Accessible Information Standard: Frequently asked questions

Arms raised to ask questionsUnderstanding the needs of blind and partially sighted people on an average patient index is key to implementing the Accessible Information Standard efficiently. So we’ve put together these frequently asked questions and answers for GPs and GP Practice Managers, which we hope will help you.

Q: What is assistive technology and how do blind and partially sighted people use email, SMS Text, websites and Apps?

A: Most Apple and Google Android smartphones, tablets and computers have screen magnification and text-to-speech assistance built-in as standard. Similar assistive technologies are available for Microsoft Windows compatible phones and computers but they aren’t always built-in for free.

RNIB’s MyVoice 2015 survey revealed most working age blind and partially sighted people use computers and smart phones every day, but take-up amongst over 70s was below the national average.

Q: What is braille and how many people use it?

A: Braille is a tactile writing system and used by around 1 in 20 people who are formally registered with visual impairment. It is produced by a braille printer called an embosser. Braille can be produced in-house using an embosser but is often out-sourced to a transcription company. It costs comparatively more than other alternative formats to produce but is crucial for those who don’t have other methods for reading.

For an average patient list of 12,000 estimate around 4 braille users. When one of your patients tells you they use braille, check with them and record on your system when braille is most appropriate for them, for example, they may accept appointment reminders via a phone call but need information dense communications like a letter or treatment guide in braille.

Q: What is large print and how many people use it?

A: there is no standard font size for large print but it is most often requested in 18 to 20 point because of the demographics of sight loss. Producing large print can be easy and just requires selecting all the text in a Word document and then increasing the font size to that required. In Microsoft Word you can select all then simply press Shift + Control + > to increase all font sizes proportionally. Same shortcut key combination but with the < scales down the fonts.

For an average patient list of 12,000 estimate 30 to 40 large print users. When a patient identifies they need large print, ask what font size they need and record on your system. Put a process in place so staff know how to produce information in various sizes of large print.

Q: What is audio format and how many people use it?

A: Audio used to mean spoken word on cassette tape, but today people most commonly ask for audio on CD, or even as an MP3 file saved on a memory stick. Audio format can be produced in-house using text-to-speech software converters,  but it is often out-sourced for production to a transcription company.  Audio format can also mean speaking onto a patient’s personal audio recorder or smartphone, for example to provide them with some specific instructions, a phone number or some test results.

For an average patient list of 12,000 estimate 30 to 40 audio format users. When one of your patients tells you they use audio format, check with them and record on your system when audio format is most appropriate for them, for example, they may accept appointment reminders via a phone call but need information dense communications like a letter or treatment guide in audio on a CD.

* Important: audio format does not mean speaking information out loud to a patient, phoning them or leaving a message on an answer machine. You should treat audio format as an equivalent to a printed document, something that can be “read” by the patient in their own time, kept and referred back to.

Q: Where can I go to get help and advice about making information accessible?

A: You can ensure your practice materials are transcribed quickly, accurately and securely through our transcription services. Visit our dedicated RNIB Business web pages, or talk to one of our team please call on 01733 375 370, or via email businesslink@rnib.org.uk

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