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Accessible information – one aspect of inclusive communication

The Scottish Accessible Information Forum (SAIF) has a vital role to play providing expert advice and support about accessible information, particularly for disabled people.

This includes how to make written and online information accessible, and how to improve “face to face” information and signage.

SAIF’s work focuses on making information accessible to as many people as possible. This is one aspect of what is known as “inclusive communication”.

Definition of inclusive communication

“Inclusive communication means sharing information in a way that everybody can understand.

For service providers, it means making sure that they recognise that people understand and express themselves in different ways.

For people who use services, it means getting information and expressing themselves in ways that meet their needs.

Inclusive communication relates to all modes of communication:

  • written
  • online information
  • telephone
  • face to face.

Inclusive communication makes services more accessible for everyone. It will help to achieve successful outcomes for individuals and the wider community. It enables people to live more independently and to participate in public life.”

(Principles of Inclusive Communication. Scottish Government, 2011)

What is communication?

Communication is a two-way process by which information, thoughts and feelings are exchanged. It is both verbal and non-verbal. It involves understanding and expression and is affected by the environment.

Communication is fundamental to establishing and maintaining relationships and participation in social, learning and work situations.

We communicate for a range of reasons:

  • social
  • emotional
  • attention-seeking
  • getting and giving information
  • getting needs met
  • making choices
  • controlling reality.

A definition of a person with a communication support need is any individual who requires support with one or more of the following:

  • understanding
  • expressing themselves
  • interacting with others.

Everyone has occasional communication support needs. For example, working out what to eat on a holiday abroad, understanding instructions on how to make a piece of furniture, listening in a crowded place, taking in what the doctor has said.

Other diverse groups have everyday communication support needs. For example:

  • children
  • people with a learning disability
  • people with mental health problems
  • people who have had a stroke or those with progressive neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease
  • people with low literacy skills
  • people with dementia
  • people with autistic spectrum disorders
  • people with a sensory impairment.

Clearly, the needs of an individual within one of these groups might be very different to another within the same group. Their needs will change according to social, emotional and environmental issues at any given time.

People with communication support needs face exclusion and discrimination every day.

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