloured overlays through this project got me thinking about designing a desk lamp as an aide. The lamp could be adjusted to produce a similar effect as the colour film but would not be tied to print or digital media. It also may not always be possible to print on different coloured paper or have access to the coloured overlay films. As you can see from the photograph of my workstation, at one point I had three desk lamps, and I currently have two lamps as well as being sat near a window (Figures 4, 5 & 6). This suggests getting the right light is something of an issue.

Next Steps and Improvements

Designing a Desk Lamp

I decided to progress with the design of a light as this design idea is well supported by my self-ethnographic and visual research, and it follows the theme of working environments.  I noticed that digital solutions are more often suggested, and I wanted to explore a physical aide further.

Proper lighting is important in any working environment which is why I wanted my lamp not only to help dyslexics who found colour beneficial to reading but also provided white ambient lighting for other types of work. I wanted to design a lamp that would fit nicely on any home workstation.

Research Reflection

If I used a visual analysis method again, I would design a template to capture and record the data observations consistently across all the photos. This template could be a simple checklist, noting objects and placement. A checklist approach would help me organize the data analysis.

I enjoyed the self-ethnographic writing work as it allowed me to learn more about my dyslexia and reflect on my personal experiences. I also valued hearing about other people’s experiences with dyslexia and their home workstations.

Due to the current pandemic restrictions, I could not meet with participants in person. I did appreciate having ten people participate and take the time to send in a photograph of their workstation. While the online tool was an easy and useful way to collect data and photographs would have liked the opportunity to meet participants in person. In-person interviews instead of typed responses would allow me to ask follow-up questions and dig deeper into areas of interest.

In future, it may also be interesting to provide participants with cameras to photograph their workstations over time.


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