#ShiftThePower

Universal Accessibility

Why shouldn’t we be designing training that is universally accessible? Do we not all learn when training is well-paced and clear? Where there is the ability and invitation to take on learning and explore in-depth?

On Our Radar has been training community reporters for nearly 10 years now. Over those years, our curriculum and ways of training have shifted as communities have changed contexts, technology has increased, and our understanding of what learners need has grown. 

The most exciting developments in our training have come over the last few months. Earlier this year, we were invited to develop a training programme for a disability network that included learners with learning disabilities. This drew up some fundamental changes and updates that needed to be made. Critically, this included converting our training curriculum to an Easy Read format. 

Easy Read involves presenting text in an accessible, easy-to-understand format. Sentences are broken down. They are short and punctuated minimally. The language should be free of complex terms or jargon. Text is presented in size 16 font and separated out on the page, all in a document that is very clearly and logically structured. Crucially, each point is accompanied by an image – photo or illustration – which can help people to understand the meaning of the text. 

Alongside this, we’ve worked with accessibility consultants and Deaf and Disabled user-testers, and their feedback has been invaluable. Training videos now include Closed Captions, British Sign Language, and full written transcripts.

Approaching Accessibility

A lot of Radar’s work with disability rights has been in East and West Africa. Because of the culture in many of the spaces we work, a large number of those who come to us have a physical disability. As a result, physical accessibility in our training spaces has long been a priority. With a diverse mix of needs and abilities within our community groups, our focus has been on ensuring the safety of the reporter network through tailored guidance.

This new project has provided a wonderful opportunity for us to introduce our first reporters who have learning disabilities. Our first cohort included two reporters with Down syndrome. This pushed us as a training team to rethink the way we were sharing our learning curriculum and the pacing of our workshops.

Image of a light bulb with thought bubbles

Taking those learners online and onto Zoom, into a group environment, we had to make sure that everyone was given an equal chance to engage. We were excited to see the quality of journalism, the level of proactive engagement, and the richness of the peer support that emerged from this.

Universal Design

Universal design is important. Take architecture, for example. If we thought about the widest possible range of access challenges and needs then we wouldn’t have to change, retrofit or add on provisions for people who are Disabled. Rather, we’d be able to use the buildings as they are.

Now, look at our practice, the same applies. Why shouldn’t we be designing training that is universally accessible? Do we not all learn when training is well-paced and clear? Where there is the ability and invitation to take on learning and explore in-depth? With the options of learning visually as well as through text. 

As someone who has my own learning challenges, and struggled at school, I think I would have done really well if there had been a different kind of plethora of learning opportunities. And also, a different set of expectations on what a good learner and participant looked like. – Libby, Founder/Director

It is a joy to rethink our whole skillshare and look at different temperaments, different personalities, and different learning needs. Transforming our training for the better for everyone. 

Links

This learning has led to the co-development of Talk Kit with Inclusion London – a digital suite of tools for Deaf and Disabled People led Organisations (DDPOs) who want to get their communities talking about the issues that matter.