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Principles of Inclusive Communication: An information and self-assessment tool for public authorities

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The six principles of inclusive communication

The six principles below will help you to make your communication more inclusive.

Following these six principles will help you deliver services more effectively and support people with communication support needs.

You may already consider some of these things, but using the principles together will help you think about all aspects of inclusive communication.

1 Communication accessibility and physical accessibility are equally important

All people who use public services have the right to access them on an equal basis.

To make your services fully accessible means considering communication accessibility as well as physical accessibility in the traditional sense.

Good Practice Example:

When arranging an appointment or a meeting:

  • Consider the individual or your audience and ensure accommodation is accessible
  • Allow sufficient time to provide communication support as required
  • Send out information or papers at least 10 working days in advance

This will mean anyone with support needs has time to make arrangements for any support they may need, both before the event and on the day.

2 Every community or group will include people with different communication support needs

You should presume that every group you are working with, or expect to work with, includes people with communication support needs. This includes members of the public and your colleagues.

Inclusive communication should be considered at all times, whether providing information or planning an event, meeting or activity. Good communication practice will help you reach your target audience more effectively and allow people to access services on an equal basis.

Good Practice Example:

Some ideas to support people with communication needs:

  • Some people may require the support of a British Sign Language interpreter or a palantypist
  • Some people may require information in alternative formats, for example audio or large print
  • Some people may need the support of advocacy services
  • Some people may have difficulty using a phone and may prefer a one-to-one meeting with communication support
  • Some communication needs are less obvious and other support may be required. This might include head and body language, simple gestures, photographs, drawings, cartoons or symbols
  • To ensure you can provide communication accessible services, it is good practice to allow time to arrange different formats or communication support depending on the needs of your audience

3 Communication is a two-way process of understanding others and expressing yourself

Quality service delivery is when the service provider and person who uses the service understand each other, and the person who is using the service is able to express their needs and choices effectively.

Everyone communicates differently. When somebody has communication support needs, it may take more effort and time to ensure that service provider and person who is using the service understand each other.

You need to:

  • Match your communication to the needs of the people who use services
  • Recognise and respond to the variety of ways that individuals may express themselves

Good Practice Example:

  • Use symbols on signs outside and inside buildings, or to represent service on appointment cards, information leaflets and letters
  • Staff training - Ensure relevant staff are trained to effectively simplify speech and to speak clearly, and to support verbal information by writing down key words
  • Allow time - Offer double appointments for individuals who will require more time, therefore supporting communication needs as required

4 Be flexible in the way your service is provided

In order to match the way you communicate to the needs of all the people who use services do not take a 'one size fits all' approach.

It is important to consider how changes to the way services are delivered will affect the people who use them. A 'one size fits all' approach will not work, as one system will not meet the needs of the all the people who use services.

Good Practice Example:

Think about how accessible your service will be, what methods are best and be flexible in your approach. Many local authorities are moving towards online service delivery because it is cost effective and efficient. This may be a good option for the majority of people who use services, but can present barriers to people with communication support needs. Make sure good quality service is available offline too.

5 Effective user involvement will include the participation of people with different communication support needs

To help you identify the full implications of service changes for all members of the community, involve people who use these services, including people with communication support needs, from the beginning of the change process.

Services delivered around the needs of the people who use them will be more cost effective, user friendly and fit for purpose.

It is important that people with communication support needs have the opportunity to participate in the change process in the same way that others can.

Good Practice Example:

When planning a service change, think about how to support everybody to ensure they can be involved. This may mean training for staff before a consultation, or interpretation and translation and other forms of communication support available during a consultation. Although this may incur additional costs, the benefits of getting the change right first time will provide a more economic outcome in the long term. Remember, change needs to be monitored and reviewed, with continual improvement based on user feedback.

6 Keep trying

Small, simple changes to the way you communicate will make a big difference to your service delivery. Some changes may take longer, but will deliver positive outcomes, resulting in cost efficiencies and an increase in user satisfaction.