Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case, with notable examples like the letter sent to those judged to be ‘extremely vulnerable’ to coronavirus not available in accessible formats.
However, there have been some positive achievements. To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day we’ve compiled seven of them here:
1. “National Treasures” generously recorded public health information in audio format, which was available via our helpline.
We noted that a lot of public health information was being shared by Government online, using videos without audio, or by letter. We spoke to the Cabinet Office and Jon Snow and Hugh Bonneville kindly recorded audio versions of this information for blind and partially sighted people for RNIB.
2. There’s now a senior lead in government whose role is to ensure accessibility of updates about coronavirus.
After we wrote jointly with other charities to the Prime Minister highlighting inaccessible information and updates around coronavirus and calling for a senior national lead to work on this, one has been appointed! Claire Pimm, the Director of National Resilience Communications, worked at RNIB from 2000-2002 and you can read more about her previous work in this article from PR Week last June. Now we have a senior lead for this issue we hope to work closely with her to support her in this new role.
3. We’re working to make sure the new NHS contact tracing app is accessible.
We’re in touch with the team in NHSX working on this app and hope to be able to support them to make sure it’s fully and properly tested for accessibility before it’s rolled out nationally. We will keep you up-to-date on our progress as the app is developed.
4. There’s a new Cabinet Office working group for accessibility.
RNIB are now part of a Cabinet Office working group for ensuring information on coronavirus is accessible, so we can highlight your concerns as they arise. Please keep using the hashtag #InfoForAll to get in touch if you see anything that isn’t.
5. We’re helping make sure coronavirus testing staff understand sight loss.
To enable blind and partially sighted people to get out and about again as lockdown eases, it’s essential that coronavirus testing is available. We’re providing guidance to staff working at test centres and mobile units explaining how to support blind and partially sighted people who visit for tests.
5b. But people with sight loss also need to be able to test at home.
So we’re working with the Department for Health and Social care to ensure alternative formats for home testing kit instructions are available and exploring uses of assistive technology to support blind and partially sighted people with self-administered tests.
6. We’ve coached CCGs and other NHS providers on accessible social media.
Last week we held an open training session and Q&A for communications teams in local NHS services and CCGs to explain how to use alt text or audio description on their social media posts. We’ve now produced guidance to be shared directly with all these outlets.
7. We provided alternative formats of the Prime Minister’s letter to the nation.
As the lockdown began, the Prime Minister wrote to every household in the UK asking them to stay at home. However, this letter wasn’t provided in accessible formats. Even before the letter had hit many people’s doormats, we’d shared an accessible version on our website
Thank you to everyone who’s helped with the #InfoForAll campaign so far. There’s still a long way to go to make sure that everyone is able to access the information they need, but we will keep on highlighting this as lockdown begins to ease.