New Sunderland project to support people with dyslexia

From left: Namena Smith, Colin Fishwick, Coun Lynda Scanlan, Coun John Kelly,  Sandra Kennedy and Joanne Youngson.
From left: Namena Smith, Colin Fishwick, Coun Lynda Scanlan, Coun John Kelly, Sandra Kennedy and Joanne Youngson.

A new scheme has been launched in Sunderland to help dyslexic people with technology.

Sunderland Libraries Service has joined forced with voluntary group, Social Inclusion and Dyslexia Project (SID), to help dyslexic people who are socially excluded get better access to information and technology.

Colin Fishwick at launch of the dyslexia inclusion project.

Colin Fishwick at launch of the dyslexia inclusion project.

The project will use software on all public access library computers, to allow people to use their keyboard and screens to convert text into speech, helping them to complete on-line forms.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, said: “Providing the software on the computers in our libraries will support people with Dyslexia in reading alone, to convert text to speech with the computer itself reading the information directly back to the user, and will help us to begin to understand what more can be done in the future.”

Joanne Youngson from SID, said: “People with dyslexia face social exclusion in their everyday lives at work, in education or training and in the home.

“Barriers that exclude them, can cause stress and ultimately preventing them from taking opportunities to work and learn.

People with dyslexia face social exclusion in their everyday lives at work, in education or training

Joanne Youngson

“Our project empowers people who experience barriers such as reading and writing and teaches them to use technology such as speech to text and text to speech.”

Former builder Colin Fishwick, 64, said: “I literally couldn’t pick up a pen to write a letter, I had to pay others to do that for me when I was in business, but was always good with technology.

“Once you know how to use it to help in your everyday life, it literally opens the door to new possibilities.”

Namena Smith, 55, who is also a client of SID, said: “I left school only being able to spell the most basic of words and couldn’t understand why, and what was wrong with me?

Nigel Birch with SID former client now trustee, Colin Fishwick.

Nigel Birch with SID former client now trustee, Colin Fishwick.

“Once you discover what is causing your problems with reading and writing has a name for it – dyslexia – there’s no turning back.

“I found out about SID and learned more about the various assistive technology available.

“Being able to cope with paperwork now in hours rather than days, I’ve gone from being a lifeguard to starting my own business teaching people how to swim.”

To help promote the partnership project a Dyslexia Awareness Short Story Competition has also been launched inviting people to share their experiences of dyslexia in a short story, video or voice recording.

From left: Elaine Kruse, Joanne Youngson, Coun John Kelly, Coun Linda Scanlan and Allison Clarke.

From left: Elaine Kruse, Joanne Youngson, Coun John Kelly, Coun Linda Scanlan and Allison Clarke.

Entries are open until Sept 15 with the winning entry announced during the Sunderland Literature Festival in October.

The top prize is a laptop and for more informaton visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/libraries.

Sunderland Libraries Services is also working alongside SID to run assisted technology workshops. They will be on August 22 at Washington Town Centre Library, August 29 at Houghton Library, September 5 at Washington Town Centre Library and September 12 at Houghton Library. All sessions from 2pm to 4pm.

Visit www.sidproject.org for more information.