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ADCET Webinar: Improving outcomes for dyslexic learners in tertiary education

The Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM) is a formal, structured, and systematic approach to meet the needs of a group of learners who have traditionally been short-changed in education in New Zealand. The DFQM initiative was funded by New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Commission and led by Ako Aotearoa, New Zealand’s National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. The DFQM was inspired by a similar initiative in the United Kingdom, but tailored to a New Zealand context. 

It is a holistic initiative that promotes the creation of inclusive teaching and learning environments. It is based on a whole-organisation approach to becoming dyslexia-friendly, from board to management to learner-facing staff. The DFQM provides a benchmark for best practice, and organisations with the Quality Mark will be leaders and role models in the field.

In this webinar, Annette and Mike described the journey in developing the DFQM, and discussed the process towards achieving the Quality Mark. They also explained the benefits for organisations, educators and learners.

Audience: Tertiary provider staff and anyone with an interest in dyslexia and inclusive education.

(September 2021)


Mike Styles photo

Mike Styles is a dyslexia consultant and researcher currently contracting to Ako Aotearoa to develop and implement the Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark for tertiary education organisations. Mike has led several research projects exploring dyslexia in tertiary education and presented the findings at international conferences in the UK, Europe, Australia, and Canada. 

Annette van Lamoen photo

Annette van Lamoen has a background in working with high-needs learners. She was a Teaching Fellow at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, where she lectured and tutored in adult literacy education and dyslexia.  She was the Manager of the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults and now works for Ako Aotearoa as the Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Cultural Capability (ALNACC) Programme Manager. She is passionate about supporting educators and, by extension, their learners.

Questions and Answers not discussed during the webinar

Can Australian literacy teachers/service providers register to use the Mark?
A  No, the New Zealand Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark is tailored to a New Zealand context and is only available for New Zealand organisations.

Can you advise us what adjustments students with learning disabilities should be afforded for assignments that are being completed?
For students with dyslexia adjustments could include:

  • Allowing more time
  • Provide flexible options for assignments (i.e. other than written reports), such as an oral report, PowerPoint, poster, clip, podcast, discussion etc.
  • Assistive technology, such as text-to-speech or speech-to-text software, a C-pen etc.

How can tertiary providers ensure online content is suitable for dyslexic students?
A  The British Dyslexia Association style guide This link takes you away from the ADCET page is a good place to start. There are also accessibility standards This link takes you away from the ADCET page that many institutions use on their website to enable people to make the web content more accessible.

How can we support students who are not diagnosed, but have issues reading and writing?
Most learners who struggle with reading and writing do not have dyslexia, and it goes without saying that all learners need support, whether they have dyslexia or not. We need to support these learners in their social and emotional needs, through building rapport with them, ensuring a safe and trusting environment, and building their confidence and self-esteem. We also need to support them in their learning needs and we recommend a dual approach: assisting them in their literacy development, through a multi-sensory teaching approach, and putting accommodations in place, such as assistive technology.

The efficacy of note-takers in the tertiary setting: is this changing given the improvements of Assistive Technology?
Yes, to a large extent, although some learners may still need a note-taker. Technology used for note-taking includes:

  • the Livescribe smartpen
  • Audio Notetaker
  • MS OneNote
  • Notability (for Mac)

What are your recommendations regarding dyslexia-friendly fonts (e.g., Open Dyslexic)?
The BDA style guide recommends sans serif fonts (such as Calibri, Arial, Tahoma), font size 12-14 point, generous spacing (within the word, between the words, and line spacing), no italics, no underlining, no blocks of text in capital letters, and a single colour background (pastel colour). There are a number of fonts designed for people with dyslexia, such as:

  • Dyslexie
  • Open Dyslexic
  • Lexia Readable

It is very much an individual preference. Different learners prefer different fonts.

What assistive technologies are most useful for students with dyslexia?
There is a wide array available, see for example:

What training is there for teaching/admin staff to support this approach?
Ako Aotearoa offers a range of online courses, for example:

Please contact Annette at for more information.

Will you please add any suggestions re dysgraphia and OCD?
Sorry, we do not have expertise in OCD. People who have dysgraphia tend to have difficulty with the lower-order writing skills, such as handwriting and spelling. Here are some suggestions:

  • Give them more time (they write more slowly)
  • A Smartpen can be used for note-taking, or they can use a laptop or phone
  • Record online lessons
  • Provide pencil grips and a selection of different types of pens and pencils
  • Provide handouts of notes
  • Allow oral rather than written reports
  • Offer flexible ways of demonstrating their knowledge: PowerPoints, posters, a discussion
  • Use a scribe or speech-to-text software
  • Organise a ‘buddy’ who can proofread
  • Provide a quiet space

Where do you recommend getting training (Grad cert) or other and resources to include Dyslexia students in primary schools?
We are based in New Zealand, and are not familiar with training options in Australia. In New Zealand the University of Waikato offers two excellent papers and a PostGraduate Diploma in Language and Literacy Education:

Ako Aotearoa has a list of useful, free resources This link takes you away from the ADCET page

We also offer a free book, which you can download from our website: Dyslexia Decoded: What it is, what it isn’t, and what you can do about it This link takes you away from the ADCET page, by Dr Sue Dymock and Professor Tom Nicholson.

More resources:

What advice would you give to others thinking of implementing a Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark system? Eg in Australia?

  • For New Zealand we opted for a phased approach, by developing a Quality Mark for the tertiary education sector initially. The next phase of development may be to make it suitable for primary and secondary education. Stage three could be to develop a Quality Mark for workplaces.
  • Use a collaborative approach to develop the Quality Mark, the process and the resources, by consulting and working with people and organisations with expertise in dyslexia, education providers and learners. In New Zealand we had a task group and a reference group, and we consulted with them at every step of the way. Their feedback has been invaluable.
  • Once the DFQM has been developed, conduct pilot projects with a range of organisations.

I'm wondering what are the helpful apps that Mike spoke about? Can we get more info regarding this please?
A couple of useful phone apps are ‘Dyslexia Aid This link takes you away from the ADCET page’ and ‘Easy Spelling This link takes you away from the ADCET page’.

Are there costs involved in getting the DFQM?
Yes, in New Zealand we don’t have the funding to enable us to offer this for free. The full registration fee per organisation is $3,000. This fee includes the support and guidance from the facilitators throughout the process, the assessment of the evidence portfolio, the verification visit by the facilitators, and a professional development session for staff.
However, we do offer 27 sponsored places per year, with reduced registration fees, ranging from $500 to $1000, depending on the size of the organisation. For more information: This link takes you away from the ADCET page

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