Monthly Archives: August 2010

Plain English Week

This week is plain English Week. Plain language adds value to accessibility and usability. Well written plain English is useful for everyone.

Plain English is also fine when talking about disability. If you don’t need to use long medical terms when referring to impairments and disability then don’t use them. Use plain English your audience will understand and find meaningful.

There is also too much jargon surrounding disability, and we’re all guilty at times. It is OK to say “Please explain what you mean!”

You can get involved by supporting Plain English Power for free. This excellent site has lots of information about using plain English every day and everywhere.

There is also some plain English pointers at AccEase.

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Filed under Information Accessibility, Media, Web Accessibility

A for accessibility and attitude

When I reflect on the vast amount of excellent guidance and support available for anyone with the slightest inclination to make their web site and electronic information accessible I wonder why some people and organisations find it so difficult. The answer is of course that accessibility is all about attitude. Once that is sorted then everything else can fall into place.

So, for those who have the attitude for accessibility here is another very useful resource to add to your toolbox. The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities has produced the latest of their accessibility publications, Guidelines for accessible E-text.

The guidelines are available for free download in a variety of accessible formats as you would expect. They take into account style guides and best practice from Australasia and around the world.

Anyone who is preparing electronic documents will find the publication useful as will those from specialist transcription agencies, government and public bodies, corporates and other organisations which understand the necessity of making their information accessible. People who are print disabled will also find them useful in advocating their need for accessible information.

And for those unreconstructed souls who can’t see the point of it all, we must make the case yet again.

It is also important that organisations take their accessibility attitude beyond the ad hoc and the operational and include accessibility in their strategic thinking and planning, into business as usual, by institutionalising the understanding that access to information is a human right for everyone. That way the tools available will be used to best advantage for everyone.

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Filed under Information Accessibility, Web Accessibility

Victory for People First

Last year TV one’s Breakfast presenter Paul Henry made remarks that were offensive to disabled people, but in particular to members of People First, people with learning disabilities.  The resulting complaints process has vindicated their concern. The text of the statement broadcast by TV One is not an apology, and it doesn’t mention Paul Henry’s name. But the decision made by the Broadcasting Standards Authority is significant and worth reading in full.

It recognises that the denigration of Susan Boyle, while not harming her, did harm others, which is significant.

Here is the minimalist statement from Television New Zealand. (Paul Henry’s name is included in brackets.)

“Last year during ‘What’s In The Mags’, Breakfast screened comments about the singer Susan Boyle. The comments were made by a Breakfast presenter [Paul Henry] and concerned Ms Boyle’s intellectual disability.

TVNZ upheld viewers’ complaints that the comments breached the broadcasting standard requiring Good Taste and Decency. The presenter [Paul Henry] also made a public statement saying he had not intended to cause offence.

Eleven complainants were not satisfied with the action taken by TVNZ, and referred their complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

The Authority agreed with the complainants, finding that TVNZ had taken insufficient action to remedy the breach of standards. It noted that no statement or apology had been made on the Breakfast programme, and that the presenter’s [Paul Henry's] public statement was inconsistent with his comments and behaviour in the item.

The Authority said that to mock and belittle a person on account of her intellectual disability was contrary to common decency and a clear breach of the Good Taste and Decency standard.

The Authority ordered Television New Zealand to broadcast this statement.”

Thanks to the Human Rights Commission for distributing the text of the statement in their disability newsletter Manahau. (Manahau is well worth the free subscription, particularly if you want to keep up to date on human rights and disability.)

Mediawatch on Radio NZ took the case seriously enough to discuss implications of the case in depth on its Sunday morning programme. (August 1)

The action taken by disabled people and their supporters using complaints tools to stand up for their rights is a practical example of rights in action. They have won, and in winning have made a difference for everyone.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Media