Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Dyslexia is a disability diagnosed late in childhood, if diagnosed at all. Often it is not diagnosed at all. It causes embarrassment and fear of those suffering it, as no matter how hard they try, they see no results. There’s also a lack of empathy of people around them, as it is not obvious to others that this disability is present. The way society usually comes across dyslexia nowadays is when a child has difficulties at school both in terms of academic results and of social integration difficulties.
It is estimated that between 5 and 18% of the population in countries with letter alphabets is dyslexic (A 1987 report to the US Congress estimated that from 10 to 17.5% of Americans were dyslexic.). In Spain there are no official records but the Spanish Federation of Dyslexics, based on European Union statistics, estimates that between 10 and 15% of the Spanish population suffer from different levels of dyslexia. The lack of rigorous numbers is a proof of the invisibility of dyslexia in society.
Due to late diagnosis and therefore late treatment, dyslexia is considered one of the root causes of school failure. The way the education system is established nowadays based on memorization of texts and written exams, makes it almost impossible for a child with dyslexia to succeed. It is also difficult for a teacher to know if a poor academic performance of a student is due to lack of interest, low capacities or dyslexia.
The OECD reports a rate of 30% of school failure in Spain. Statistics suggest that at least 4 out of 6 cases of school failure are linked to literacy problems. According to the Catalan Association of Dyslexics and the Pedagogues Association of Catalonia 15% of school failure is due to dyslexia. School failure lies at the base of much social exclusion and anti-social behaviors. The UK project Dyslexia Behind Bars stated that more than 50% of prisoners where dyslexic, in Sweden the figure given in the report “Dyslexia among Swedish prison inmates” (published in 1999) was 41%. The main difficulty of people with dyslexia is that they don’t decode written language properly, finding special difficulties with similar words, frequency or length. Furthermore, they are not able to accurately assess how they are reading (they don’t know what they are not comprehending). Additionally dyslexia usually brings along spelling mistakes in writing as well.
Dyslexics are therefore unable to fully engage with our information society – accessing media and information put out by private or government entities.
Current treatment methods are blunt instruments - neither personalized to the individual’s own needs, nor scientifically evaluated. Historical efforts to treat dyslexia, drawing especially from psychology and speech therapy, have focused on methodologies for "reeducation." These methods (relying heavily on repetition) are at best props that help some kids "overcome" dyslexia, which allows them to reach a reasonable degree of understanding. These methods are only partially successful, and far from motivating.
Recent tools, based on technology, seem more attractive but are not based on the latest scientific research and more effective treatments are expensive and therefore inaccessible for most of people.
Research in the field of dyslexia, generally undertaken within the pedagogical and psychological fields, hasn’t kept up until now the exciting new developments from cognitive neuroscience, natural language processing and computer science.
Concurrently with the challenges facing learners, accessibility issues, i.e. helping make public information sources more readable have not been effectively addressed. Despite the possibilities that technology offers today, which allows adapting texts to improve their understanding, the already existing initiatives work only from the "design" or layout perspective and does nothing with the content. And yet, no more than 10 % of websites have been made accessible for people with dyslexia. Institutions governing global information environment are being slow in understanding the issue and adapting to it.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Luz has a multi-pronged strategy for addressing the challenges faced by people with dyslexia (which some estimates suggest could represent one out of ten people). Seizing the opportunity presented by the dramatic transformation of how information of all types is compiled and transmitted in the digital age, Luz is transforming the information environment with which dyslexics engage, while pioneering new methods to improve how people with dyslexia learn and improve their performance.
Though long recognized, treatment of dyslexia - the difficulty to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite levels of intelligence - has been slow to evolve. Luz has brought research and researchers from across disciplines blocks to readability by dislexics, particularly in terms of layout and content, and developed new tools and methodologies for improved learning. In addition, she is establishing new protocols for “accessible information” for providers of information of all kinds.
The advent of digital devices for reading has created the opportunity to automatically modify parameters based on Luz and her team’s research to improve text readability. In turn, the use of technology, making it simple and accessible, allows people with dyslexia to download many of these new tools. These tools are software based, guaranteeing their rapid dissemination.
Luz works with coalitions of educators, school systems and local governments to test and disseminate these new methods, and ensure that they are adapted in school systems. In parallel with her emphasis on changing how people with dyslexia learn and are taught, she is also focusing on the social environment of how information is presented, targeting schools, publishing houses, governments and local and international standard-setting bodies to promote simple methods of enhancing the presentation of information for greater accessibility.