The way you communicate will vary depending on your audience and the activity. Using a broad range of approaches and having diverse ways of connecting with people, will ensure your communications are accessible and will not exclude people with different needs. Be careful about the language you use; many public members are not familiar with either academic jargon or medical terminology and can find it intimidating and frustrating. Good communication and accessibility will avoid tokenism.
"Accessibility is about ensuring that everyone has the same opportunity to take part in an activity fully, in the way that suits them best.”
(Social Care Institute for Excellence (2012) Making events accessible, London: SCIE.)
Things to consider:
- Disability (seen and unseen). These may include physical impairments, sensory loss, mental health issues, learning disability etc. Consider what formats you need to offer information in or other adjustments that might need to be made. Get to know your public members’ individual needs.
- Use plain language, avoiding jargon and acronyms.
- Accessibility of meetings – Timings of workshops and meetings: consider factors such as childcare and working hours. Some people might find weekends or evenings more convenient. If holding meetings in person, consider physical access to the venue. If meetings are virtual, do members need technical support?
- Develop a communication plan for your public involvement, to include:
- Role descriptions, terms of reference etc. so public members know what is expected of them and what they can expect (see template in appendix).
- Confidentiality and data protection.
- Timely, relevant and appealing communications to keep your members engaged, informed and feeling valued.
- Opportunities to offer, gather, act on and share feedback.
- Opportunities to share learning to wider research and public communities.
Links to Resources:
Understanding Plain English summaries in more detail: Plain English summaries (nihr.ac.uk)
List of social care terms, useful for public members: TLAP Care and Support Jargon Buster
Ideas on accessibility at events: Social Care Institute for Excellence (2012) Making events accessible, London: SCIE.