At the end of last year we produced 2 Easy Read projects for high speed train company HS2.
Both projects involved transcribing Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA) the first for work taking place in and around Euston Station. The second was the ‘Route Wide’ EQIA ie the rest of the High Speed railway from London to Birmingham, which was split into 5 regions, so a suite of 5 documents was required.
Both EQIAs considered the impact that work was going to have on local people, and in particular on different equality groups or ‘people with protected characteristics’, as they like to describe them (in a very non-Easy Read way!) in the Equality Act 2010.
HS2 were keen for the public consultation documents to be as accessible as possible for as wide an audience as possible, especially local disabled people and people with English as a second language. The Easy Read format was considered the best method for ensuring this happened.
The Easy Read transcriptions presented 4 challenges.
Challenge 1 – getting the script right
The original EQIA referred to two types of Impacts: differential and disproportionate. Explaining these different impacts in plain English were key to enhancing the accessibility of the Easy Read version, and the main themes in all the documents covered:
· Noise from construction work and vehicles
· Air quality
· Getting around eg changes to local walking routes
· Community centres, faith centres, health centres, public spaces
· Schools and education centres
Challenge 2 – using appropriate images
In order to represent the places and people in the documents we used a combination of PhotoSymbols and stock photos.
The Euston Station version included photos sourced by HS2 and taken by HS2 photographers in the Euston area. The ‘Route Wide’ version was populated by more stock photos than the Euston version, because the extensive area covered made it less practical to include commissioned photos of specific places.
Challenge 3 – incorporating user involvement
HS2 required that a group at least 4 learning disabled people check the accessibility of the documents and make recommendations for amending the text, images and layout. As easy-read-documents.com usually works with 1 family carer and 1 learning disabled adult a different tact was required.
For the Euston document a user group working with an Easy Read provider provided comments. For the Wide Route document easy-read-documents.com partnered with advocacy group Amersham Talkback, located in an area that will be affected by HS2 construction. Talkback arranged for some of their user groups to check 2 of the 5 regional documents.
Challenge 4 – adhering to timescales
Both Easy Read documents were produced in parallel with the original EQIA so needed to ‘go live’ at the same time as the original document.
So both parties needed to work swiftly to enable HS2 to provide comments on the initial draft… then obtain user feedback…and get final comments from HS2 ….then incorporate all these comments into the final print ready version, within 2-3 weeks in both cases.
It was tough at times but we managed to hit the September and December deadlines for both Easy Read documents.
Both documents were given an uncluttered Easy Read layout incorporating the HS2 branding and font to give the documents a similar look and feel to the original documents, whilst taking care to ensure the content was clear and logical and that the images reflected and enhanced the text.
Feedback from HS2 and local people about the documents was very positive.