A project to remember and pay tribute to fellow travelers and pioneers in the dyslexia community.
Starting in 2018, I will document the death of members and friends of the dyslexia community from around the world.
What do these stories tell us? The dyslexic life is not only about struggle, it is about creativity, ingenuity and reliance. Ours is a beautiful community.
If you have a submission, please email me at: email@example.com.
Paul Dewar | Community builder, international affairs and development expert, educator, founder of Youth Action Now, Member of Parliament (2006-2015)
Paul Dewar was a beloved community builder and MP who lived in Ottawa, Canada.
In talking about his dyslexia he said, “It’s part of me, not all of me.” He said that dyslexia never held him back, and “in a sense, it kind of allowed me to go further ahead…it’s allowed me to really take things on” (Source: Canadian Press).
In a 2018 interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Dewar says that as a child he sometimes felt isolated, but this helped him develop the skills that he is respected for: “It drove home how crucial it was to treat everyone with respect and dismiss the real and imagined hierarchies between people.”
Sadly, he died at the age of 56. I am grateful and humbled that he shared his dyslexia journey with the world, and that he supported my journey at the Dyslexic Library. He once sent me the message: “we are fellow travelers.”
Though he once remarked that starting a library was an “unlikely pursuit” for a dyslexic, it actually makes all the sense in the world. Many dyslexics love and appreciate the beauty and importance of books, libraries, literacy and reading (even if they don’t like doing it). Free Little Libraries, those little wooden boxes perched in the front yards of homes in 88 countries, from the Netherlands, Brazil, and Japan to Australia, Ghana, and Pakistan, was on a mission to encourage community and reading:
“I love stories. And I love learning,” he said. “But I would never say I love reading” (source: Todd Bol Searched for a Mission and Finally Found It With Little Free Libraries).”
Ingvar Kamprad | IKEA founder, Sweden (1926-2018)
Ingvar Kamprad is the founder of the iconic house ware store, IKEA–famous for bringing Swedish design to the masses. This creative dyslexic is known for using his dyslexia as a business advantage. He is a pioneer of flat-packing furniture for easier shipping, and for creating his own naming system when he had trouble remembering the codes used to identify each piece of furniture:
“Kamprad created a naming system where he gave names to each piece of furniture. For example, large furniture is given names of Swedish places, chairs and desks have men’s names, and garden furniture is named after Swedish islands. This system was easier for Kamprad to remember and visualize each product, since most of the names were of places familiar to him.” (Dyslexic Advantage)
And it works: most IKEA devotees know that Billy is a bookshelf, Ektorp is a sofa, Ribba is a frame.
While his loss was mourned, his talents were celebrated.
Diana King |Author, teacher and co-founder of The Kildonan School, US (1927-2018)
Not dyslexic herself, Diana King was a true ally. Her uncle was dyslexic, and she devoted her life to ensuring all children learn to read. Understood calls her a “pioneer and champion” in the field of dyslexia, and “one of the most influential Orton–Gillingham practitioners in history.”
She famously said: “The time to diagnose dyslexia is before the child has a chance to fail at reading.” Amen sister!
Canadian sculptor and naturalist, William (Bill) Lishman, passed away December 30, 2018 at age 78. He was described by the Toronto Star as a “dyslexic, colour-blind, wildly creative sculptor.”
In the Canadian Geographic:
“Lishman was dyslexic, and schools in the 1950s were not equipped to do much for an exceptional learner other than demonstrate repeatedly that he was not like the other kids in the class.” (File this under “plus ça change“).
Canadian Museum of Nature says “Bill was best known for conducting the first aircraft-led migration of birds, a journey that moved the markers of scientific knowledge about bird migration. His successful endeavour to lead migratory birds with an ultralight aircraft was dramatized in the 1996 film “Fly Away Home.”
His Iceberg Sculpture is a thing of beauty in downtown Ottawa.