As well as having a social responsibility to include traditionally excluded groups of people in our society, the law demands that you do it. In addition, if you ignore the needs of a large section of your target audience, they won’t know about and use your services.
Often the design gets in the way. For example, features such as overlapping text and images; small font size; difficult to read fonts; and lack of contrast between text and background can make reading difficult or impossible for a lot of people. Disabled people often get frustrated when service providers can’t or won’t meet their formatting needs. Even though it’s fairly simple to do – services often don’t provide information in alternative formats like large print, audio, braille or an easy-to-understand version.
If the message isn’t simple and straightforward or is obscured with jargon, people will turn off very quickly.
It’s important to give as much thought to availability of information as you do to the content itself. If the information isn’t displayed where disabled people can access it, how can they possibly find out about services?
It’s a right not a privilege.
It empowers people.
It’s essential for making decisions and choices.
Everyone should be able to receive information in the format that best suits their needs. Information is empowering. It enables people to take responsibility for the quality of their own lives. It does this because it helps people make decisions and choices that leave them in control. Accessible, clear and well-produced information is therefore essential to allow this to happen.
It’s often forgotten or overshadowed by physical access issues. Both are essential for social inclusion. Information provision is an area that we are all responsible for in some way.
When people start to consider accessibility, they usually think of things like installing ramps, toilet facilities, induction loop systems and braille signage. Obviously physical accessibility is crucial for the effective inclusion of disabled people.
However, physical accessibility is not the only thing that services need to consider. A service is not truly barrier-free if the information it gives out excludes disabled people.
You might exclude people by not providing alternative formats, translation services or, at a very basic level, clear and well-produced information that is up to date and accurate.
Get help and advice – ideally from disabled people themselves.
Use practical resources to help you improve.
Raise awareness within your organisation.
Take positive action.
There are a lot of ways in which you can do this and a lot of organisations out there who can help you identify improvements and plan how to do it. In addition, there is a wide range of agencies that provide services like transcription into braille or audio, access to sign language or community languages and advice on web accessibility. Adopt a “Can Do” attitude. Make suggestions within your workplace and lead by example. Don’t be put off by barriers. Share the lessons you learn.
Not necessarily if you:
Start with clear and well-produced information.
Identify and offer alternative formats.
Decide what formats you will contract out and what ones you can produce in-house.
If your initial information is produced in a clear and straightforward way and is tailored for the needs of your audience, then it is likely that you will include most of the people, most of the time. However, there will still be a need for other formats. Some formats like braille or audio do have a cost attached. The largest cost is for the initial transcription. If you offer braille on request and get it transcribed for one person any subsequent copies are relatively inexpensive. Also braille, large print and audio can be sent postage free to a visually impaired person.
Other formats like large print, electronic format or using different fonts etc can easily and quickly be done in-house at very little cost.
Keep your master document accessible so that alternative formats can be produced quickly and inexpensively.
Plan for alternative formats the same way and at the same time you do for the paper version.
Get everyone in the organisation to agree an accessible information policy and procedures to back it up.
Information should be produced in a range of formats that should be of equivalent quality, at the same price to the customer, and produced at the same time. Just like print publications, other formats such as braille or audio need planning. Many organisations start thinking about non-print versions only after the print version has been published.
It is important not to assume that lack of demand for different formats means that disabled people do not want them. It is more likely to mean that they do not know they are available. Or are fed-up and frustrated asking for the same thing all the time and being met with a blank response or negative attitudes
A way of establishing guidelines and procedures that help everyone in the organisation to understand and comply with legislation/good practice.
One way of making sure that your organisation is meeting the needs of all its customers is to adopt an accessible information policy. This means setting yourself some guidelines to help you meet the needs of disabled people. Whether they are potential or current customers, clients, students or employees.
Accessible information guidelines will help to ensure that an even approach is taken throughout your organisation. You can get started by looking at the legislation and good practice guidelines such as those produced by SAIF and others. Remember that every organisation is different. They have different structures that can support change or create barriers.
With a range of free resources that try to explain the issues in straightforward language, for example:
Standards for Disability Information and Advice Provision;
Guides, booklets and factsheets covering aspects of accessible information;
This website: www.saifscotland.org.uk;
Tailored advice and guidance.
For general information you can download a copy of The Access Guide in pdf format here. The Access Guide is a useful wall chart that gives general good practice guidance on access issues for public buildings. Using clear diagrams and best practice measurements the wall chart covers design for parking, entrances and crossings, doorways, toilets and controls. It is designed to be a large wall poster and, for best results, should be printed on at least A3 size paper.
For more specific information you might try the Centre for Accessible Environments. This website provides checklists with detailed information, for example for drop-down support rails and mirrors in accessible toilets.
For information on the British Standards Code of Practice for the Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people, (BS 8300:2001) go to the
British Standards website
Inclusive Design Guidance
A Planning Advice Note on inclusive design has been published, April 2006. It looks at how to improve the design of places so that they can be used by everyone – regardless of age, gender or disability.
The Planning Advice aims to: