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Interested in Accessibility? Check out our latest briefing...

Contents:

 

Summary


This briefing raises awareness of the equality considerations for creating more inclusive and accessible services as well as communicating with service users who face multiple barriers.

• Common barriers to inclusive communications relate to protected characteristics of age, disability, race (language barriers) and socio-economic disadvantage (specifically accessing online information and/or devices)

• Key points to consider in designing inclusive services include understanding that:

o 21% of adults in the UK do not have the basic skills required to use the internet in their day-to-day life.

o 49% of working-age adults felt excluded from society due to their disability or condition.

o In Fife, disability aggravated crime in Fife has been increasing year-on-year with 40 charges in 2022-23

o The EHRC recommends that that offline services are not neglected and are able to meet the needs of older people who may be digitally excluded.

• Several local organisations in Fife can provide assistance with interpretation, training, easy-read translation, awareness raising and peer-to-peer support, what matters is creating a culture of enabling inclusive communications.

• Better awareness and usage of the services providing inclusive communications and accessibility support in Fife can help develop both inclusive workplaces and services at the same time.


 

Introduction – key barriers

Disability

Under the Equality Act 2010, Disability is defined “physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”.

You are also classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you are diagnosed with a progressive condition, such as cancer.


Under the Equality Act, employers and public services must ensure that reasonable adjustments are made available to employees and clients, in order to reduce barriers. The Equality Act 2010 applies across the UK and all its local authorities, including Fife. There are 4.9 million disabled people in employment in the U.K.

In 2022-23, Fife had 15,100 people who were economically inactive due to long-term illness, this is 32% of the working age population in Fife, in-line with the Scottish averages of 31.9%. The Scottish Household survey 2019 shows that Fife has significantly higher percentage of households with members with long-term physical or mental health condition (34%) than the Scottish average (24%) and this tendency has been the case for the last three years. Disabled people, as well as facing increasing barriers to the workplace are also experiencing worse outcomes in terms of personal safety. On top of this, disability aggravated crime in Fife has been increasing year-on-year with 40 charges in 2022-23, increasing from 27 charges in 2021-22.

Language Barriers

Another major factor to consider in accessibility are language barriers.

Fife is a relatively diverse region for Scotland, with people from a range of different places around the globe. The National Records of Scotland shows that in Fife there are over 13,000 people from the European Union living in Fife, with 9,000 from Asia and 9,000 from other countries around the world. They also highlighted the most popular non-English languages that are spoken across Scotland:

  1. Polish (54,186 people)

  2. Urdu (23,394 people)

  3. Punjabi languages (23,150 people)

  4. Chinese languages (16,830 people)

  5. French (14,623 people)


This is reflected to a certain extent in Fife, with other languages such as Romanian being more prevalent in recent years. As such, it is important that the correct translation and interpretation provisions are in place to ensure that speakers of other languages are able to access the same opportunities as English speakers.


British Sign Language (BSL) and Hearing Loss

The RNID has highlighted that it is difficult to ascertain an exact number of users throughout the UK, however there is an estimated 151,000 BSL users throughout the UK. According to the most recent Census, in Scotland, 13,000 people used BSL in their home environment. There are approximately 200 BSL users in Fife (BSL Plan 2023).


Facing communication barriers as well are people who have hearing loss who might not be BSL users. Action on Hearing (2015) for instance reported that it was estimated that one in six people in Scotland are deaf or have hearing loss and that this proportion would increase with an ageing population.


Digital Exclusion and Poverty

As services become more digitally active, some people can slip through the cracks due to lack of resources or digital literacy. Poverty is a barrier that has been exacerbated in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current cost of living crisis. The Plan4Fife’s Tackling Poverty and Preventing Crisis report highlights how many people are impacted by poverty in Fife. The latest data shows that 23.2% of children in Fife are living in relative poverty, with 18.5% in absolute poverty. This is higher than the national average of 21% and 16.5%.


Digital literacy is a barrier that will become more prevalent as services become more digitally focused. Disability and economic deprivation are not the only barriers when it comes to accessing online services and resources, age can also be an additional barrier. The Office for National Statistics highlights that Fife currently has an ageing population, the median age has raised from 43.7 years to 44.5 years, with the old age dependency ratio also increasing.


 

Commentary – FCE perspective

Accessible communications has the potential to impact positively all protected characteristics. Under the Equality Act 2010, services have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for those with additional barriers, whether that be providing interpretation for service users or implementing software to assist members of staff with their work.


There are a wide range of different barriers that people face when it comes to communications. At FCE, we receive requests for advice and guidance on the following barriers most often:

  1. Language Barriers

  2. Visual Impairment and Learning Difficulties

  3. Inclusive Workplaces

  4. Digital exclusion and poverty


One of Fife Centre for Equalities’ (FCE) objectives is not only improving their own accessibility practices but assisting local groups and organisations to make their services more accessible. Our ongoing surveys, enabling reporting on Community Concerns and Hate Crime 3rd Party Reporting, our Equality Testers initiative (and upcoming app) are all easy ways for individuals and groups to feedback any barriers they have faced when trying to take part in public participation opportunities or access support and advice from Fife Council.

 

Working Examples – addressing Language Barriers, Visual Impairment

At FCE we try our best to ensure our online services are as inclusive as possible. One tool that we use for this is our accessibility plugins, which provide a range of different useful tools to assist in reading, listening and watching our content:

The plugin allows for small, quality of life improving features such as a reading mask for people with conditions like ADHD, to screen reading capabilities for the visually impaired. There are also pre-set profiles that users can pick in order to quickly achieve their desired pre-set.

On top of this, the webpage’s content can also be translated to multiple languages using the Google Translate function. Although it is not 100% accurate, it can make a huge different for our clients who may not usually access our content due to barriers like language. The example below showcases the visually impaired profile, as well as the translation feature:

Plugins like the example above are a great help for improving the accessibility of the website.

That is just one aspect of how we can communicate with clients and service users inclusively, as mentioned previously, digitally excluded individuals would struggle to access our website. To help address this, we always ask our clients what their preferred method of contact is, whether it be text messages, letters or emails / websites.


We are incredibly lucky to have an extremely talented team of multilingual staff that can assist when communicating with clients

and promoting our work, as shown in the

Minority Ethnic 60+ Project poster (right).

Last year, FCE also recently moved to a ground floor office, to make it easier for clients with additional requirements and mobility issues to visit us for in-person support.















 

Understanding inclusive workspaces and reasonable adjustments

The U.K. Government has produced a list of potential reasonable adjustments that employers must be aware of in order to assist disabled employees and applicants. These include:


  1. application forms, for example providing forms in Braille or audio formats

  2. aptitude tests, for example giving extra time to complete the tests

  3. dismissal or redundancy

  4. discipline and grievances

  5. interview arrangements, such as providing wheelchair access, communicator support

  6. making sure the workplace has the right facilities and equipment for disabled workers or someone offered a job

  7. promotion, transfer and training opportunities

  8. terms of employment, including pay

  9. work-related benefits like access to recreation or refreshment facilities


In 2018 the United Nations (UN) performed a review of the U.K. in order to gain an insight on how well disabled people were treated. They found that legal standards need to be improved to make:

  • the physical environment,

  • housing,

  • transport,

  • information and other services more accessible to disabled people.


Disability Passports

Disability (or reasonable adjustment) passports were created in order to support people with disabilities in getting the correct support within the workplace. In 2019, TUC had found that 1 in 10 disabled people had dropped out of work in the UK.

Disability passports aim to not only remind employers of their duties to staff but to make it easier for disabled employees to explain what they need to support them in their day-to-day activities. Follow the FCE website for our upcoming briefing on this topic.


 

Understanding Digital Exclusion and experiences of older age groups

Each year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) publish their findings on equalities and human rights in Scotland and the UK. One of the key points they raised was digital literacy: Older adults (aged 60 years and over) are still less likely to use the internet and online security measures than other age groups. In 2019, 43% of people aged 75 and over used the internet, compared with 99% of 16–24-year-olds.

It was recommended by EHRC, that offline services are not neglected and are able to meet the needs of older people who may be digitally excluded. Following from this, it also highlighted the barriers faced by people with disabilities, with only 71% of adults reporting a disability or condition regularly using the internet, in comparison to 90% for those without a disability.

Again, EHRC’s recommendations focused on ensuring offline services are of the same quality and availability for those who are digitally excluded. Research by Scope found that 60% of people feel that they underestimate how many disabled people there are, with 49% of working-age adults felt excluded from society due to their disability or condition.


The importance of accessibility cannot be understated. It assists people in navigating both the virtual and physical world. Accessibility can be categorised into different sections that each come with their own set of recommendations:


  • Visual – audio, audio descriptions, braille documentation, telephone calls

  • Mobility – ramp access, clear sign-posting, changing facilities, disabled bathrooms

  • Auditory – subtitling, British Sign Language (BSL) translation, SMS contact

  • Cognitive – easy-read documents, plain english


 

Understanding Digital Exclusion and Poverty

As mentioned previously, poverty in Fife continues to rise and is above the national averages. Last year, the Scottish Government updated their poverty insights. It was found that 57% of working age adults were in relative poverty after housing costs.


Inspiring Scotland published a report on digital exclusion in Scotland, and how it impacts individuals and groups. They found that some of the primary reasons for not accessing the internet is cost, as well as having no interest in using online services.

Their recommendations include not only prioritizing providing hardware and classes on digital skills to those most at risk, but creating a culture of mentoring, confidence and support across public services.

Research from the Lloyds Consumer Index in 2021 found that 21% of adults in the UK do not have the basic skills required to use the internet in their day-to-day life.

There are concerns and challenges, particularly for the third sector. The most prominent one being the cost of digital inclusion and infrastructure to small, local organisations.


 

Implications and recommendations - For Organisations and Services

  • The key recommendation is to provide a balance between online and in person service provision.

  • When designing for online, use contemporary guides and frameworks that are tipped towards the end user experience, an not functioning mainly for the service provider.

  • In-person points of contact can assist and navigate online services as well as understanding specific needs of clients, and still use the same data infrastructure.


Useful guides for online accessibility

There are a number of different guidelines that organisations and employers are recommended to follow in order to meet accessibility requirements. One of the most prominent being the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).


The WCAG guidelines emphasise what is required to ensure that websites are following best practice. It takes into consideration aspects such as:


Visual Aspects:

  • Alternative Text

  • Clear, Simple Text

  • Consistency Style

  • Contrasting Colours

  • Closed Captioning on Videos

  • Not using images of text

Functional Aspects:

  • Descriptive Links

  • Keyboard-Only Navigation

  • Form fields are correctly labelled

  • Responsive, mobile-friendly layouts

Audio Aspects:

  • Transcripts of any audio or video

  • Ensure any webpages are screen reader-ready

  • Let users pause any auto-playing content

Cognitive Aspects:

  • Easy-read options available

  • Logical website layout

  • Easy-to-understand headings and labels o Highlight any changes in language


On top of these guidelines, the U.K. Government published their own recommendations that assist in reducing the need for additional accessible format versions of documents, such as:


  • Keeping consistent, plain, and simple language

  • Ensuring paragraph is concise and evenly spaced

  • Using minimum 14-point font sizing


 

ONLINE Accessibility – Pros and Cons:

The purpose of accessibility is to ensure that as many people as possible can access the information, services or activities that they need. As such, there are a number of pros and cons to improving accessibility for your organisation.


Granicus and the ADA have published interesting articles that highlight some of the benefits to online engagement, including points such as:


  • Reaching groups and individuals who may not normally engage or be aware of your work.

  • Improved access to content for people with additional barriers.

  • Increased website traffic, due to more people being able to view your content.

  • Improved website search engine optimisation (SEO), guiding more traffic to your pages.


For the “cons”, there are very few when it comes to improving online accessibility, the biggest barrier that organisations often face when trying to improve their practices is cost, both in terms of both staff time and monetary costs. Improving accessibility for websites, forms, social media content and more can be a huge learning curve for teams, resulting in increased time spent on development. On top of this, organisations pose the risk of inadvertently digitally excluding those who may not have the skills or resources to access the internet and digital devices.


The Digital Heritage Hub highlights a number of ways to improve digital inclusion for service users, some examples include:


  • Examining your current audiences, what groups are you not reaching currently? How can you use your current resources to reach them?

    • This could be anything from posters in local noticeboards and community hubs to a physical presence at community events and local fayres.

  • Do you have alternatives for information that relies on service users using smartphones e.g. QR codes?

  • Providing paper copies of online forms and surveys for individuals to use.

  • When possible, encourage service users to visit in person to access online resources, with support, to improve confidence and skills.


 

IN-PERSON Accessibility Best practice for organisations – a basic overview:


Fife Centre for Equalities created their own accessible events toolkit, which aimed to act as a step-by-step guide for anyone organising meetings, training sessions, conferences and other events whilst looking to create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, where all people can feel welcomed and included.


Some key items to look out for include:

  • Public Transport Links

  • Disabled Parking Spaces

  • Entryways / Corridors wide enough for a wheelchair

  • Accessible toilet / Changing places

  • Is there lift or ramp access?

  • Does the building have its own hearing loop support?

  • Accessible seating arrangements

  • Interpretation options for attendees (e.g. BSL, alternative languages)


The Social Care Institute for Excellence have also created guidance that assists individuals and organisations in choosing suitable venues. Inclusive Communication Scotland have a comprehensive guide to inclusive events preparation, covering items such as the time of the event to how refreshments should be organised and provided:


Timing:

  • For events within the working day it is advisable that the start and end times are within the period 10.00 – 15.00. Meetings with an earlier start or later finish may cause difficulties for people with caring responsibilities.

  • It is important that meetings longer than about 2 hours allow for one or more short breaks. In timing the breaks thought should be given to scheduling them around meal times (e.g. for people who may need regular food intake relating to a health condition) or prayer times. Such breaks will also benefit all those present and will assist concentration.


Venue:

  • Is there disabled parking near to the venue?

  • Is the route from and nearest entrance to the car park easily accessible?

  • Is there a fully accessible toilet near to the meeting room i.e. one that will accommodate a wheelchair user, possibly accompanied by a personal assistant?

  • Does the room incorporate a hearing loop and are those who will be running the event aware of how it works?

  • Is there private space near to the venue for people who may need to use them for a short period e.g. for religious observance, to administer medication etc.


The full guidance can be found on their website here.


IN-PERSON Accessibility – Pros and Cons

Similarly to online practices, there are pros and cons to improving methods of in-person accessibility as well. The not-for-profit organisation, Dimensions has shared a useful guide to in-person assistive technology and the benefits that it has on both the organisation and clients. Some of these benefits are:

  • Improves confidence and independence of those who utilise the necessary equipment or technology.

  • Inclusive planning allows for more people to engage and use the service or take part in activities.

  • Clients are more likely to use your service again if they are able to access it without facing any barriers.

  • Your organisation will have a good reputation by supporting others.


The main negative aspect of in-person engagement is the cost of time, as well as being limited in reach – however at FCE we consider that this is usually counterbalanced by the value of directly communicating with clients and understanding theirs needs better and quicker.


 

Communities and equality groups

Useful resources in Fife


As part of the Minority Ethnic 60+ Project, FCE developed a short booklet with useful numbers for those struggling to access the services they need. It includes interpretation options as well as other general services.


Contact Scotland BSL focuses on 24/7, video interpretation for organisations and individuals from across Scotland. It is a useful resource for anyone looking for interpretation with meetings, online events etc. They also have an app that users can download if they do not have access to a computer.


People 1st (Fife) support adults with learning disabilities and difficulties from across Fife. They host regular groups for members to discuss the challenges they face and opportunities for them to contribute in public consultations and decisions. All of their resources are available in an easy-read format.


The BSL plan for Fife is a roadmap for how the support and services will evolve and contribute to public services. It works across the Fife Council, the Health & Social Care Partnership, NHS Fife and Fife College.


NHS Fife’s BSL services are available to anyone looking for interpretation support when accessing NHS resources, mental health support and calling the emergency services. They are also a key component of the BSL plan for Fife.


Across Fife there are a few hard of hearing groups that support individuals with social events, regular meetings and useful information on interpretation, BSL lessons and hearing aids.


The Fife Community Interpreting Service (FCIS) supports groups and individuals with interpretation at events, one-on-one sessions, meetings and more.


Disability Equality Scotland can provide easy read translation and formatting for a range of different documents and fliers. On top of this, they also provide easy read training for those looking to learn more about it.


 

Looking for our other reports, guidance and briefings?


Our resources page is a handy one-stop-shop for all of our published reports, briefings, toolkits and guidance. If you would like to view more of our work, please click here!


If you are looking for more information or have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at info@centreforequalities.org.uk, call 01592 645310 or text 07800 005834.

 

References:


UK GOVERNMENT (2023) Digital skills and inclusion - giving everyone access to the digital skills they need [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


UK GOVERNMENT (2023) Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


RNID (2023) Prevalence of British Sign Language [online]. Peterborough: RNID

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


FIFE COUNCIL (2023) Fife's action on Poverty [online]. Glenrothes: Fife Council

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


PLAN4FIFE (2023) Tackling Poverty and Preventing Crisis Report [online].

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


EHRC (2023) Is Scotland Fairer? [online]. Glasgow: EHRC

[Accessed 08 Feb 2024]


INSPIRING SCOTLAND (2020) Digital Inclusion in Scotland [online]. Edinburgh: Inspiring Scotland

[Accessed 08 Feb 2024]


INCLUSIVE COMMUNICATION SCOTLAND (2023) How to organise an inclusive and accessible event [online]. Glasgow: Disability Equality Scotland

[Accessed 12 Feb 2024]


CITIZENS ONLINE (2023) Digital Inclusion [online]. Gloucestershire: Citizens Online

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


CULTUREHIVE (2022) How to reach digitally excluded audiences [online].

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


EHRC (2018) How well is the UK performing on disability rights? [online]. Glasgow: EHRC

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


SCOPE (2021) Accessibility and Disability: UK research [online]. London: Scope

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


FIFE COUNCIL (2017) FIFEplan [online]. Glenrothes: Fife Council

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


GRANICUS (2023) Benefits of online community engagement [online]. United States: Granicus

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


SCOTTISH HOUSEHOLD SURVEY (2023) Scottish Household Survey data explorer [online]. Edinburgh: Scottish Household Survey

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


CITIZENS ADVICE (2023) Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people [online]. London: Citizens Advice

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT (2023) Connecting Scotland programme [online]. Glasgow: Connecting Scotland

[Accessed 29 Jan 2024]


UK GOVERNMENT (2023) Discrimination, your rights [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


UK GOVERNMENT (2023) Accessible communication formats [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


UK Government (2023) Employment of disabled people 2022 [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


UK GOVERNMENT (2023) Understanding WCAG 2.2 Service Manual [online]. London: UK Government

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


SOCIAL CARE INSTITUTE FOR EXCELLENCE (2023) Choosing a venue [online]. Egham: Social Care Institute for Excellence

[Accessed 08 Feb 2024]


WCAG (2023) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [online].

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


NATIONAL RECORDS OF SCOTLAND (2022) Population by Country of Birth and Nationality Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland

[Accessed 08 Dec 2023]


 


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