Information in an emergency

Getting information in an emergency can mean the different between life and death. Or at least the difference between feeling helpless and knowing what to do. But communication is a complex process and not everyone responds to the same methods. So what is accessible information? It’s information provided in different formats.

Easy Read and Easy English use pictures as well as words. These are good for the 44% of the population with a low level of literacy. Targeting this group means people with higher levels of literacy can also get the message. It’s universal design.

A blackboard with words: learn, language, adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs written in chalk

Other formats are braille and Auslan, and captioning for videos. The Disability Discrimination Act lists places and services that must not discriminate, but there is nothing specific about information methods. This is something that needs to be made clearer in the legislation. However, the Commonwealth and state governments have policies to cover the provision of information.

Accessible emergency and crisis information

Researchers found four things to improve crisis information.

  1. Accessible information providers, such as Easy Read professionals, are not experts in the subject at hand. They need support from experts such as doctors or police.
Black and white logo for easy read, has a tick and a open book

2. Accessible information providers need to stay up to date with changing details. Having one direct source is the best way to manage this.

3. Making high quality accessible information takes time and skill. It’s essential to have the capacity and capability ready to act – don’t wait for the crisis to happen.

4. Agencies need to be upskilled. Sometimes crisis information needs to be available immediately such as an evacuation order. Emergency services need more baseline skills to make this information themselves.

The title of the article from The Conversation is, Crisis communication saves lives – but people with disability often aren’t given the message. The call for action is to have accessible crisis information included in a new Disability Rights Act.

Four men with orange lifejackets are standing in a yellow State Emergency Service boat on a swollen river.

Media organisations, businesses and services need to get on board too. The more people who produce accessible information, the better.

Accessibility Toolbar