Accessibility, Easy English and power of lived experience: what’s happening across the TCP network

Whilst studying her Bachelor of Communication Design, TCP Project Coordinator, Jacinta Oakley realised there was a glaring gap in the coursework, she wasn’t taught to design in an inclusive and accessible way. Universal design principles weren’t discussed, neither was how to recognise and challenge unconscious biases in design and communications.

Jacinta joins us on the Blog Spot to share her thoughts on designing in an inclusive and accessible way.

“We all have different things that we get passionate and fired-up about. Things that we are always learning, reading, thinking and talking about. Mine is accessibility.” 

I studied in design and communication, but towards the end of my studies I realised there was a glaring gap in the course work. As a designer in training, I wasn’t taught how to design in an inclusive and accessible way. Universal design principles weren’t discussed, neither was how to recognise and challenge unconscious biases in design and communications.

I had some passionate teachers who pointed me in the right direction to explore this area further, but as I began to learn more, I was shocked that accessible design wasn’t ‘baked in’ to the curriculum.

I think everyone has a responsibility to design services, communications and processes accessibly. But designers can play a unique and important role in advocating for this in the design and delivery process.

Personally, the experience of my family navigating the NDIS to secure equipment, funding and support for my younger brother highlighted how even the system designed to give people agency and choice in their support can be riddled with barriers and challenges.

My role as a human-centred designer in Yarra Valley Water’s Customer Experience team further opened my eyes to the tendency of organisations to design for what we perceive (often incorrectly) to be the majority or the norm.

What’s happening in the accessibility space across our network

One of the many things I love about our TCP network is that it’s where passionate innovators and change makers come together to share their stories, lessons learned and insight in different spaces. I’m constantly inspired by amazing work happening in the accessibility space across our network and I feel privileged to learn about it through the collaborative projects I work on. To share just a few…

I recently learned about SA Water’s Wider World program and the extensive research they have done with customers with disability to inform the design and delivery of services, processes and training. I particularly love the fact that they held the focus groups in the SA Water offices whenever possible, meaning that the research process also presented a significant awareness and engagement opportunity for the business, where staff could see and connect with the customers with a disability they serve.

Through my work in the Disaster Planning and Recovery Project, I came across the Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Project. This work is a powerful example of a cross-sector, collaborative and people-centred approach to disaster management that gives people the tools and support to develop their own disaster plan.

As Mae-Lin Han, Project Manager, Enterprise, Change and Capability at Yarra Valley Water and Natalie Collins, Partner at Thinkrum highlighted in a recent TCP Connect Webinar there is also so much we can do within our organisations to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for staff, particularly in the context of the hybrid working environment. Such simple things like asking if there are communication preferences prior to a meeting, providing information (where possible) prior to meetings and assigning a note taker (or installing captions for virtual meetings) can go a long way. Here is the full list Natalie spoke about which can be downloaded in an accessible word document.

I’d encourage you to connect with the wonderful humans doing this work if you’d like to learn more.

What the TCP Secretariat is doing: Our commitment to accessible documents

At TCP, we recognise we can (and need to) continually strive to do better when it comes to accessibility. We recently committed to publishing all our public-facing reports in Screen Reader Friendly and Easy English versions where appropriate. I’m proud to be leading this work and continuing to learn and build capability in this space along the way.

Earlier this year I had the privilege of completing an Easy English training course run by TCP Partner Scope. The hands-on, virtual sessions were a great opportunity to learn about and practise translating written information into Easy English. Working alongside participants from across sectors including healthcare, community, government and essential service providers I was reminded that it will take cross-sector commitment to accessibility if we are to create an inclusive ecosystem where people can access the information and services they need. I would recommend this training for any organisation interested in producing Easy English materials. Scope also provides Easy English training as an eLearning module that you can complete at your own pace.

TCP is also passionate about working with people with lived experience and we look forward to engaging with Scope’s consumer testing services in the future to ensure our Easy English documents are clear and relevant for the people who will engage with them.

This powerful quote from Karene, Research Participant, Disaster Planning & Recovery Project, highlights to me the importance of working with and amplifying the voices of people with lived experience in all that we do.

“Despite historical rhetoric that has stereotyped people with disability as being incapable, defect and in fact a burden to their communities, people with disability are diverse, powerful, influential and capable. They have so much wisdom to share and so much knowledge to impart.

My personal experiences are interwoven into every structure, service and aspect of society, and ongoing engagement with TCP has enabled my voice to make an impact and help create communities where people belong and can participate in a safe, inclusive and equal way.” - Karene, Research Participant, Disaster Planning & Recovery Project

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