I’ve been doing a bit of media lately. I’ve got the face for radio and I’m comfortable with it. What I can’t stand is listening to myself. I don’t mind the sound of my own voice when I hear it inside my head and I’m spouting about something I’ve got the wind in my sails about. Hearing it back as others hear it, is a different matter altogether. I might not be that easy on the ear, but it’s what I have to say that matters.
Lately I’ve been in the business of making other people famous and not for all the right reasons. It’s not wind that is in my sails, although wind is yet another unwelcome side effect of the you know what. What’s bothering me is that the NHS might be one of the easiest health systems in the world to access, but once you are in it, it can feel impenetrable.
Let us nip smartly over the plea for cash to support my local hospice that screams from the walls of the oncology waiting room. Let us circumnavigate the confusion between condescension and compassion. We will give a wide birth to invisible signage. All of these things are a bother but the hullaballoo I want to focus on is the absolute lunacy of not communicating with people in format that works.
It’s no good writing to a braille reader in standard font. That’s how people find themselves missing appointments, getting discharged and having to start the whole process all over again. Sending me a pdf that can only be read upside down just isn’t up to the task. That’s why the Accessible Information Standards have been in place since 2016. Them’s the rules. Yet, you would be hard pressed to know it. You can read all about those standards on the NHS’ own website . Sticking to the rules makes life easier for everyone, not just for people like me. They are widely flouted and that’s what I’ve been talking to the press about.
I wasn’t expecting that I’d have to supply photos of myself as part of the deal. My friend ‘P” said she thought she could take a few when we went out for a walk. She made me stand on top of a grassy knoll that I fell asleep on last summer. It was only when I woke up I noticed the wasps nest, so I was cautious. “Oh don’t be such a wuss”, she said.
The same photo got used as a head shot in my local paper. It was superimposed next to a picture of a disabled parking bay, just in case anyone should miss the point that this is a story about some poor old blinky. I notice that I’m a bit pinched looking. I was probably wondering about the merits of being described as a “chairman” or how I was going to park the car I do not have. You can see what I mean.
The one I enjoyed the most is the BBC Access All podcast. Emma and Nicky do a passable Jane and Fi. They were super encouraging and just a little bit naughty. I sound very earnest and a bit taken aback by the unreserved apology issued by my local NHS by way of right to reply. You can hear how uncharacteristically silent I was in response to the apology I didn’t see coming.
All of this will only matter if the principles of universal access to health services, at the point of need, are lived values. That means making sure that everyone can read the information we need in our hour of need.