Weekly Poll – Response to COVID-19: Accessible Information

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 15 November 2021, we asked a question about the response to COVID-19: Accessible Information.

Results

Question. Have you received information about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a format that is accessible for you? 

  • YES – 52% (27 respondents)
  • NO – 48% (25 respondents)

Comments

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

Accessible Information

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. Communication disadvantage arises when communication is carried out in a way that does not consider an individual’s strengths or preferences.

There was a mixed reaction from respondents as to whether they had received information about the COVID-19 pandemic in an accessible format. Some people highlighted the accessible formats they had received which met their accessibility requirements. For people who do not require an alternative format, there was recognition of the importance of producing information in a range of accessible formats to prevent communication disadvantage.

“COVID briefings included captions and BSL, which has been essential for many.”

“While the letters are very easy to read and understand, they tend to repeat themselves in certain ways. But, overall, I’m very happy with the way the forms are set out.”

“I have received information about COVID in a plain text format, which makes it easier for me.”

“Information should be available in all formats, no matter what.”

“I do not need special accessibility but think it is very necessary.”

In contrast, some people had not received information about the COVID-19 pandemic in a format that met their accessibility requirements. This includes information in formats that are accessible for dyslexia and dyspraxia. One individual commented on the need to ensure that hardcopies are available for people who are unable to access the internet.

“The only thing that would have made it easy is blue background. I’m dyslexic.”

“Regarding COVID testing there was some anxiety given instruction challenges with dyspraxia and the format could be more appropriate alongside practical side. I had to be persistent at the doctors to explain that I need written instructions in font size 14.”

“I need large print, with plain text. I have never received any information about the pandemic in this format.”

“I am answering this on behalf of my husband who is severely disabled. He has never received information about the pandemic in any format that is accessible to him. He cannot read lengthy pieces of information, and this has been the only way that information has been given.”

“A lot of information is available online and some people don’t have internet access.”

Sensory Loss

There were specific comments from people living with sensory loss. One respondent who is deaf had encountered difficulties with receiving hardcopies for their booster vaccination, which arrived after their appointment. A respondent with sight loss had received all communications in a standard letter format via post.

“Due to being deaf I cannot use telephones. I received a letter about the booster vaccine, but the letter arrived after the date of the appointment. I am still trying to find out how to get a paper copy of proof of second vaccination. I am also awaiting a new appointment for the booster. I do not have a smartphone because I live in an area where there is no signal. I can be contacted by email, but it seems to be NHS policy not to use emails.”

“I have received information in a suitable format; however, I am aware of someone who is blind and deaf who did struggle to get information in a suitable format. Thankfully their family live near them and were able to give them the help and support they required. However, I think that groups like this were forgotten by government during the COVID Pandemic and that we need to learn from these mistakes in case we have similar situations in the future.”

“I am totally blind. All communications have been by standard letter. I am fortunate that I have sighted family who can read the letters and I am also able to read letters using a variety of apps on my iPhone. As a result, the letters have not posed a huge problem, but I have never been asked whether I would prefer other formats even though my blindness is a matter of record within NHS Scotland. Given the choice, I’d have opted for electronic communications. “

Easy Read

Some respondents had highlighted the benefits of ensuring information is available in Easy Read, an accessible format that makes written information easier to understand because it uses simple, jargon-free language, shorter sentences and supporting images. At Disability Equality Scotland, we deliver an Easy Read service and we have converted a number of COVID related resources into Easy Read throughout the pandemic. More information about our Easy Read service can be found at www.easyread.scot

“I have had some COVID 19 information in Easy Read from disability organisations.”

“I feel that the information I got was good because it had pictures to back up the words which made it easier to understand. I think they tried to give the information in small chunks to make it better for people who have a learning disability.”

“The Easy Read format is useful for everyone. We need this format to be embedded in all public health communications.”

Training and Resources

Respondents identified the need for greater awareness to ensure that key public health information is available in a range of accessible formats. At Disability Equality Scotland, we host the Inclusive Communication Hub (www.inclusivecommunication.scot), a website that features a wide range of guidance on how to produce information in an accessible and inclusive manner. The Inclusive Communication Hub also signposts to various resources and training materials, such as a free online training course about ‘Accessible Information Awareness’, which is hosted by Disability Information Scotland: www.disabilityscot.org.uk/courses/accessible-information-awareness.

“There should be more recognition of the requirement for all information shared by businesses and services to be available in accessible formats, not just COVID resources!”

“We need to provide training to staff on how to produce accessible information so that people do not face discrimination.”

Conclusion

There was a varied response as to whether people had received information in a format that met their accessibility requirements. Whilst a narrow majority of respondents (52%) had received information in an accessible format, concerns were also raised about the lack of accessible information. This was found to be a concern for people who require formats that are accessible for dyslexia and dyspraxia. People with sensory loss also shared their experiences, including one individual who is blind who continues to receive letters in the post. Easy Read was identified as a vital format that can help people who have dyslexia or other learning difficulties. To avoid communication disadvantage, it is necessary that staff are aware of how to produce information in a range of accessible formats. The Inclusive Communication Hub (www.inclusivecommunication.scot), is a useful resource to provide guidance on how to produce information that meets an individual’s communication strengths and preferences.