How do you take yours…? Communication that is

If you have a communication disorder or need, public services should give you information in an accessible format.

This makes services inclusive and it means you should get more out of your time with them. Accessible communication is a great idea, and it is law (2016 Accessible Communication Standards AND the 2010 Equality Act).

The problem is that ‘accessible information’ is generally non-existent or seen as simplified writing with a few pictures on top. If you have autism and you process language well, being presented with a few pictures can feel very patronising.

What makes information accessible depends on what the person’s communication style and needs are:

‘Plain English’ is information without hidden meaning and complex inferences.

‘Social stories’ explain what the situation is, social concepts, and conventions for the situation.

‘Easy read’ uses simplified text with images to explain key words.

‘Accessible typography’ makes text accessible by using appropriate size lettering, familiar, and distinguishable fonts.

‘Subtitles and captions’ (for video information) make spoken language visible and give valuable extra processing time.

‘Sign language & gesture’ convey the information visually. Gestures (such as Makaton) focus on important keywords. Gestures slow down processing demands.

One thing you should know:

When you go to a public service, you should be asked if you or the person you support have any problems accessing information or communication. If you confirm, it should be recorded in your notes.

All services should make attempts at making their information to you accessible. Speech & Language Therapists are uniquely placed to adapt information BUT it is everybody’s job to communicate and give information that is accessible (and therefore inclusive).

The above is the ‘should do’ although not every service does. Or the accessible information is the generic ‘easy read’.

Your role in making public services more inclusive and accessible could be to work out what your specific needs are (do you need ‘plain English’, ‘easy read’, ‘social stories’ etc?).

In the most friendly and non-confrontational manner (you know I like when we all get on!!): remind services you have a communication need, remind services it is their duty to make information inclusive (go easy!), tell them what works for you, and if possible show them examples of how you understand best.

This post is inspired by the brilliant @Sarahmarieob on Twitter. Follow her!