“I didn’t realize at that stage that I could do anything about it, I thought I was alone. [Learning to read and write] made a different person out of me, the whole world has just opened up to me.”- Tony Moloney.
CORK, IRELAND – Tony Moloney, aged 60, lives in Youghal, Cork and drives taxis for a living. Until recently, he lived with undiagnosed dyslexia, and had been illiterate. Now, he’s celebrating his new ability to read or write with his family.
Tony grew up in Cork. He said his troubles with language began in primary school, where he slipped through the cracks in an enormous class of 57 children. In high school, he displayed a lot of talent in math, but still had trouble with language. He couldn’t read or write.
Once out of high school, he applied to work at Pfizer – a leading global pharmaceutical company. Due to his illiteracy, though, he couldn’t pass the exams given by the company. So, he went on to take an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator instead.
Later in life, Tony found work as a taxi driver, but that came with new challenges. Working as a taxi driver, he was expected to be able to take down addresses and directions from his radio. Since Tony couldn’t write, he had to find a way to work around it. Instead, he recorded his messages on a dictaphone and play it back to himself over and over. He memorized thousands of customers’ names and addresses, so nobody would ever figure out that he couldn’t write them down.
He hid his illiteracy from everyone in his life, including his children. Only his wife knew that he was illiterate, and she never brought it up or made it an issue.
“You think you’re the only one who has a problem reading or writing,” Tony said, “so you have this constant fear that you’ll be caught out.”
When he was 53, Tony’s life would change forever. He received a pamphlet advertising free computer classes in his area, and decided it was worth a shot. When he showed up for class at Youghal Adult Learning Center, the instructor picked up on his learning disability quickly and suggested that he try working with a personal literacy tutor.
After a year and a half of working with the tutor, Tony felt confident enough to join a group class. He was amazed to discover that he wasn’t alone in his difficulties. Ten other people were in the class, too!
“I couldn’t believe it, my jaw was open for about an hour.”
Now, Tony can read and write and he’s thriving. He works as a literacy ambassador for NALA. Out of everything, he’s proud of himself for being brave enough to go back to school and for being able to sit through exams for work. His life’s forever changed, and he encourages anyone else struggling with a learning disability to seek help.
Good going, Tony.