Being dyslexic in the virtual world during Covid-19

virtual_world The past few months have seen some major life changes for everyone. Whether it be working from home, home-schooling your children, or having to shield for yourself or others, Coronavirus has certainly turned our world upside-down in ways we never could have imagined. I think we can all agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to live online more than ever. In the beginning, the digital world provided us with the only means to access the outside world. And even now, with restrictions largely eased, being online is still a primary part of our everyday lives. According to statistical data, people have been spending 44% more time on social media and 45% longer on messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook messenger[1]. There are countless ways that the online world has become a substitute for the offline world, whether that be for work, school, or even social gatherings. We have learned new ways to utilise the virtual world to socialising – for example, I hadn’t even heard of Zoom before the pandemic, and now it is a word I use nearly every day!  Our involvement in the digital world has certainly become the new normal. However, how has the pandemic affected dyslexics? I think I have definitely seen positive and negative outcomes since we started lockdown. On the plus side, using digital technology is often easier for dyslexics to read than reading on paper (of course though, it depends on the person). One of the biggest perks of being online is that it allows for more assistive technology. Also, the pandemic allowed us time to think about what could really help us. For example, before Covid-19, I never bothered to download assistive technology on my laptop. It was something that never occurred to me. It was only when I was online so frequently at the beginning of the pandemic, I realised how much it could help me. Now I don’t know how I lived without it. However, there are also many struggles for dyslexics in the digitalised pandemic world, namely the increased use of written words as communication. Communication has become predominantly in text format. Even with the help of assistive technology, it is mentally and emotionally draining when reading is the main form of communication with others. I have learned that communication with friends and family about this is key. Being honest and suggesting alternate ways of communication (voice messages, more Facetime) is the best way around struggling with text-communication. If constant reading is getting you down, try personalising your virtual world with assistive technology to fit your needs! There is so much free software for dyslexic needs that take seconds to download! It’s important not to be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to forget how much of a change the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our lives. So being kind to ourselves is the most important thing right now. Maddy Shepherd, Dyslexia Scotland blogger [1]