Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD)
We all need help to understand things when our circumstances and the world in which we live in changes. We need to be informed if we are to have choice and control as independent and active citizens. When the world changes dramatically, as it has during the ongoing pandemic, then the need to provide accessible and understandable information is greater than ever.
In our engagement with people with learning disabilities during the pandemic, they stressed that there was a lack of accessible information about the changes that were taking place. This helped to reinforce the sense of alarm and isolation that many individuals felt and experienced. So many of us felt bewildered and sometimes afraid… Now imagine how individuals whose communication needs mean they can struggle to absorb new information and new ways of doing things must have felt.
Throughout the pandemic, the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD), has helped to support the Scottish Government in developing Easy Read resources to try and make the new guidance and announcements more accessible for people with learning disabilities. We also co-produced a series of guided self-help booklets developed for people with mild to moderate learning/intellectual disabilities designed by academics and combined these with other resources to form a hub of accessible information.
In March 2020 SCLD set up a Facebook group – ‘SCLD stay in touch’ to help us stay connected to the people with learning disabilities who we work with. The group now has over 160 members and has been a key touchstone in helping us communicate key information about COVID-19 and the pandemic, as well as providing a means of social interaction for members.
Digital has been key in our response, however, it is important to recognise that the information itself should not just be accessible, but the places where it is stored must be accessible for all of our citizens. Digital exclusion means that web resources are not appropriate for everyone; we helped distribute 12,555 paper versions of the guided self-help booklets to people and organisations across Scotland during the past year, showing the demand for hard copy information.
It is also important that accessible information is developed as soon as possible to support any significant policy announcements. One of the challenges SCLD has faced during the pandemic is keeping our information as up-to-date as possible in an ever-changing climate. However, through working with partners such as People First (Scotland) and NHS Inform we have strived to achieve this as much as possible. Organisations interested in developing easy read resources should consult the outstanding Easy Read service offered by Disability Equality Scotland: www.easyread.scot
Ultimately, an important lesson to learn during the pandemic is that accessible information is not just about being in a crisis. We can all avoid unnecessary jargon and nebulous language. Making ideas and ways of working easier to understand, doesn’t just help people with learning disabilities, but can make things easier and fairer for everyone.
For more information, visit the SCLD website: www.scld.org.uk