Stage 5 – Meeting needs
Providers MUST deliver one or more accessible communication or contact methods to service users. Information, including correspondence and advice, should be provided in appropriate accessible formats. Administrative systems used to auto-generate correspondence should identify the need for alternative formats, generating correspondence in this form or prompting staff to make adjustments. Staff and service users may need training in the use of electronic aids/tools.
“My anticipation and hope for the Accessible Information Standard is that service providers are preparing, planning and considering how to bring systems in, so that patients and staff can have meaningful but positive and efficient interactions.”
Organisations should take steps to ensure professional communication support and information in alternative formats is delivered promptly.
Costs of accessible information / communication support
Service providers are responsible for making necessary adjustments at their own cost; not at the cost of the disabled person. Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission states: “If an adjustment is reasonable, the person or organisation providing it must pay for it. Even if a disabled person has asked for an adjustment, he/she should not be asked to pay for it.”
Meeting needs under the four categories
The AIS defines four new subsets for electronic system codes. These are available for use (mandated in conformance with criteria and timescales in the Standard). For further information on codes, please refer to the AIS guidance document below.
Specific contact method
Service providers MUST ensure the service user’s communication needs are flagged. For example, some service users with a hearing loss will not be able to telephone. Alternative accessible communication/contact methods can include emails and text messages.
Specific information format
Organisations must ensure that the need for information in an alternative format is flagged and either triggers the automatic generation of correspondence in an alternative format (preferred), or prompts staff to make alternative arrangements. A standard print letter MUST NOT be sent to an individual who is unable to read or understand it.
Use of ‘large print’
Recording information in ‘large print’: codes must specify font sizes and types to be used. Point sizes other than ‘standard’ (10 or 12 point) need to be specified – for example, point size 16 is required.
‘Sans serif’ fonts are easier to read for most people with visual loss and for people with learning disabilities. A ‘sans serif’ font is without the small projecting features called ‘serifs’ at the end of strokes. A well-known example of a ‘sans serif’ font is Arial.
Use of communication professionals
Where a professional interpreter is needed, the person must be skilled, experienced and qualified. The service provider must verify accreditation, qualification and registration with a relevant professional body. This is relevant for the use of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and deaf-blind manual interpreters, who must have:
Assurances of these requirements should be obtained by the service provider.
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Use of health and social care staff as communicators/interpreters
If health and social care staff are qualified, experienced and registered as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, they could work in this capacity, but only with the service user’s consent. This consent must be recorded. Providing an independent communication professional should always be offered.
Use of family members, friends or carers as interpreters
AIS aims to support individuals’ rights to autonomy and their ability to access health and social care services independently. Therefore, BSL interpretation and other communication support should ideally be provided by appropriately qualified and registered professional; not family members, friends or carers.
Requests for the use of specific professionals
Where possible, requests for a particular professional, the same professional or a male or female communications professional over a course of treatment, should be met where possible.
Remote access to communication support
Support can be delivered remotely using video calls where organisations meet qualification and registration requirements.
Key word signing including Makaton
Two of the most commonly used, and well known key word signing systems are Makaton and Signalong, which use gestures or pictorial formats.
This relates to the provision of support for effective communication (aids, equipment, or where staff make adjustments to their behaviour) - staff may need training to deliver these adjustments.
The need for longer appointments to enable effective communication will mean organisations flex scheduling systems and processes. Support from an interpreter will invariably take longer.