In 2018, let’s all make our communications more accessible.
Clear communications for all
As you are no doubt aware, TPAS Cymru is a strong advocate for:
Improving tenant communication in the Housing sector
Improving rights and experiences of disabled people.
So, I thought I would set out a couple of simple but effective changes we all could make in 2018 that would get us all started.
1) Make Bilingual emails better.
Let’s start with a simple one: Bilingual emails for newsletters and organisational communications.
How many of you have received an email which begins with “‘scroll down for [English/Welsh] version”?
I’m sorry to say, but that’s a real challenge for someone who is visually impaired using a screen reader. There is an easy solution though - if you made that a clickable link i.e. “click to jump to the English below” then the screen reader can do that instantly.
It’s not difficult to implement, and would be a huge improvement for screen reader users.
Many readers will know disability campaigner Paul Clasby (a Tai Ceredigion tenant). He uses a screen reader, and therefore he naturally feels strongly about this. He is calling for all organisations to do this. TPAS Cymru have listened to Paul, and our fab website supplier ITPie made the changes to the 4 standard email templates we use on our Mailchimp platform in a matter of an hour or so. They also gave us instructions on how to add it to any personal bilingual emails you are sending out via your standard personal email system, such as Outlook.
So, it’s clearly an easy, achievable amendment that can make life easier for those using a screen reader, so why aren’t other organisations doing it?
If your Web/IT people can’t sort this for you let us know and I’ll ask ITPie if we can share their step by step guidance with you.
2) Subtitles in Video.
Video is a key communication channel when engaging with tenants and the wider community. If you use any social media, you probably unconsciously watch many short videos a day. I think we can all agree that subtitles are key for people with hearing impairments and that we should all be using them as standard. But did you also know that that 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound, so without subtitles is your message being heard?.
Using video can be an effective and useful participation tool – if it’s done right. To make sure that you are using this tool correctly and for maximum benefit, why not book yourself onto TPAS Cymru’s excellent 1-day Video Participation course? It’s a cost-effective and highly informative yet practical course that covers getting accessibility right in a digital age. Feedback from delegates has been exceptional so for more information about this course or to book your place, contact: [email protected]
3) Challenge the PDF outputs
All websites have PDF documents to download. Anyone in a communication role will have added a PDF document to a website at some point.
We love PDFs because it fixes the output in terms of look and feel, it makes it harder to make changes or to copy, and it creates a standard output.
However, let’s just reflect on that for a second…. ‘we purposely make it hard to adapt’ - yet for some people with accessibility needs, they will want to change the font style, size, spacing and contrast to suit their individual requirements. Providing an alternative format like Word or an Open source document file format so that the user can adapt the document, is also something that campaigner Paul Clasby is calling for.
Along with most of Wales, we at TPAS Cymru recognise that we need to get better at doing this and in 2018 we will.
4) Typeface/Fonts matter
If you attended our successful Best Practice Seminar, you heard me speak about why fonts matter. I could write pages on this, but let’s just start with a few simple tips that you can easily implement in 2018.
1) It’s claimed that 10% of Wales has a form of Dyslexia. In scientific studies, typefaces like Helvetica, Courier, Arial and Verdana tested the best for people with Dyslexia. Why? Because they are sans-serif, roman and monospaced. You don’t need to understand what that means, but if in doubt use one of the ones mentioned above for your communications. At TPAS Cymru, we use Myriad which also tests positively.
2) There are some other good typefaces designed specifically for Dyslexia. The most popular free font is OpenDyslexic which incorporates all the best theory on this subject i.e.
Good ascenders and descenders (do length of letters like y and g etc. stick out enough)
Different b & d, and p & q - not mirror images etc.
The g and a looking like handwriting
There are more, however, it’s worth noting that limited tests haven’t proved it is any better in practice compared to the solid theory.
3) Ditch the blocks of small heavy text. Give your text room to breathe. Consider sentence length, font size, line spacing etc.
4) Avoid the Italics. Tests with people with dyslexia show that many struggle with Italics – in fact, they can really struggle. For example, standard Arial tests very positively, however Arial in Italics tests very badly.
5) Time to ditch the Comic Sans. It’s no secret that I dislike Comic Sans. Part of this dislike is that every week, someone will defend this comic book typeface by saying that ‘It’s great for people with dyslexia’ or ‘it’s the best for children’. I can’t agree with that. The evidence suggests that it only works because it meets the ‘sans-serif, roman and monospaced’ criteria but the other typefaces mentioned above test much better. With regards to using Comic Sans with children, it seems that because of its overuse it is now a form of urban myth that children prefer it. If you used Comic Sans alternatives then you would get better results. It’s also worth noting that in a study of children aged 7-9 the most successful factor for reading was a bigger font size, not the font.
If this post has struck a note with you, you may be interested to know that one the Europe’s leading authorities on digital accessibility is an agency called Dig Inclusion and the Director is Grant Broome who is based in Neath. Why not check out their 4min video: An Introduction to Digital Accessibility and if you are serious about digital inclusion (and we all should be) then contact them for support.
We all know that we should make our communications clearer and more accessible to all and I’ve offered just a few simple suggestions in this blog post, but even though they are simple changes, they can have a big impact.
We at TPAS Cymru are committed to ensuring that our communications are the best that they can be and we’re constantly learning and improving. It would be great if we could all make 2018 the year in which we work to create clear communications for all.
David Rhys Wilton
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