With coronavirus vaccinations underway in Wales, we’ve been highlighting the issues Welsh Government need to consider to make the roll-out work for blind and partially sighted people.
Too often, we’ve experienced mass communication campaigns – about the initial coronavirus lockdown and the latest Keep Wales Safe campaign – which have distributed crucial information in inaccessible ways. That’s despite legal protections for accessible formats.
We’ve called for all information about the vaccination programme to be made available in accessible formats, such as large print, email, audio CD and braille, at the same time standard print letters are sent out to the general public.
Any correspondence about appointments or any information about possible side effects, or what to do if you start feeling ill, including leaflets given out on the day of vaccination, also need to be provided in accessible formats. To make sure more people are aware of how to access these, we have called for a large print instruction to be included at the top of every written document with details on how to access an alternative format.
We’ve also shared tips to make sure online communications can be read easily with standard user settings, magnifying software and screen readers.
We’ve suggested that when planning communications, they should use data on the communications preferences of blind and partially sighted people which should be held by the NHS as part of their duties under the All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for People with Sensory Loss. Local authorities also hold registers of blind and partially sighted people in their local areas. We recommend these are used to contact people directly, to make sure they have received the relevant information, and are able to access the vaccine.
Getting this right will mean blind and partially sighted people can access this important information and contribute to the success of a vaccination programme. It’s not acceptable to assume a person with sight loss can rely on a sighted person to read out information, and it shouldn’t be up to individuals to seek out their required format. This right to receive accessible health information is protected by the All Wales Standards and the Equality Act.
People need to be able to attend appointments to receive the vaccination. Navigating independently to new places can be difficult for many blind and partially sighted people, so we’ve made it clear venues for vaccination need to be accessible, and some people will be likely to need additional transport.
We’ve highlighted how important it is that venues are set up correctly - with clear, contrasting signage in large print, and, when needed, there should be staff available to provide sighted or verbal guiding. Waiting areas will also need to be considered for guide dogs, and any sighted guide a person might bring with them. We’ve suggested they hold clinics in places people are familiar with like local GP surgeries, or health staff arrange visits to blind and partially sighted people’s homes if they request it, for example for those with caring responsibilities.
Public Health Wales has been sharing a priority list for the initial vaccination programme. Largely, older adults are towards the top of the list, which will cover the majority of blind and partially sighted people.
However, we also raised the challenges working age blind and partially sighted people are experiencing with social distancing and the disproportionate effect this has had on day-to-day life, compared to other people. We shared statistics and polling on this from our World Upside Down campaign, and asked that they factor this impact into the thinking around prioritisation.
For more COVID-19 vaccination information visit Public Health Wales’ website. This site has a number of built-in accessibility features including a screen reader, magnifier, font and colour customisation options.