We review a series of experiments aimed at understanding the nature of the phonological deficit in developmental dyslexia. These experiments investigate input and output phonological representations, phonological grammar, foreign speech perception and production, and unconscious speech processing and lexical access. Our results converge on the observation that the phonological representations of people with dyslexia may be intact, and that the phonological deficit surfaces only as a function of certain task requirements, notably short-term memory, conscious awareness, and time constraints. In an attempt to reformulate those task requirements more economically, we propose that individuals with dyslexia have a deficit in access to phonological representations. We discuss the explanatory power of this concept and we speculate that a similar notion might also adequately describe the nature of other associated cognitive deficits when present.