In the lockdown part one blog, I spoke about some of the similarities between lockdown now, for some people with a disability and what it actually means to them. You can read part 1 here.

Now, I’d like to explore how “people in charge” revert back to their ‘normal’ methods when such times as the panic to lockdown come into force. What do I mean? How best to ensure you’re communicating effectively from the start without forfeiting accessibility as the information is being shared.

We All Desire Information

From the start of this lockdown information on television directed people to the internet. Some people of a later generation, who might not know how to use the internet at all, or at least safely, fell victim to a variety of scams that began happening.

In addition, not all web sites are accessible for people who use assistive technologies. These are getting better, but even though I am quite confident in using a computer and the internet, I always go on to a site with trepidation, wondering if, or how far I can get with a page of information, or an enquiry.

Accessibility on Coronavirus Information

I had a quick look today at some sites offering home testing kits for Coronavirus, I was quite surprised on their development, although not completely correct, i.e. would take a little more time in finding and filling in the form due to some accessibility issues, if I really needed some information about the virus, I would not be confident I would be able to access it. 

I must emphasise though, the internet is becoming a little more accessible, especially now the government is on board and have set the deadline of September 2020 to have all .Gov sites accessible for all.

Communicating Effectively and Getting Information Accessibly in Lockdown

Getting back to how information gets to us in time of crisis. I had my shielding letter through, yes I said a letter. This tells me the relevant authorities have my details: name, address, reason for shielding, but not that I am blind and would require an alternative format to be able to understand what shielding was about and any relevant guidelines applicable.

Having said this there is a way people with little, or no sight can read letters by using an app on their Mobile phone. However, not everyone has a mobile phone, maybe due to expense, age, or knowledge of accessible technologies. Whatever the reason, the importance of such information, along with the information held about us, suggests there may be another way of getting information out to me and others in similar positions.

I am fortunate to have a kind and loving wife who can go shopping, so I don’t have to use up one of the shielding offers shops are doing, where putting your details in they know you have a shielding letter and can then book a slot. 

To be honest, I don’t know how difficult this is, however I do know how some shopping sites are for people using assistive technology, the frustration of navigating, selecting and ordering the food shop is real. 

Although there has been great work in trying to get these sorts of sites more accessible, it is exactly that, more accessible, not fully accessible. More accessible, could mean, being able to pick a slot, choose your products and put in your address then being told you have taken too long and will have to book your slot again, or even worse, the checkout part is mouse dependent, which prevents anyone who can’t use a mouse and can only use a keyboard from buying their food.

Emphasis on Technology in Lockdown – Is It Right? 

I must say, if it was not for technology, this lockdown would be a lot worse for everyone. However, not everyone has or uses it. This week I heard of a person who is living alone, had a few mobility limitations, is visually impaired and belongs to a generation not used to using technology. She had asked a friend if they could get a lift to the post office to get some money as she had run out of cash. 

Many people still rely on other people and prefer to use cash and not direct debits etc. However, due to the Coronavirus, the usual carers had stopped calling due to the lockdown, making them really feel their lack of independence.

As I asked in the first lock down blog, how would you cope with some of these limitations in communication and assistance?

 It can happen anytime, life changing, or just for a short time e.g. an eye infection with limited vision which should improve in time, a more permanent visual impairment or even loss of sight. That is just from my point of view, but there are many more mobility and sensory impairments that could be also be examples.

No matter what your role in society, try and thinks about how communicating effectively can help break down the barriers make the UK a more inclusive country. Think about what you have been through or are going through and perhaps try and make changes as you go forward.  Keep safe.