Taking action

Disability Action Plans – 3 considerations

Never having seen a Disability Action Plan (DAP) before, Next Level Inclusion is now working on 2!

Of course I’m doing lots of research, and have decades of experience to draw on, so I’m excited for these new challenges.

The NLI Feedback Group will be working on one of them with me and are really looking forward to it. The document is in plain language, rather than easy read, so it will be slightly different work for them, but I plan to create a short guide for them – probably another 1 pager plus a video to help. As always I’ll be available for support too.

Having multiple conversations about them got me thinking, and here are 3 important considerations as a starting point.

  1. It’s an Action Plan, so be active

Avoid passive language as much as possible. Where you can, provide actual steps that you will take to reach your DAP goals.

  1. Be realistic – simple isn’t silly

As much as we’d all love to be perfect, it’s an almost unachievable goal, particularly for small organisations and businesses. Do what you can and start with small steps that make a big difference – such as simplifying your language and offering to meet on the video or chat platform of your client’s choice.

  1. Ask your clients what they need

Whether you do this formally or informally, once a year or with each engagement, listen and ask and make sure you keep a record of what they say! (OK, this is one I need to write into my evaluation processes too!)

Let me know if you have other tips to add.

A person with their face obscured by a camera holds a clapper, used to say "Action" when filming.
Photo by Martin Lopez on Pexels.com

Sick and confused

We recently had covid in the house – my son and I were sick with the same symptoms. He tested positive, I did not.

Anyway, it was great, yet shocking to get insight into the process from ACT Health on the “other side” as a case and a close contact.

The initial email my daughter and I received was the best piece of communication we received. It was long but clear and stepped us through what we needed to know initially.

The only reason we got that email was because I had seen on social media that we were supposed to register online as close contacts. At no time during the testing process or wait were we given this information – or any other.

My son had been tested through a government-funded respiratory clinic, so was registered through that process, and was contacted twice by the GP, to check his general wellbeing.

After that we received information on a daily basis. I dutifully read it – but my youngest did not. When questioning why not, I realised that the email did not outline its purpose and importance in the very first sentence. Because my youngest (neurodivergent and highly anxious) had asked me to do their registration, they didn’t realise they were supposed to complete an online form every day about their symptoms. They assumed I’d take care of anything needing to be done.

I spent a lot of time scrolling through the ACT Covid website, looking for information we needed to know. The whole process had changed days prior, so information on the website was conflicting from page to page. You might say that the rapid change was the reason, and I get that – but as neurodivergent / disabled people needing that information NOW, it should have been a priority for the site to be updated ASAP, not days later.

I also attempted to contact the care at home team in anticipation of a positive result for myself, given I am immunosuppressed (I think they consider me mildly so now though, and I wouldn’t have warranted extra supports) and immunocompromised. Despite being a close contact with the exact same symptoms on the exact same days as a confirmed household case, I was not able to receive any supports, or even information, unless I had a positive result. (Note that I was not tested by PCR until 3 days after he was, due to the slowness of tests over that week. We had both done 2 negative RATs prior.) That was extremely stressful given how unwell I was feeling.

Not once were any of us asked to identify as disabled, high risk, or given information about easy read or easy English information.

A light up sign contains letters spelling NOT TODAY #COVID 19
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Speaking with others online during that week and the following, I heard that disabled people and their families:

  • Who were tested through Capital Pathology sites were not registered with ACT Health. They went a week without any communication about what they should do, as well as no test results (Capital Pathology were taking a week or more to return results at that stage.) Remember the ACT Health website was not fully updated at that time.
  • Were quarantining when not required under the new guidelines. This is not necessarily a bad thing – but it did mean families were spending money to stay in alternate accommodation needlessly. In that situation those involved had also tested through Capital Path and had not been registered with Capital Pathology.
  • Did not know they could and should register on the ACT Health site and did not receive the information they needed, or report symptoms.
  • Were provided the wrong information by their GP and were fully released from quarantine after only a few days despite still having symptoms.
  • Were confused through the whole process and didn’t not fully understand the communication they were receiving.

By the end of that week Advocacy for Inclusion had released some updated Easy English documents, which is a relief for people needing easy English. (Note that they are not mentioned at all on the front page. Click through to Resources & Information to find them.) However at no time has ACT Health or other parts of the ACT Government shared this information. Nor is there easy read information for those who won’t identify as needing easy English.

It was 2 years yesterday since the first Australian case of COVID was diagnosed and it is EXTREMELY disappointing to see our territory providing such poor support to our community – not just people with disabilities, but those with low literacy, First Nations communities, aged and dementia communities, those with CALD backgrounds and more. This is such an easy fix with so many in the local community who possess the skills to solve this quickly. Please ACT Health, reach out and make this happen ASAP, and every time there are changes.

First Project Success!

Our first project has appeared online 😊 I’ll share the testimonial at the end of the post!

Check out our easy English policies on the St John Ambulance Australia website. Scroll down to Child Safety then the policies are listed under –Easy English–

Child Safety Code of Conduct

Child Safety in St John

Complaints

Statement of Commitment

“Karen from Next Level Inclusion has been fantastic to work with. The project was completed on time and their prices are very competitive – which for a not-for-profit organisation, is an important factor. The documents received were all of a high quality and met the needs of our target audience and organisation. The Australian Office of St John Ambulance Australia won’t hesitate to use Next Level Inclusion again should we have a future project requiring (easy English).”

Huge thanks to St John for the opportunity to work together ⭐

(Image from Learning Disability Service Leeds)
[2 people looking at each other across a table. There are 2 arrows pointing from one to the other. Text above says 1 to 1 meeting.]

Feeding it back

It has been very exciting around Next Level Inclusion lately.

I got my first ongoing contract – taking over the social media (SM) for a previous boss. It’s a disability related social enterprise and a lot of fun to work on. I’ve been catching up on my SM skills and pushing myself to see a gradual climb in their stats.

Then a week or so ago, I got my first one-off contract! A national health & wellbeing organisation had a try at writing their own easy English policies. I’m so impressed that they they had a go, and did so well! NLI has been contracted to complete consumer review of the policies and editing as needed.

I put the word out for members to join our (brand new) NLI Feedback Group and have 5 interested people so far! It is just beyond exciting to be the instigator of a group where disabled people are being paid as independent contractors because of the expertise their disabilities give them. I am working incredibly hard to make sure I am ticking every box for this to be an amazing experience for them, so they are happy to join me in future jobs!

Please get in touch any time if you have questions about easy English, easy read or plain English, or consulting our Feedback group.

Image has a woman sitting with a laptop in her lap. Text says Feedback group. Easy read and easy English. Get paid for your feedback!
email Karen: NextLevelInclusion@gmail.com

So how YOU doin?

So I kind of disappeared. It’s felt like a year and a half already and it’s only April!!

Let’s see, other than the usual birthday, Christmas, new year thing, I had huge changes at work which led to the loss of my team and the end of my contract. Luckily I have found an amazing new opportunity and will be doing basically everything that Next Level Inclusion offers and stands for!

Personally we were given notice to vacate, before our 12 month lease was even up, and applied for nearly 20 houses before ending up in a cute little ‘cottage’ – on the southside of Canberra! South vs north is quite the thing here, and I have never lived south in the 23 years living here! We’ve had multiple surgeries for family members, tooth and medical dramas and just a lot, a lot, a LOT of drama for one disabled single mum and her neurodiverse kids to handle!!

Now though, now we have a cute cottage, larger than our previous house, I have a new job I’m loving so far, and GUESS WHAT….?! Next Level Inclusion is in business baby!!

If you need any inclusion or accessibility support or advice, you know who to contact!

Joey from Friends is smiling and holding a spoon. Text says "How you doin'?"

three by two

I thought it might be interesting to share a little about my disabilities by doing a couple of top 3’s, so here goes…

Karen in the middle of co-facilitating a workshop. She's wearing glasses and a black dress, and holding a marker.

Top 3 things I need others to know about my disabilities

  1. At times I have problems with memory and processing speed. Give me time and the information I need and I will catch up fairly quickly. My brain is a powerhouse once you get past the brain fog!
  2. My intentions are often more than my body can handle. As much as I’d LOVE to work on inclusion 24/7 I just can’t. At the moment 20-24 hours per week is what I am able to do and still achieve high quality work. I need to schedule in plenty of time to rest and recuperate.
  3. I’ve only considered myself disabled for around 5 years now and my main chronic condition is degenerative and changes all the time. This means that I’m not always sure what supports or adjustments I will need on any day. I can also be too determined to appear like everyone else, to my detriment. Working on that!

Top 3 benefits my disabilities give my work

  1. Lived experience! Add that to my 30+ years of working with people with disabilities and my kids having autism and social communication disorder, and I see things from a dodecagon of angles ! (a dodecagon is a 12 sided shape, and possibly a slight exaggeration, maybe)
  2. My neurodiverse brain helps me create inclusive written information and design. If I can’t understand the message at a glance, or within the first sentence or two, it’s really not inclusive. I actually had no idea until last year that the way my brain works isn’t the same for everyone!
  3. A less well-travelled perspective. Having a combination of invisible disabilities; being a single mum – these are things that are often overlooked when thinking of disability inclusion. Most people know about people in wheelchairs, people with autism and Down syndrome, and they know they need to keep an eye out for them. What about the hundreds of thousands of others, who you can’t see at a glance are disabled? This is where making everything you do as inclusive as possible is a winner!

What would you share about your disabilities?

fun or function?

Keep calm and do the Christmas shopping is written in white over a Christmas tree decorated with baubles and ribbons. There are wrapped gifts in front of the tree and it looks like it is snowing in the background. The tree and background are a mix of a little light and dark and mostly midtones.

This image above popped up for me a few weeks ago on Facebook. A fun image, but oh boy is it hard to read!

So what’s the problem?

The image in the background makes the text very difficult to read. There are a number of reasons why including the amount of detail in the picture distracts from the text and there isn’t enough contrast between the text and image (contrast is the difference between dark and light).

The main issue with the text is that capital letters are harder to read (especially at a glance) for many people than lower case.

It’s a cute message, so I had a go at making the more inclusive, accessible versions below. Would you change anything else?

An image of a decorated Christmas tree with gifts in front is on the left. On the right it says KEEP CALM and do the Christmas shopping in white on a dark red background.
There is a Christmas tree icon at the top. Below that in dark red text it says KEEP CALM and do the Christmas Shopping. The background is red glitter with a white shape behind the text..

a sense of style

One of the most important things you can do to write accessible documents is to use Styles.

Styles allows you to set up a collection of fonts and settings for your text, headings, bullets and more. They do take a few minutes to set up, but you can then use them as a short cut to format your text, ensuring consistency throughout your document.

Styles are available in most word processing (document creation) programs and are super easy to find in Microsoft Word – where they sit toward the right of your Home tab in the ‘ribbon’ across the top of Word. You can find out more about how to use Styles on the Microsoft website.

Using Styles correctly – especially ensuring you use Heading styles in the correct order from 1 descending – allows you to build useful Contents lists, as well as enabling screen readers to read your text in a logical order for blind and vision impaired people.

the whole package

Most people think of easy read as a way of using language and words. It is, but it’s so much more!!

Which words you use in easy read can make and break it – but other things are just as important, such as:

  • Images
  • White space including line spacing
  • Order of the content
  • Which content is necessary for including
  • and much more.

In the next few posts I’ll discuss these more in depth. Let me know if you have any other questions I can help answer 😊

Example of an easy read policy explaining what a service agreement is.
Easy read policies from Carers ACT.