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Information banners at Eden Project designed by Sensory Trust

Inclusive communication

Inclusive communication ensures that information is easy and inviting for people of all ages, disabilities and backgrounds. This guide outlines the principles and motivations for making your communication inclusive.

Inclusive communication means reaching as many people as possible with your promotion, visitor information and other materials. It is a crucial part of making a venue or service accessible to the widest range of people.

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.

Benefits of inclusive communication

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.

Key principles of inclusive communication

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 the 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 your tone of voice, reflect your target audience and who is being left out.

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

Adopting the principles of inclusive communication will ensure your information is as easy to use as possible. It is also important to include accessible information, which means producing materials in ways that meet specific user needs, for example using braille, Sign Language, Large Print and Widgit symbols.

It is important to integrate these alternative formats 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.

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.

What the legislation says

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.

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