Steve Harrison – viewed by many as a direct marketing creative god – is backing the launch of a new platform designed to attract more people with dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions to the industry, by helping them with the reading lists they need to take part in advertising courses.
The LEO platform is a new and free to join e-reading scheme designed to offer students with dyslexia a way to access course material that works for them, while removing a barrier that may halt their progress in the industry.
Created by ad professionals James Hillhouse, Kat Pegler and Alex Fleming, the idea was conceived after Hillhouse discovered a dyslexic student he worked with through his youth transformation agency Commercial Break was considering dropping out because of the difficulty of reading lists.
The team worked alongside UX designer Evert Martin, who has dyslexia, and called on his own experience to help devise the platform interface and functionality. The features were then created and formed with the guidance of dyslexic university students and dyslexia experts to make LEO as natural to use as possible.
LEO enables users to personalise how they consume the content to suit what works best for them. This is done predominately through the three pillars of text customisation, audio and video, with additional functionality to make the experience easier and more enjoyable.
It launched this month with Harrison’s book ‘How to do Better Creative Work’. Each chapter of the book is read by a different industry creative, including Rosie Arnold (BBH and AMV BBDO), Joe Staples (Mother), Aidan McClure (Wonderhood Studios) and Stu Outhwaite-Noel (Creature). Staples and McClure are two of the most high-profile creatives in the industry with dyslexia.
Harrison said: “I picked up most of my knowledge and owe much of my success to reading books about the industry. I have always insisted that people steep themselves in the writings of the greats who have gone before us – and the innovators who see the way forward.
“But so many potential stars cannot do this and are held back because they have difficulty reading, which means they’re starved of this insight and inspiration. I am absolutely delighted that LEO is happening, and I am honoured that my book has been chosen for its launch. I hope this is just the start of the LEO story, and that the advertising world gets behind it and helps those with dyslexia bring their unique mode of thinking to an industry that’s crying out for fresh ideas and a different perspective.”
Two more books by other leading advertising creatives will launch on the platform later this year, with LEO’s founders calling for other authors to support the platform and add their books to its library.
Kat Pegler said: “On the surface, the advertising and digital industries are set up for people with dyslexia to thrive because they rely on divergent thinking to ensure that the products they are selling are noticed. This kind of thinking is second nature to people with dyslexia who tend to think less linearly, and more holistically than people who are neurotypical. However, each year, students with dyslexia looking to break into the industry are being put at a disadvantage that is blocking their entry – the reading lists that accompany the courses they take.”
Proprietary research by LEO shows that almost two thirds of people with dyslexia are not able to complete their undertaken reading lists. A third of them are even getting to the point where reading lists are almost putting them off going to university at all. Whatever their reaction, three quarters of them agree – the reading list in its current form is putting people with dyslexia at a disadvantage.
Pegler added: “LEO is on a mission to make the future of education more accessible for students with dyslexia. Today is just the first step towards this goal – we now need the help of authors, publishers, brands, and potential funders to join the cause and back the platform. It’s an absolute no brainer that we should be doing more to help get people with dyslexia into the industry. By making LEO free and available to all, we’re hopefully making that a little bit easier.”
Late last year, the DMA released new guidance to help employers better understand dyslexia in the workplace, created using insights from neurodiversity consultants, brand owners, and dyslexic staff.
The DMA Talent: Dyslexia Employer Guide provides comprehensive guidance and recommendations on reasonable adjustments that employers can make to recruitment processes, the workplace environment, support networks, and most importantly, how to treat employees as individuals.
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