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Improving access to news for people with learning disabilitiesOne of United Response’s most passionate beliefs is that people with learning disabilities should be equal participants in society. However, it had previously discovered that far fewer vote in elections than the general population.
While the charity’s Every Vote Counts campaign succeeded in persuading the main political parties to produce easy-read manifestos, it realised that an accessible source of news was needed all the time for these votes to be meaningful. A baseline survey revealed that just 11 per cent of the charity’s clients regularly read a newspaper and that they did not generally feel informed about current affairs.
A lightbulb moment came in 2011 when disability activist Kaliya Franklin quizzed Ed Miliband at the Labour party conference and asked United Response to create an accessible news report about it. This was made available through social media and Kaliya and United Response began planning a regular accessible newspaper, Easy News. Funding was secured from the Big Lottery Fund for a six-edition pilot.
Easy News exceeded United Response’s expectations with 90 per cent of respondents to a survey saying it was easier to understand than other news sources while 78 per cent felt that politics was now relevant to their lives, compared to 31 per cent a year before. By the sixth edition, 3,272 people had downloaded it – 250 per cent over target.
Additionally Easy News created work for more than 30 people with learning disabilities, while anecdotal feedback included one mother saying that a story about Winterbourne View “promoted a bit of a discussion with my son; a rare occurrence as he is not very talkative”.
This year, Easy News is being funded out of the charity’s legacy funds while a sustainable funding model is devised – probably involving advertising.
Charity Awards judge Danielle Walker Palmour said: “Easy News is a new thing in the world and it is rare to see something genuinely new.” Richard Hawkes described it as a “really good concept”.