It’s not often I get so frustrated that I feel the need to vent via a blog. However, this one needs sharing. Anybody who knows me personally will know that my greatest passion is communication and the variety of ways we communicate, as humans, to share our thoughts, wishes, wants and desires to others. I very much believe that if you communicate with a person in whichever way they are able to or choose, then most things can be achieved or at least attempted.
For the past eight years as a worker for a self-advocacy group I have been able to share my passion with a wide audience and hope that during this time I have empowered people to share their thoughts, dreams and needs with others.
So that leads me nicely to my frustration …… after nine years of working with the most amazing people and sharing the ideals necessary to communicate well, why am I still having the same conversation I was having in 2010!?
Communication is not just talking! It’s listening, it’s understanding, it’s body language, sign language, pecs and a whole lot more. It is also about how we share information. We are constantly asked our opinions on matters that will shape and design future services, whether that is a rise in travel costs, what we think about our local library or what our hospitals should provide, we are asked. Most of the time it is by an internet survey, paper-based questionnaire or if you’re lucky …… with a human with a pen!
I work alongside people with learning disabilities and people with autism and adapt information to meet individual needs on a minute by minute basis. So why is it that whenever people’s opinions are gathered and consulted on do others not consider that there may be more than one way to share and communicate with people and that those said people may need information in a way that suits their needs even when it does not meet an organisations data requirement?
The Accessible Information Standard was approved and states ‘any organisation that provides NHS or adult social care must follow the accessible information standard by law’. (NHS England) This was from 31.07. 2016.
If you give people information in a way that they can understand then they will respond. By not providing easy read, large print, audio and other formats you are excluding groups of society that may well have the real answer to what you are trying to find out.
Today I was asked to provide a specification on what good easy read information looks like …. This is my response, good easy read is clear, understandable and most importantly meets the needs of the person who is using it!
Everyone has different needs and takes information in different ways. If we want engagement and consultation to be real and meaningful to both the person who requires the expertise of the participant and the person who is taking part, then should it not be a given that it will be done in a way that they can understand? It’s like asking for a specification on how the whole team want their cup of tea and only picking one way to do it! I know that in our team there are at least five differing tastes, and if you gave me the wrong one I wouldn’t thank you for it!
So, here’s my plea.
Firstly, can everyone who is looking to use alternate formats ask how this should be done and how people would like it? Sounds simple doesn’t it? It will save you all a great deal of time in the long run whilst empowering the person to be a part of whatever it is you are offering or asking.
Secondly please click on the link below. This information is for YOU! It is everybody’s business to understand and everyone’s responsibility to make sure it happens.
by Sarah Offley