From time to time, I’ve often heard people complain about the way things are printed in newspapers, books, letters and other associated documents. ‘OH this doesn’t look good, how am I supposed to read this’. If things aren’t right, they will complain and quite often things will be done to make it right.
Fine and so they should, but what if you couldn’t access the print at all? Do we have the right to expect that printed document and information to be produced in an alternative format? Well, in the UK, apparently so. The Disability Discrimination act (1995) originally set out the reasonable expectation on organisations to provide information in alternative formats. This has been superseded by the Equality Act (2010), but reality says that this expectation hasn’t completely got through to the practices of some organisations.
There have been many examples of where people have been denied access to vital information due to the inflexibility of certain organisational practices and attitudes. I think I could fill many pages with examples of this, but for this blog entry, I’ll only highlight one. However, it will hopefully demonstrate the continual problem we have in gaining access to information which many people take for granted.
I’ll not name names; either with the person or the particular hospital/NHS trust. The best things to say is that it isn’t near here, but that’s all I can sayJ. A friend was due to start some treatment at a particular hospital. As part of this, they were given a welcome pack of important contact details, treatment details information and practices. When they enquired if this was available in an alternative format, they were sternly told that it wasn’t and that the health bosses would not let this happen. When digging a little further, they came up against a hard brick wall of silence. The information was key to their care, but the expectation was that other people had to read it to them and that they didn’t have the right to privacy and dignity. By simply having the information pack put onto audio CD, the trust would have met their legal obligations and given this person the respect that they do to others who can access print. This inequality needs addressing and challenging more vigorously.
The RNIB’s losing patience campaign made great strides in pushing health organisations to start changing their practices and recognising that visually impaired people have the right to information in the formats of their choice. It’s a huge task to change practices and attitudes overnight, but this needs to continue to make decision makers realise that they are not only missing their legal obligations but they are letting many people down. This is denying information that informs choice, which in turn gives us the same level of decision making that other people have. Now isn’t that something called equality?
Please feel free to share your experiences by either putting a comment at the bottom of this article; by commenting on the VI Talk Facebook group or posting a contribution on the VI Talk audio boo channel