October regional participation networks: Accessible information and technology

Should we endeavour to achieve optimum results or should we simply try our best?

We’ve just held the Regional Network Events and the theme this time round was ‘Accessible information and technology’.

BookWe started each session with an ice-breaker exercise to introduce the theme, half of the participants were given a ‘jargon card’ and the other half given an ‘easy-read card’. Each card contained just one word and the aim of the game was to walk around the room and find the person with the word card which had the same meaning as yours. For example if you had a jargon card which said ‘participate’ then you would be partnered with the person who had an easy-read card saying ‘take part’ and then introduce each other. Other examples of words we used in this icebreaker were endeavour (try), discontinued (finished) and collaborate (work together). We took some of these words from the Plain English Campaign website.

This icebreaker worked well to get people chatting to each other and the feedback we had was positive. No one had used this icebreaker before but some participants had previously played Buzzword Bingo at jargon-heavy meetings.

In South East Wales the event was held in Ystrad Mynach. Barod CIC gave a presentation which outlined why it is important to provide clear information in an accessible format. They introduced the group to the services that Barod provide such as translating documents into Easy Read and/or Everyday English,  they also offer training packages to organisations with the aim to train staff to produce easy-read documents. All of Barod’s work is checked and proofread by people with learning disabilities. Sam from Learning Disability Wales also gave an introduction to the Clear and Easy Guide which is a comprehensive guide for organisations who want to make their information more accessible. The guide comes with an interactive DVD and is free for the voluntary and public sectors (limited to one per organisation). Contact Learning Disability Wales for more information.

In South West Wales we held the event in Felinfoel, Llanelli. Andrew Hubbard from the pilot Citizen Panel for Social Services and the Swansea Association of Independent Living focussed his session on Accessible Technology, making participants aware of how screen-reader software works for visually impaired people. Andrew ran a group exercise which explored a range of different scenarios that disabled people face when accessing everyday information such as job vacancies, bus/train times and advertisements. The exercise was then followed up by a group discussion. Barod CIC were also kind enough to give an introduction to the Clear & Easy guide again (for the second day in a row!)

person reading

After a short break, our training and development officer Siobhan demonstrated a tried and tested participative technique that we’ve used before and has always been very successful – the Hot Air Balloon from Dynamix’s book Spice it Up! This exercise encouraged participants to think about the way their own organisations provided information and how they could make it more accessible. Participants had to think of what was holding them back, who needed to be ‘on board’ and what was needed in order to really ‘make it fly’.

Funding and time constraints were often mentioned as something which was holding them back. One participant came up with the idea that a universal culture change was needed for more accessible information to be regularly available.

We then broke up into small groups to hear from participants about work that they are undertaking, good practice they have encountered or issues they are having. We heard about work happening in TPAS Cymru who are holding an event coming up in November on Public Engagement. We also heard that Communities First Cluster in Barry are holding IT drop-in sessions and delivering basic IT training on how to use the internet. There is also some excellent work being done by South Wales Police who have been doing engagement work with young people – finding out what they think of their local neighbourhood and which areas they feel safe or unsafe in. Carmarthenshire County Council have recently held a budget consultation and used a budget simulator which sounds like a great way to get people involved in budgeting.

Our North Wales event was in Llandudno Junction on a windy and rainy day that we’re so familiar with in Wales! We heard from two members of the pilot Citizen Panel for Social Services; Jennie and Beth Lewis. Beth started by telling the group about her life; she is 24 years old and has a learning disability, she lives in her own flat and has a job, she likes cooking and wants to do more things by herself. She can read very well but doesn’t always understand what the words mean so prefers shorter sentences with pictures. Beth and her mum, Jennie showed us lots of examples of information that were sent to her by post.  The participants were set  a task to translate a letter that had been sent to Beth into an easy-read format in small groups (which everyone found very difficult – ironically the letter is actually about a scheme specifically for disabled people, including people with learning disabilities) Beth walked around the room to read and check what people had written.

jennie-bethWe asked the groups to discuss how they would put Jennie and Beth’s thought provoking presentation into practice by thinking about how they could make the information their own organisations’ produce more accessible. There was certainly a lot to think about and some really interesting discussions were taking place. In particular someone said a big barrier is ‘legal speak’ and certain documents or contracts have to use particular wording and a way to overcome this is to put an easy read explanation alongside or underneath a statement, explaining what it says with a picture if necessary.

Overall this round of events were successful with a very interesting theme and all of our guests in the three areas did an excellent job at presenting. We’re very grateful to Barod, Andrew Hubbard and his assistant Bev, Jennie and Beth for helping us with these networks. Thanks to everyone for coming!

Our next round of network events will be held in February 2014, more details can be found on our website here. Booking early is essential as spaces are limited to 20 per event and they do fill up quickly! Don’t miss out!

–          Sarah

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6 thoughts on “October regional participation networks: Accessible information and technology

  1. Pingback: October regional participation networks: Accessible information and technology | weeklyblogclub

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  3. Pingback: May Regional Participation Networks: Co-production | www.participationcymru.org.uk

  4. Pingback: Rhwydweithiau Cyfranogaeth Ranbarthol Mai: Cydgynhyrchu | www.participationcymru.org.uk

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