Make it accessible: remove barriers to engagement with accessible and inclusive communication

Did you know that almost 45% of Australian adults have difficulty reading?

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), around one in eight Australian adults are functionally illiterate, reading at an OECD Level 1 or below. That means about 12% of adults may not be able to read bus or train timetables or understand their payslip.

It’s a shocking statistic but also an important issue for communications folk because when people don’t understand the information presented to them they are likely to feel excluded and disengage.

If your goal is to keep people properly informed about your project (which is critical if your work impacts them directly), or if you want to encourage participation in engagement activities, it is so important that the way you communicate is both accessible and inclusive.

There are many reasons why people may not be able to access, read or understand the information you communicate – disability, access to higher education and English proficiency are just a few.

Accessible and inclusive communication benefits everyone; it doesn’t only apply to people who have difficulty reading. In fact, people who read at university level or higher are about as likely to engage with overly wordy or unnecessarily complicated information as people who can’t read at all.

Accessible and inclusive means your message meets everyone’s communication needs. It is designed so that all audience members understand the information you are sharing.

It doesn’t mean dumbing things down or leaving out important information.

Here are some quick tips for accessible and inclusive project communication:
– Never (ever) assume a person’s level of awareness or understanding, or their ability to access and read information.
– If it is practical to do so, ask people how they would prefer to communicate with you.
– For written communication that requires or invites a response, include both email and phone contact information to support individual communication needs or preferences.
– Keep sentences and paragraphs short and stick to one idea at a time.
– Use visual aids and infographics where possible.

When planning written communication activities, consider:
– What is the purpose of this communication?
– Who needs this information? Why?
– Will everyone be able to access it? How?
– Is it clear and free from jargon and slang?
– If technical or industry terminology can’t be avoided, is it properly explained?
– Does everyone have the technology required to access it?
– Can alternative formats be made available (for example printed and digital, different languages, large print, audio)?
– If digital, does it meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?
 
Making sure your communication is accessible and inclusive for all members of the community is simple; but like so many things, it’s not easy. Becscomm consultants have extensive experience in project communication and community engagement on a range of construction and infrastructure projects across all communities. Get in touch to see how we can help your project engage and connect with the community in more meaningful ways.

Post Credit: Amanda Mikhael – Senior Engagement + Communications Consultant @ Becscomm



How you can make the most of the latest COVID-19 shutdown.

The recent pause on construction across Greater Sydney has massive and far-reaching impacts, with some experts now estimating costs to the NSW economy to reach up to a billion dollars for each week construction sites remain in lockdown across Sydney.
 
We know in times of crisis project communication and engagement remains as important as ever – but with tools down for the next two weeks, what does this mean for comms teams on major projects across Sydney?
 
Here are our top 5 tips and suggestions for a productive pause:

1.      
Reach out – everyone is doing it tough right now, including the communities we work in. A sensitive and appropriate approach to communicating with the local community is critical, however a simple email to check in, a newsletter update or a phone call to highly impacted stakeholders can go a long way to connecting and building trust with your community, even during lockdown.

2.       Plan and prepare – get your team together for a virtual brainstorming session and plan your post-lockdown engagement activities for the rest of the year. As devastating as the pandemic has been to so many businesses, projects and people, it has also led to some innovative and clever ways to engage with the community.

3.       Engage inward – mental and physical health is always important but even more so with the added stress of a global health pandemic and lockdown. Check in with your team, yourself, your colleagues and industry peers. There can never be too many ‘RUOK’ days in the age of Covid-19.

4.       Review and clean up your community and stakeholder database. Or just get on top of all the non-urgent but important admin we all never seem to have time for. You can’t put it off forever!

5.       Review or audit your current communications and engagement systems and processes. We all do it: at the start of a project we have the best of intentions to regularly review our systems and processes, but rarely in the fast-paced world of construction do we get a chance to really stop and thoroughly reflect. A lot has changed in the way we engage over the past 18 months and now is the perfect time to properly update systems and processes to incorporate the “new normal”.
 
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