Sensory Trust factsheet

 

Inclusive communication, accessible information and access information... what's the difference?

Communication that is easy and inviting to engage with is a crucial part of making your venue or service accessible to people with disabilities. People are unlikely to visit if they don't know a place is accessible or relevant to them, and will have a poor experience if they can't access the information or messages when they get there. Disappointed or frustrated visitors will quickly tell their friends about their experiences. It is also underpinned by legislation. In the UK the Equality Act 2010 places a requirement on service providers to avoid discriminating against people on the basis of any of nine protected characteristics.

Inclusive communication ensures that your promotion, on-site information and other materials reach the widest audience. Everyone benefits from the approach, but some people benefit most. In particular people with limited literacy, learning disabilities and hearing and visual impairments, including people who have forgotten to take their reading glasses on a day out. Inclusive communication is one of the easiest ways to open up to new and missing audiences. It is not about 'dumbing down' your messages, it's about being more creative and ensuring that you say what you mean: simply and directly.

An online search for guidance will reveal a collection of terms and it's important to understand how these relate to each other, so here are our definitions:

Inclusive communication means reaching as many people as possible with your promotion, visitor information and other materials.

Accessible information is the main tool for making your information inclusive by producing materials in ways that meet specfic user needs, for example by adding Braille, Large Print and Symbols.

Accessibility information describes the accessibility of your venue or service, often in the form of an online 'Visitor Access Guide'.

 

Inclusive communication - key principles

Inclusive communication ensures you maximise the reach of your messages and information. The following principles will help you embed an inclusive approach:

  • Adopt inclusive design standards to underpin all your communications work, from websites, to visitor information, educational materials and consumer surveys. For example, choosing an easy-to-read, appropriately sized font.
  • Remember communication is just as important as physical access so always address it in access reviews and plans.
  • Ensure your marketing, website and graphics teams are trained in inclusive design and understand why the approach is important.
  • Involve different user groups in reviews of on-site signage, interpretation, visitor information and pre-visit materials to highlight any issues and prioritise improvements.
  • Develop a clear strategy for using accessible information, for example Sign Language, Braille and Large Print. Consider how these will be updated.
  • Make your communication relevant to different people, recognising that any target market will include people with disability and health issues. If all your images on your website show families with young children, or you only show the more challenging parts of your site, it shouldn't come as a surprise when an older audience or people with limited mobility fail to engage. Consider how the pictures on your website, the things you choose to say and tone of voice, reflect your target audience and who is being left out.

Eden banners line the entrance walkway at the Eden Project

These banners lining the entrance to the Eden Project are a good example of inclusive communication. Designed by the Sensory Trust, the simple, engaging narrative is shared through large, clear font and the pictures show a rich mix of people and activities.

Accessible information

Accessible information is the main way of making inclusive communication by using specific formats and techniques for sharing information. It is important to integrate alternative techniques such as Braille or Widgit symbols, or Sign Language and audio, into your overall communications work rather then treating them as separate channels. This will ensure that people with different communication needs can enjoy the experience together.

Plant label with text, Braille and symbolsSensory trail at Heligan gardens

Simple examples of integrating accessible information. At Stourhead Gardens we opened up plant labels through Braille, Large Print and Widgit symbols; at Heligan gardens, the Sensory Story Trail tests the Sensory Trust's Trail Marker Kit, using symbols to guide people along a sensory journey.

Accessibility Information

Many people need information about a venue or service before they decide if it's for them. This is particularly true for people living with health and disability issues, who may need more reassurance that the experiences are accessible and of interest to them. Developing this information can be a good way of reviewing your venue and services, especially if you involve people with disabilities.

An Accessibility Guide provides key information to enable people with disabilities to plan their visit. Key design ingredients include:

  • How to get there, eg is there accessible public transport and accessible parking
  • Opening hours and support, eg access volunteers, contact telephone number and portable seats and wheelchairs on loan
  • Gradients, steps, toilets etc, especially important for people with limited mobility and not forgetting that details like distance and seating are critical for people with limtied stamina
  • Events, weddings, school visits, making sure all activities are included
  • Assistance dogs and specific needs, this shows you have thought about everyone including the person who most wants to know there will be a water bowl for their dog.

Eden online access guide

The Access Guide was developed by the Sensory Trust to provide information about all aspects of planning a visit to the Eden Project.

Plant label with text, Braille and symbols

Examples of inclusive communication at the Sensory Trust

Research published in our Making Connections publication shows us that one of the biggest barriers to visiting places is the lack of information about what is on offer.
"42% of people said their main reason for not visiting their local park was a lack of information"

Can we help?

Sensory Trust consultancy service includes:

  • visitor access guides, leaflets, booklets
  • maps, trail markers, signage
  • games, activities to engage the senses
Group of greenspace managers engaged in site reviewgofindit card saying 'huge'

Legislation

There are two key pieces of legislation:

  • The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for service providers to discriminate on the basis of any of the protected characteristics - this includes
  • The Access Information Standard was introduced by the UK government in 2016 to ensure that people with a disability or sensory loss are given information in a way they can understand. It applies to NHS and adult social care services, but even if you work in other sectors we recommend familiarising yourself.