Ideal Queen's Speech: Accessible government info for people with learning disabilities
As the Queen’s Speech approaches, United Response explain why their ideal speech would involve a ‘Bill on Accessible Information’.
“My Government will introduce a Bill to make information more accessible”
United Response’swish list for the Queen’s Speech would be a bill requiring all government departments and public bodies to make the information they produce more accessible.
People with learning disabilities and other disadvantaged groups are affected by changes in policy and legislation in the same way as everyone else. Yet without information being made available to them in a format that they can understand – such as through the use of simplified words and helpful images – many people are left unaware and unable to influence political debate.
Prior to the last General Election, United Response launched Every Vote Counts, a campaign to make the voting system and information about voting more accessible to the thousands of people with learning disabilities in the UK who were not using their vote.
The campaign was successful, but we became aware that having a democratic voice is about more than just voting, it’s about having a say in everything that happens in between elections as well. This is why at the beginning of 2013, United Response launched Easy News – the first ever accessible news magazine for people with learning disabilities. The magazine, which is produced by UR Consultants, a team of people with learning disabilities, who are experts at easy read translation, provides a round-up of recent news stories, through simple text and images.
Feedback from a survey that we conducted amongst Easy News readers shows the impact that accessible information can have. At the launch of Easy News, only 31 per cent of readers felt that politics made a difference to their lives. A year on and that figure has increased to 78 per cent.
In April, United Response produced an Easy News special on The Chancellor’s Budget. The summary explained the key announcements in the budget including those on the state of the economy, pensions, the welfare cap, energy bills and fuel duty – issues which affect us all.
Feedback on the summary was incredibly positive and highlighted the need for Government departments to make important information of this kind readily available in an easy read format.
Whilst it is true that some government departments are already recognising that fact, it still remains the exception rather than the norm, and we would like to see it extended to all departments as well as other public bodies. We believe that it is only by making information available in this way that people with learning disabilities will truly get to have their say.