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Blog: Learning Disability Week 2024 – “Do you see me?”

Date: 17th June 2024

Today marks the start of Learning Disability Week 2024 ad this year’s theme is “Do you see me?”.

Learning disability is defined as a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning), which began before adulthood. Learning difficulty on the other hand, is a reduced intellectual ability for a specific form of learning and includes conditions such as dyslexia (reading), dyspraxia (affecting physical co-ordination) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A person with a learning disability may also have one or more learning difficulties.

Additionally, there are a number of conditions and neurological diagnosis that often involve or cause some type of learning disability, including Down’s syndrome, autism, meningitis, epilepsy or cerebral palsy.

Many career paths within the Investment industry would ultimately lead to attaining professional qualifications like Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA), Certified financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Accounting qualifications like the ACA, CMA or ACCA or Actuarial qualifications, to name a few. However, there are still many barriers to such professional qualifications attainment, often integral to regulated roles and career progression, for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. As we continue to embrace digital transformation including the use of AI in learning and development, I wonder when will the penny truly drop that there is no one way of learning and experiencing the world?

The Disability and Neurodiversity Workstreams of the Diversity Project is collaborating with GAIN (Group for Autism Insurance Investments and Neurodiversity) in a working group set up to look at how some of these barriers to typical professional qualifications in the industry can be better addressed, as well as exploring different career pathways for people to develop their careers in financial services through better and more inclusive practices, as well as developing new skills through reskilling and upskilling, as advocated by the Financial Services Skills Commission and its member firms in the UK.

Marilyn Swinney, GAIN Advisory Board and Diversity Project’s Disability Workstream member, will be leading the working group. She recently become the first global candidate to pass CFA Institute’s Certificate in ESG Investing completely in audio format. Marilyn, who has Stargardt’s Disease, a congenital macular degenerative condition, had previously attained her CFA charter in 2008 using a combination of audio content and magnification tools. Facing even more significant learning accessibility challenges this time round, she commends that: “CFA Institute understood that it is not just about providing testing accommodations but creating an accessible learning journey. Starting with exam registration and scheduling assistance, assessing curriculum content accessibility – in my case, providing files that used AI to describe all infographics to higher than a medium confidence level and in a format easy for me to use, to provision of a reader and scribe for the examination. This, along with periodic check ins, paved the path for a successful outcome which I am so grateful to CFA Institute accessibility team for. When I share this great experience, I learn of so many others who had simply had to give up their professional qualification programs because of difficulty in engagement and getting the right testing or assessment accommodations, and suppliers not having solutions for specific challenges affecting learning journeys like inflexible curriculum content which cannot be presented in a different way that helps people with learning difficulties or disabilities absorb. I believe more can be done especially with the aid of AI, other assistive technology and disability or neurodiversity confident coaching to help others facing such learning accessibility issues and also difficult learning journeys, and I am excited we can work together to be a voice of change to help include and progress more diverse talent ”.

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