Making your customer information accessible to all

Dawn Roberts, clinical director of the home-visiting optician Healthcall shares her thoughts on best practice in meeting the communication needs of people who have a disability or sensory loss, within the Accessible Information Standard law.

The aim of the accessible information standard is to make sure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss get information that they can access and understand, and that they get any communication support that they need. The Accessible Information Standard became law in England from July 31st 2016. All optometric practices are required to comply with the Standard which forms part of the Equality Act (2010).

The standard tells organisations how they should make sure that patients and service users, and their carers and parents, can access and understand the information they are given. This includes making sure that people get information in different formats if they need it, for example in large print, braille, easy read or via email.

As part of the accessible information standard, organisations that provide NHS care must do five things:

1. Ask

always find out if a patient has any information or communication support needs relating to a learning disability, sensory loss or other impairment (e.g. stroke)

2. Record

clearly and consistently record those needs in paper or electronic records

3. Alert/Flag

ensure that the recorded needs are ‘highly visible’ whenever the individual’s record is accessed

4. Share

include information about people’s information and communication needs in communications about referral, discharge and handover

5. Act

make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people receive information in a format they can understand.

The Standard applies to all NHS patients and service users and to carers if the patient requires one. This would include people living with dementia and stroke victims who have been left with impairment. It also applies to parents and carers of all children under 16 who have information or communication support needs relating to learning disability, sensory loss or other impairment.

The Standard does not apply to people who may require foreign language translation.

Resources:

Optical Confederation guidance for the profession

Health Education England free-to-access training modules

These are really informative and don’t take long to do, so it is a good idea to make sure that at least one person in your business undertakes this training to ensure that you comply with the Standard.

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