The Politics of Easy Read
I have come across three main barriers to producing easy information;
1) Lack of understanding of the tangible difference it can make to people’s everyday lives
2) Lack of money and time (all projects need both)
3) Using complex information to maintain power or superiority (usually not deliberately!)
Where there is power, there is politics. Local Authorities have power that individuals do not; they control the resources that people depend on for support. Individuals might have the law on their side (eg. Care Act) but may not have the knowledge or the help they need to get their legal rights upheld.
Whilst making information for Local Authorities, I have often had to ask them awkward questions … “what do you mean when you say ‘we will review and rationalise the provision of transport to people in the conurbations’ or ‘we are carrying out an audit into the overall effectiveness of day opportunities as a means to reduce our spend over the next budgeting cycle’”.
To put these statements into everyday language requires honesty and a level of bluntness that can cause upset and protest.
Effective “Easy Read” shifts the balance of power towards individuals who may otherwise be baffled by the wafflings of Learning Disability strategies, consultations or tenancy agreements. Organisations need to committed to this power shift – it doesn’t work if it only exists on paper. The change has to be real, and must be based upon relationships and respect.
For example, many parents would appreciate an Easy Read version of the SEND Code of Practice. A quick “Google” doesn’t produce any results, beyond a 54-page guide to the changes in the SEND system which happened in 2014. I would say that the page count alone means that it is not “Easy Read” but that is perhaps another blog. The lack of an Easy Read version means that parents who struggle to read the full version or the accompanying guidance for parents, will not know what their children are entitled to. Their power as parent-advocates is greatly reduced, and the power of the state, the Local Authority or the school is thus increased.
So, Easy Read can be a great leveller of people. Powerful institutions must be brave, be transparent, and welcome the contributions of people with lived experience. Working in partnership and communicating effectively is surely the strongest platform for innovation and improvement.