Learning from voluntary sector groups working with our target groups
We invited speakers to give us insight into the special communications of older people, people who are either blind or have low vision, people with learning disability, those who are offline, and our local council to give us the overview of statutory requirements to provide accessible information.
Shane Brennan, Chief Executive of Staywell (formerly Age Concern Kingston) presented an overview of the demographics of the UK with an ageing population and the wide and varied communication needs of groups of older people and in particular those with dementia. He outlined how it should be easier in theory with the array of new media to personalise communications to each member, but as the sector is lacking the financial resources to invest in this technology we struggle to keep up. Talk of the future with the development of upcoming artificial intelligence technologies that will eventually provide practical support and even companionship is still just that - in the future. It might be part of the solution, but for now robots do not replace people and community.
Graham Page, Access Technology Advisor from Vision East London, traveled for an hour and a half to make the journey to present to us. Graham is blind and his role is to advise and support people who recently have lost their sight to make adjustments to how they use technology to access information.
Graham demonstrated NVDA screen reading software - highlighting the problems with sites that are designed purely with sighted readers in mind. It was turn of Domino’s Pizza Delivery to be scrutinised for accessibility. Looks easy to read, tempting and easy to order. But only if you are fully sighted. We saw how images had no descriptions of ingredients so it was hard to find out what you might be ordering. He could not use the keyboard to tab through the links because not all of them had titles. And the great shame is, it doesn’t take much to adjustments to websites to make them accessible.
His top tips are
Always structure your web pages using headings so blind users can use the tab key to move around the webpages.
Use alt captions for images - and keep them short - they are only there to indicate the use of the photos. If the image you use is central to the narrative of your story - then you need to make sure you describe it somewhere - as you are going to exclude people if you don’t.
If you are using video, in an ideal world you would have the video audio described.
Working with people with learning disabilities is complex as everyone has differing needs and the best way to communicate clearly is to get to know your client and personalise everything to their needs.
Easy read information is only really a starting point. When you start to simplify complex ideas into pictures, you need to take into account that your interpretation of how to represent something might not have meaning to someone with a learning disability.
Wendy’s five top tips are:
- When speaking always look at the person, get their attention and use their name
- Know the individual and what their communication needs, adapt appropriately
- Use short, simple sentences with familiar simple words (no jargon)
- Accompany spoken speech with signs/photos/symbols etc. Always support the person when using easy-read.
- Using alternative methods such as drama, video, role play,story-telling
Philippa Leary, Superhighways ICT Development Worker, outlined the issues of connectivity and training - highlighting the map Superhighways created, in partnership with RBK, to pinpoint access to a place to learn and get support through the Library Service, Children’s Centres and voluntary and community groups.
Philippa also presented Kingston Voluntary Action’s new digital health project focussed on improving digital health information in the borough.
Kingston Digital Health
provides a guide to local health networks, local health directories and a new digital health training for volunteers. The project aims to train up 90 volunteers to inform and provide effective signposting to help people work their way through the complex and often conflicting advice on health, wellbeing and where to get treatment. Contact Philippa on firstname.lastname@example.org to for more information.
3 groups worked on redesigning handouts for older people, people with learning disabilities and those using screen readers. Much discussion, many questions and conversations around what would improve information and which were the best ways to publish - print or digital.
Thanks to Phil Levick, Kingston Coordinated Care Communications Lead who raced back from another meeting to present the recently circulated Accessible Information Standards. This includes a number of ‘myth busters’ a section challenging our understanding of how best to communicate with people who may have a disability.
Hear what Simon from Mind thought about the event.
We also asked everyone to pledge 3 changes they would make to the way they communicate in future. We will post these back to you in the New Year.
As promised here is a list of links we collected for the event. Please email Philippa with other sites as you find them.