Copnor councillor Lewis Gosling was asked to write about his experience of having Dyslexia and entering into local government as an elected member.
Don’t let Dyslexia be a roadblock to your political ambitions. Having discovered that I have dyslexia back when I was taking my A levels, I realised, as a result of the diagnosis that things that I had always struggled with during my school years, then made sense to me. I'd always had to work harder than my peers and it was a relief to finally find out what was affecting me and how to build different methods and ways to focus on solutions in my academic studies and day-to-day life. I still use these methods to this day.
Being dyslexic is not something to hide away from. In the past, attitudes have been less than sympathetic, but now we have a better understanding of the condition, I and others can be an example of how together we can succeed. At my first candidate interview, it was something I discussed, whilst we often hear of the challenges I prefer to look at the positives and the opportunities in every situation. Dyslexia has its benefits, one of the most useful is the ability to problem solve and create practical solutions to problems. It also means that I have a good 'proof' and 'work-checking' system in place. This has always served me well.
I was elected to Portsmouth City Council in May 2021 and immediately upon my successful election, I was able to speak with officers and to be transparent and open about the things I find difficult and the support that would be needed when dealing with paperwork, reports and the like. For the most part, this has simply involved small and accessible solutions such as making sure papers for meetings are always printed in advance of meetings (as they should be anyway) due to struggling to read and take in large amounts of information electronically on small devices. My own council group have also been supportive in offering practical advice on ways to prepare ahead of speeches in the council chamber, whilst I would struggle to read a long pre-prepared speech. Instead, I've found that solutions such as using PowerPoint slides (for talking points) have worked for me. Or better still, have time to construct a speech on the subject matter, rehearse and talk passionately, from an informed vantage point, allowing me to talk authoritatively on the matter at hand, off-piste without prompts.
Like many people who have dyslexia, being dyslexic has led me to simply find workarounds as well as coping strategies throughout my life. This is no different in the local government environment that I have been elected to. By using techniques I and others have developed, together with being open with your respective group and officers, there is no reason for dyslexia to be a roadblock. We work harder, sometimes smarter, but we go further together to serve the people who elected us.
Cllr Lewis Gosling, Portsmouth City Council.