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Boosting consultation and engagement through accessibility friendly innovation: Digital easy-read surveys

Boosting consultation and engagement through accessibility friendly innovation: Digital easy-read surveys

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By producing easy-read versions of our questionnaires we can improve participation in our engagement and consultation exercises with people who would otherwise be put off by longer, more complicated forms.

Background

Easy-read is a method of presenting written information to make it easier to understand for people with difficulty reading. Easy-read advocates sentences of no more than ten to fifteen words, with each sentence having just one idea and one verb. Active sentences are used instead of passive sentences. Any difficult word or idea is explained in a separate sentence. An easy read document is usually presented in at least 14-point text and includes carefully selected images to help people understand.

Action

This year we developed easy-read versions of the questionnaires and combined them with our online survey tool for even greater accessibility. The survey tool is used to host all of our surveys, but it had not been used to host easy-read versions of the questionnaires before now. We are not aware of anyone doing this before.

As a result, these questionnaires are now accessible online and can be quickly and widely spread to interested individuals and groups via email and social media.

The project was launched six months ago and, so far, we have produced two online easy-read surveys, which are currently live and part of ongoing engagement exercises.

Impact

Hosting the surveys which are prepared in the specialist easy-read format on our online survey tool has increased responses more than 18-fold and provided several other benefits for our clients and their stakeholders. By using the online tool, respondents do not need to send a request for a paper version or download the PDF version to print, complete and post back. The survey is fully accessible online via a click of a button, making it much easier to access and participate in.

The link to the survey can be shared much more easily and this has been particularly useful when working with specific groups or individuals who may or do require the easy-read version, such as people with a learning disability, whose first language isn’t English or who have a lower reading age.

Our easy-read versions have always been visually more engaging for participants, using such tools as photographs and graphics to make them more attractive and understandable. We can now enhance the specialist format further on our online version, using designs and iconography for rating scales (such as smiley faces) to make them more visually appealing and interesting. They also come across as less formal and intimidating to people who might be put off from responding to more official-looking questionnaires which use more complex language.

Feedback

We commissioned NHS Midlands and Lancashire to help design our Mental Health consultation survey. During the planning stage they suggested that we may like them to both design and host on their in-house survey tool an easy-read version of the mental health consultation questionnaire. I was immediately interested but requested an example to review first. I was delighted! I could immediately see the potential benefits of the easy-read version. We have placed the links side by side on our consultation website. The easy read version of the consultation survey has proven far more popular than we initially envisaged. Whilst it still has simplified language and engaging imagery and pictures this has now been extended to a more interactive and impactful approach as things like ratings buttons now have smiley/sad faces. I’m really pleased and definitely feel it is assisting us to engage more effectively with our patients and public.

Sue Venables, Head of Communications and Insight, LLR CCGs

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