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Disability Narratives

Ruth was diagnosed with dyslexia in her 40s.

Portrait of RuthBackground

at the time of the interview – 2016

Ruth is Head of Human Resources at the Bodleian Libraries.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

Ruth has been the head of HR at the libraries for eight years. She has a long standing interest in disability issues with staff from a previous role where she was the lead for disability issues.

Ruth was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was about 40. This came about when she was working with staff who described their difficulties around reading, writing and using computers. She recognised that she also had some of their difficulties and sought testing and was diagnosed. Ruth said she always had trouble with certain tasks and had learnt various ways of working to support herself (often without realising).

Ruth said that being diagnosed was a relief, as it helped make sense of the things she was experiencing. Ruth felt that not knowing she had dyslexia affected her more than being diagnosed with it. This was because she could not explain why certain things took longer for her to do than it took other people. Now she is able to explain why there is a difference.

Ruth said that her personal experience and her previous work have led her to be an advocate for disability issues at a senior management level. Ruth believes that managing someone with a disability is part of being a 'good manager'.

it was quite a relief to know that there was a label [dyslexia] for how I was feeling about the challenges ... to work. I think it affected me more before I knew.

Ruth is aware both as someone with a disability and as a manager (of managers) that it can be difficult to discuss disability needs. She understands that many members of staff may wish to keep quiet about their (hidden) disability. She recognises that some managers may be worried about asking people about their disability as they are worried about "getting it wrong". She advises that managers should seek help from personnel and/or disability services.

Ruth said that she was aware that some people might perceive their disability as a weakness, whereas it should be regarded just as part of them. Most managers she found to be supportive and reasonable, especially once they had a better understanding of the person's disability.

Ruth reflected that the University's reputation might pose particular challenges for people with a disability. When she started work at the University she found some people would be openly critical of others written language skills. Ruth said she had to explain to people that this public shaming was problematic for all staff, and especially for people with disabilities. Ruth said this happens less now and hopes it is in part due to increased understanding.

The competitive element of working at the University might also lead to some people keeping quiet about their disability, for fear of being disadvantaged. However, she hopes that managers would be supportive and provide the adjustments that people need.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016