Weekly Poll – Accessible Information and Easy Read (Week Beginning 2 May 2022)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 2 May 2022, we asked a question about the availability of accessible information and Easy Read.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question 1. Do you receive information from businesses and public services in a format that meets your accessibility requirements?

  • Yes 38% (29 respondents)
  • No 62% (47 respondents)

Question 2. Are you aware of businesses and public services that offer information in the Easy Read format?

  • Yes 25% (19 respondents)
  • No 75% (57 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Accessible Information

Last year, the Scottish Government committed to the incorporation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRDP) as part of a Human Rights Bill for Scotland. Because of this, disabled people’s human rights will be enshrined by Scottish Law for the first time. Article 21 of the UNCRDP makes it clear that information intended for the public must be available in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to disabled people in a timely manner and without additional cost. It is also a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010 for service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to support disabled people, including providing information in accessible formats.

Most people communicate in a range of ways and use a mix of pictures, gestures, facial expression, symbols, speech and writing to receive and understand communication and to express themselves. Inclusive communication is an approach which ensures there are a variety of accessible formats available that match the communication strengths and preferences of each individual. Examples of accessible formats include audio, Braille, British Sign Language (BSL), Easy Read, large print, and plaint text. When producing documents, it is also important to embed accessible information principles such as concise messaging that avoids jargon, using a clear, plain font, and ensuring there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colours.

Communication disadvantage arises when communication is carried out in a way that does not consider an individual’s strengths or preferences. The majority of respondents (62%) stated that they do not receive information from businesses and public services in a format that meets their accessibility requirements.

“Some items can be in a very small font. Everything should be in minimum standard of 12 point.”

“Councils often use jargon which needs clarifying.”

“More could be done in the workplace where people are still having to fight for a large computer screen.”

“Universal Credit application in a less formidable format would be a nice start.”

“I am completing this on behalf of my 84 year old mother who has arthritis so can’t type. She also struggles with ‘complex’ paperwork. The Department of Social Security (DSS) is among the worst with several pages of mock typewritten text simply to update her on mobility and other payments due. Most of the information is no more than qualifying detail rather than explaining which I don’t understand (as a working, university educated 50 something adult). It doesn’t offer clear totals, for example, or highlight which benefits are taxable and which are not. Paradoxically, many of the party political leaflets my mother has received prior to the council elections are written in short sentences, large type and have photos (on much better quality paper) so are much clearer to read and understand.”

Contact Methods

Businesses and public services must ensure that they communicate effectively with the public using a variety of contact methods, including post, email, telephone, video and face to face. It was noted by respondents that require contact via email that this method is often not available.

“I require emails rather than phone calls or letters in the post. Some businesses and organisations are great about allowing email prioritisation, others not so much. The worst is when you receive an email asking you to call them to sort it all out. They could surely have put the information in text, in an email, so that I can read it as many times as I need.”

“All too often I get letters that say, “If you want large print or braille or a different language call us on…”. This information is useless because I am deaf and cannot use telephones. I had mine disconnected recently to save money. What’s really needed is an email address because I can use emails but not telephones.”

“An increasing number of businesses are suspending use of email contact in favour of phone and live chat – my bank is one, Tesco is another, Amazon is another – more and more I am finding that businesses are no longer offering direct email contact. This for me makes my contact with such businesses, requests for information, queries, order chasing, complaints, warranty issues, etc. IMPOSSIBLE. Following head injury, I cannot use a telephone and my cognitive processing and short-term memory makes live chat impossible! My sole means of external communication is by email and has been for nearly 20 years now but now I am having to resort more and more to traditional letters which takes and age! These companies are being discriminatory, they are in breach of Accessibility rights and quite frankly, they do not care! There are many companies now which I can simply no longer communicate with!”

Assistive Technologies

Assistive Technology is hardware or software that provides individuals with a format to communicate and access information. One respondent who is partially sighted noted the benefits of their text-to-speech software, however, it was noted that it is incompatible with the PDF format.

“I am blind in the right half of both eyes, so I can see the exact letter I am focusing on but nothing following that. I can see all to the left of what I’m focusing on, but because we read from left to right, it makes me a very slow reader and I cannot zoom through a text. It isn’t usually a problem if I am reading a short leaflet, but I don’t usually have enough time to read longer, legal scripts, and I cannot take in enough information. I do much better if information is spoken to me. I have computer software that can speak it out to me as long as the information is not in PDF – the software doesn’t recognise PDF as a text but as a picture.”

At Disability Equality Scotland, we host the Inclusive Communication Hub, (www.inclusivecommunication.scot), a website that features resources, and good practice guidance to help improve knowledge and awareness of inclusive communication across Scotland. The Hub also features a series of case studies, which provide practical examples of how organisations can adopt inclusive communication in their ways of working and general day-to-day communications. An up-to-date blog signposts to the latest inclusive communication news, events, and training. The Hub is a vital resource that can be utilised by businesses and public services to educate staff and assist with embedding inclusive communication in their processes.

Easy Read

Easy Read is an accessible format that makes written information easier to understand because it uses simple, jargon-free language, shorter sentences and supporting images. Three-quarters of respondents stated that they are not aware of businesses and public services that offer information in the Easy Read format.

“Recent communication from the NHS and local government have all had Easy Read options available.”

“The NHS sometimes use Easy Read, but often not. Chemotherapy information would be helpful in this format rather than a thick booklet of blurb.”

“I am sure that the Scottish Government provide information in the Easy Read format. However, this is something that has been unfortunately missed out at times such as the last General Election when some of the political parties failed to provide information in Easy Read. I think that there is a need for the Easy Read format for all documents published by both private and public organisations. These should also be available at the same time when the main documents are published and not published at a later point in time.”

“I require Easy Read to understand things. Unfortunately, I have found that organisations are very poor at providing this information. The best was actually the NHS dentists I deal with. They spend time explaining everything to me, providing documents in Easy Read and giving me time – fantastic service. The worst offenders I have experienced are social services and the NHS. Both have repeatedly failed to provide information in an accessible format – even though they work closely with people who need this information. Unfortunately, the same goes for advocacy services who ignore the need for Easy Read and won’t produce it when asked. There is also a gap in charitable organisations who don’t really understand accessibility requirements. Asking for Easy Read has resulted in me being given audio files (not what is required) and in WRITING IN CAPITALS I’m not foreign :-). I appreciate the attempt but there’s a lack of training in these organisations about accessible information and how to get help.”

At Disability Equality Scotland, we have the expertise to translate information into Easy Read. Our professional and efficient Easy Read service is delivered to all sectors as part of our commitment towards improving access to information for all. In addition, we deliver an Easy Read training course which aims to give individuals and organisations the skills and knowledge to produce basic Easy Read documents. The course is delivered through a series of online modules designed to allow participants the opportunity to challenge existing knowledge, to explore practical examples, to experience converting complex document content and to reflect upon and evaluate the process. Further details of our Easy Read translation service and training course, can be found at: www.disabilityequality.scot/easy-read

Conclusion

The majority of respondents (62%) stated that they do not receive information in formats that meet their accessibility requirements. This was highlighted through examples of documents that are not written in Plain English or include inaccessible fonts that are unclear or too small. Concerns were also raised about the lack of accessible methods to contact businesses or public services. There were specific comments on the availability of Easy Read, whereby three-quarters of respondents stated that they are not aware of businesses and public services that offer information in this format.