Having dyslexia has never prevented Darren Clark from succeeding in life. In fact, the reading disability has helped to define who Darren is – an award-winning entrepreneur, global neurodiversity consultant, Ambassador for the British Dyslexia Association, and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group advising the UK government on issues associated with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs).
Struggling throughout school
At school, Darren spent most of his days in ‘The Unit’, a freezing portakabin where the ‘problem’ kids were sent to receive special help. However, after struggling with little or no meaningful help throughout school, Darren went on to disprove his teachers and created a hugely successful career founded on determination and a positive outlook on life.
From trolley collector to regional manager
After leaving school with no qualifications, Darren secured a job as a supermarket trolley collector and through sheer hard work and determination, he gained promotion after promotion until he was appointed regional manager of one of the largest food retailers in the UK.
He and his partner, Kelly Holbrook, then went on to set up Spotless Cleaning, which became one of the biggest cleaning companies in the South West. In 2019, Darren was recognised as SWA Male Entrepreneur of the Year for his string of successful businesses.
Campaigning for dyslexia
Darren was in his late thirties when he was formally diagnosed with dyslexia. It was at this point, following his own experiences, that he made the decision to commit his time to raising awareness of dyslexia and the need for the learning difference to be recognised early. His aim for every generation was to impart the knowledge that dyslexia is actually a superpower that allows those with it to see things differently, and that success can nevertheless be achieved.
Since his diagnosis, Darren initially formed the Global Dyslexia Group to support schools, parents and corporates in understanding dyslexia and other SpLDs. Darren was also invited to become a global partner for the International Dyslexia Association, an Ambassador for the British Dyslexia Association, and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group advising the UK government on issues associated with SpLDs.
Darren’s life with the OrCam Read
Darren was introduced to the OrCam Read towards the end of 2020. He had previously avoided using assistive technology to support his dyslexia as he’d learnt other techniques to manage his dyslexia. Since using the OrCam Read, he’s found it to be revolutionary to his everyday life and independence.
The OrCam Read, the first and only hand-held digital reading device capable of reading full pages and digital screens, has become indispensable to Darren both in his professional and personal life. The OrCam Read is wireless and lightweight, with an intuitive point-and-click operation – compacted into a device the size of a pen. It is activated by two precision laser guidance options to read the entire highlighted text, or target where to begin reading.
Darren uses the device to assist him in reading any documents, books, menus, letters, emails or messages – both hardcopy and on the screen. The OrCam Read now lives in his pocket and he carries it around with him everywhere, using it in the office, at home, and for the supermarket, restaurants and cafes.
Dyslexia is often a hidden disability. In everyday life there is so much information for people with dyslexia to decode, that those without the learning difference rarely can appreciate it. For instance, at the supermarket, reading product labels is often impossible and stressful. But since Darren has been using the OrCam Read, he’s checking ingredients and is able to navigate around a supermarket with his shopping list in half the time. Darren’s independence has significantly improved; he no longer feels ‘like he is in an exam’ and doesn’t need to rely on his partner to shop for them.
In his new role as a Global Neurodiversity Consultant, Darren reads around 30-40 messages a day from people around the world who are dyslexic. With just a click of the button on the OrCam Read, he can read his messages with ease, quickly, and keep on top of his communication with clients.
Darren is looking forward to taking the OrCam Read with him on his travels, to far-flung and often remote parts of the world. He’s previously experienced many anxious moments, when he’s missed flights, trains or even boarded the wrong plane due to his dyslexia impeding him reading his ticket or flight information on departure boards correctly. Beyond functioning as an efficient, easy to use device, the OrCam Read removes the anticipation of stress and anxiety associated with travelling with dyslexia, further enhancing independence.
Darren explains: “The OrCam Read is like having a comfort blanket with me, taking away all the anxiety and stress that comes with dyslexia. It’s an amazing device that has increased my independence in all aspects of my life. The tool is indispensable to me now, and would have alleviated all the frustration I experienced at school all those years ago.”
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