Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Communication during COVID19

It has been a long time since I have put a blog up. 

With all the content being developed for this current time, it is already useful to have some reflections on what is being created for various audiences.

Below is a blog from Ariella Meltzer from Power to Persuade  @ariella_meltzer on 1 April 2020 discussing her observations as she collates accessible COVID19 resources.

She covers a number of highly relevant issues regarding accessible written content. Some of her comments and excerpts from her article are below:

How quickly does accessible information come out?

" Within a few days of the COVID-19 situation becoming serious in Australia, .....
the timeline should be the same for the accessible information – particularly in a crisis that has disproportionate impacts for people with disability."

Which accessible formats are covered, and why?

"......COVID-19 has been in Easy Read/Easy English format.
Auslan resources have also been produced, but are a distant second in terms of quantity.
Other formats – such as ‘social stories’, entirely pictorial (wordless) information and images for users of alternative and augmentative communication systems – have only been available very rarely, and not necessarily from Australian-based organisations."

" A thorough approach using multiple formats has never been more important."

To what extent is accessible information kept up-to-date?

" one accessible document cannot be enough, because the information – what is happening, what we know, the level of risk and the rules we need to abide by – keeps changing.

Only a minority of those producing accessible information are however continually updating their offerings as the COVID-19 situation changes and people’s information needs change. Access Easy English has provided many updates, including after each announcement of new social distancing rules by Prime Minister Morrison.........

Expression Australia has also provided regular updates in Auslan..............

Other organisations, such as IDEAS and PWD Australia, have included accessible information among their regularly updated COVID-19 information hub pages, ......

The work by these organisations show the importance of accessible information being kept as up-to-date as that which the rest of the population has available."

Is only the baseline information covered or the same variety of sub-topics that others receive?

"....risk ......only the most basic set of information is covered and that many of the sub-topics are left behind. .......A few organisations have led the way by publishing more than one accessible document about COVID-19.

Access Easy English has published many different documents including explainers on the virus and hand washing and summaries of the various social and health rules that have been announced.

Similarly, NSW Council for Intellectual Disability has published not only an easy explainer about COVID-19 but also separate documents about how to maintain one’s mental health during this period and about rules for staying home.

The Growing Space also has a page full of resources on different topics.

.....this variety of information seems very sensible, useful, practical and needed."

How, and by who, is the information produced and disseminated?

"......provision of accessible information on COVID-19 has been done by specialist information access services or disability advocacy groups. .......... In this respect, they are logical places from which such information can be distributed in an already-scary and unsettling time.

On the other hand, however, leaving the production of accessible information to these groups at a time of such critical public health messaging could also be seen as an abdication of responsibility by other information outlets who are otherwise covering COVID-19 and providing health advice. Should news services and governments also be involved in producing such information? There is some government department-branded accessible information on COVID-19, but it came out late and is not as comprehensive as that provided by the specialist information access services and disability advocacy groups."

Who checks the accuracy and quality of the information?

Finally, there is also a question about quality control of any accessible information on COVID-19. At a time when good messaging is of critical importance, it is vital that any accessible material provided to people is both accurate in its medical and social information and good quality, in terms of following accessible production guidelines (e.g. using proper formatting, pictures, easy language etc). Without being accurate and high quality, the usefulness of the information is diminished and, at worst, can confuse people or even give them the wrong information. The difficulty is that accessible information is an area that has not ever been regulated or subject to quality control checks in Australia. At the best of times, the quality of accessible information varies – and this matters even more when people’s lives depend on it. Collaboration between producers of accessible information who are well-trained in accessible production guidelines and health experts who can check the accuracy of the medical information included is ideal, but this is also hard to achieve at a moment when time and resources are so stretched. "

Thanks for sharing your reflections Ariella.

Look out now for my next blogs and commentaries on how information is provided at this time, and my new blog on Easy English and Easy Read. They are different.


Cathy Basterfield
Owner Access Easy English
Consultant – Speech Pathologist
Telephone: 0466 579 855

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