Your Story Disability Legal Support is a free national service that gives independent legal advice and supports people to safely share their stories and ideas for change with the Disability Royal Commission.
Susannah O’Reilly, Director, shares their journey of making legal concepts more accessible – from the challenges to the outcomes and what they’ve learned along the way.
The goal: equal access to justice…and information
As an organisation that supports people with disability, accessibility is fundamental to the delivery of our legal services and community legal education.
We support people to understand their legal rights and their options for taking part in the Disability Royal Commission.
For this to happen, and for the Royal Commission to achieve its goal of promoting a more inclusive, just society, information must be accessible, trauma informed and culturally safe.
Equal access to information is critical to the full participation of people with disability not only in the Royal Commission but also society in general.
There is no one size fits all approach for communicating with people with disability and we are always learning and adapting.
A key barrier for us has been making often-complex legal concepts accessible. We try to avoid legal jargon and work with accessibility experts like Information Access Group to create resources that explain these concepts in language that is that is easy to understand.
Different needs, different approaches
We provide information in different languages and formats, including Easy Read. For example, we have a range of video resources that are accompanied by Auslan translation, subtitles, and an HTML transcript. We also provide HTML versions of our legal factsheets so that these resources can be accessed by people with vision impairment using screen readers.
Making legal information more accessible for all ensures that everyone can access our free legal support to share their stories, ideas and recommendations for change with the Disability Royal Commission.
The Easy Read approach
We worked with the Information Access Group to produce two Easy Read guides about the Disability Royal Commission and our service. With Information Access Group’s support, we were able to break down complex concepts into language and imagery that are easy to understand.
Through these guides, we hope to reach people with low literacy, people with intellectual disability and those who speak English as a second (third or fourth) language – groups that may face greater barriers to accessing our service or may be more likely to experience mistreatment.
Since launching the Easy Read guides, we have received positive feedback from our partners and the public, including organisations supporting people with intellectual disability to engage with our service and the Disability Royal Commission.
The best advice comes from lived experience
While we strive to be accessible, we don’t always get it right and we welcome feedback. Our accessibility journey continues to evolve, and we are always learning from our clients, partners and the disability community.
We also have an advisory group who represent a cross-section of the disability community and provide us with expertise and advice on reaching and engaging with people with disability.
What has been important for us is to be led by people with lived experience.
Consider making your events more accessible
Don’t be afraid to ask how the person or community you’re trying to communicate with want to receive information. This has been a good approach for our Your Story team members delivering legal services, running events and community legal education activities and communicating about our service.
For example, we always strive to make our events accessible by providing Auslan interpretation and live captions. We also ask attendees to let us know any additional accessibility needs when registering. Another way this feedback could be gathered is through concept testing or by setting up an advisory group as we have done.
Be prepared to change the way you do things
For broader public communications, be diverse in the methods and formats that you’re communicating in. Embrace the variety of ways that people communicate, invite feedback and be prepared to adapt.
Our hot tip for getting started with accessibility
Don’t be overwhelmed – take small steps such as adding alternate text to images in social media posts or by providing multiple ways to contact your organisation – and when in doubt, bring in experts such as the Information Access Group and people with lived experience.
About Your Story Disability Legal Support
If you’re a person with disability, or a family member, friend, carer, advocate or supporter, Your Story can support you to safely share your stories and ideas with the Disability Royal Commission.
They are independent of the Royal Commission and their legal support is free, confidential and available to anyone who needs it.
You can call them on 1800 77 1800 (free call) or visit the Your Story Disability Legal Support website for other ways to get in touch.