Weekly Poll – Easy Read
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 27 September 2021, we asked a question about the Easy Read accessible format.
Question 1. Do you or someone you know use Easy Read documents?
- YES – 43% (23 respondents)
- NO – 57% (31 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Respondents reflected on the benefits of producing information in Easy Read, an accessible format that makes written information easier to understand because it uses simple, jargon-free language, shorter sentences and supporting images. Easy Read is one way of making information more accessible to people with learning disabilities, however it is also useful for people with other communication difficulties including:
- Acquired brain injury
- People with hearing impairment whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL)
- Cognitive impairments such as dementia
- People who are on the autism spectrum or neurodiverse
“My wife has dyslexia and dyspraxia as well as suffering from dementia and she finds reading documents in the Easy Read format better to understand, because as it says on the tin – they are easy to read!”
“I need Easy Read due to cognitive difficulties as the result of neurological Lyme Disease. I find that images, spacing, bullet points, large print, and repetition all contribute to understanding and retaining the information presented.”
“Whilst I don’t need or use Easy Read documents at this point in time, there might come a time when I do need Easy Read documents say due to cognitive problems.”
“I haven’t used Easy Read yet, but as my brain damage goes on, I shall be needing more help in future.”
“I’m dyslexic and I like Easy Read because it uses everyday English.”
“It is very important to have Easy Read for people to fully understand what instructions come with medication.”
The Easy Read format is also beneficial for people who are seeking a summarised version of a lengthy, jargon-filled document. Some respondents stated that it can be challenging to take part in government consultations that feature complicated words, abstract terms and acronyms. It is therefore important that an Easy Read version is available to ensure as many people as possible can take part.
“I once took part in a Scottish Government consultation. The consultation document was not understandable for me, mainly because of the jargon and abstract language it was written in. I happen to be dyslexic. But I don’t think it would have been accessible for many non-dyslexic people either.”
“Easy Read really helps on long articles. Scottish Government consultations are one example.”
“I often use the Easy Read documents on government websites as the simplified language makes policies easier to understand. The Scottish government website definitely does this better and much easier to use than the UK Government website.”
“Sometimes when I’m looking for a synopsis I check if there’s an Easy Read version. The best is a good synthesis without talking down to the reader. The worst are patronising. I’m looking for simplified ideas, not speaking as if to a child.”
“If it’s a government consultation, you can assume that at least some of the people who wish to take part will benefit from an Easy Read format. So, you should provide an Easy Read version in anticipation of those people taking part, a bit like installing a ramp to a building before anyone in a wheelchair asks for one. Secondly, government consultation documents should be written in accessible language to start with, not ‘government speak’ as the whole point of a consultation is that it is aimed at the public, not the government.”
It is essential that Easy Read documents are published at the same time as all other available formats. Respondents highlighted that this is often not the case. For time-sensitive documents, such as public consultations, this means that some people are being disadvantaged by having less time to take part and have their say.
“Easy Read documents should be published at the same time as non-Easy Read documents and should follow Easy Read best practice guidelines.”
“I asked the person in the Scottish Government if the consultation document could be offered in Easy Read, and she arranged this. However, it took a while and by the time I had it, there wasn’t much time until the deadline for the consultation.”
One respondent believed there are less Easy Read documents being produced in rural areas of Scotland.
“Easy Read is not available where I live in rural areas of Scotland! Apparently bigger organisations like Health, Local Authorities, etc. can make them available but they have to be requested, they are not sent out as standard! If an individual cannot read the original non-Easy Read document, how are they supposed to be able to request alternative formats? Through a carer, I have attempted to have such alternative formats sent out as standard, been given assurances of future communications being sent out in Easy Read but it has never happened. It is clearly too much effort in our Pseudo-Equal Opportunities Society.”
Some respondents provided suggestions on what changes could be implemented to make Easy Read documents more accessible for their communication preferences.
“Easy Read documents could be improved by using tinted backgrounds. Break up text with additional ink colours, bold and/or italic headers, words and phrases to focus attention on key points. An expanded font versus a condensed one is preferable, too.”
“I have ClaroRead Pro, so as long as something is not in PDF, I can use ClaroRead Pro to listen to the original format of the document.”
“I’m dyslexic and I would prefer Easy Read documents with a blue background.”
A portion of respondents believed that it is important to increase awareness of Easy Read. This also relates to greater recognition that under the Equality Act 2010, businesses are required to provide information in formats which are accessible to the person who is using them.
At Disability Equality Scotland, we have the expertise to convert information into Easy Read. More information about our Easy Read service can be found on our website: www.easyread.scot
“I wish more organisations would use Easy Read documents. During lockdown my disability club was sending us information about COVID and the guidelines to let us know what we could do and where we could go during lockdown. Deafblind Scotland also sent out their letters as Easy Read. I like Easy Read as they use simple language and also pictures to make things easier to understand. Maybe more publicity and letting more places know about Easy Read including the Scottish Government and the NHS.”
“I don’t know of anyone that has used Easy Read documents, but I do know of people who might benefit from using them. Perhaps promotion of the availability to a wider audience might reach other groups. In particular, I have come across elderly people who have had very little schooling therefore, literacy is often an issue. Finding a way to make Easy Read more accessible without causing embarrassment to people with more sensitive issues, could result in more informed and engaged communities.”
“I had never heard of Easy Read documents but both someone I care for and myself will now be using them when available.”
“Renfrewshire Council and the HSCP are both looking to produce Easy Read for future publications.”
Range of Accessible Formats
It is important to recognise that alongside Easy Read, information must be produced in a range of accessible formats that meet the communication strengths and preferences of each individual. For example, information can be produced in audio, Braille, British Sign Language (BSL), large print, Makaton and plain text.
At Disability Equality Scotland, we have a website dedicated to information and guidance on how to produce communications in accessible formats. Visit the Inclusive Communication Hub for more information: www.inclusivecommunication.scot
“Easy Read is not the preferred format for all, so other information such as audio should also be available.”
“The Easy Read format is great, but businesses must recognise that meeting their customers needs requires producing information in lots of different accessible formats, not just Easy Read.”
There was overwhelming recognition from respondents on the need to produce information in Easy Read, a format that is accessible for people who face communication difficulties. The Easy Read format is also beneficial for people who are looking for a jargon-free summary of a lengthy document, such as a policy or government consultation. To ensure people are not excluded, it is vital that Easy Read documents are published at the same time as all other formats. Greater awareness of Easy Read will help with ensuring that businesses are proactive and produce their information in a format that is accessible. There must also be a clear understanding that producing accessible formats is a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010.
At Disability Equality Scotland, we raise awareness of accessible information through our Inclusive Communication Hub www.inclusivecommunication.scot. We also convert information into Easy Read. For further details of our Easy Read service. Visit www.easyread.scot