Visually impaired woman secures promises from Government to change pandemic communications

Sarah Leadbetter, who is registered blind, has secured fundamental promises of changes to Government pandemic communications to people with communication needs on the morning she was due to have judicial review hearing of a failure to provide her with accessible shielding information.

The hearing on Wednesday, March 17 and Thursday, March 18 was due to consider Sarah’s challenge to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s practice of sending hard copy letters to people who are shielding without considering their communication needs. These letters were inaccessible to Sarah and other people with visual impairments who cannot read hard print. Sarah was arguing that the failure to provide accessible shielding correspondence to blind/partially sighted people was unlawful disability discrimination, a breach of her human rights, and a failure to comply with the government’s own Accessible Information Standard.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had been given permission by the Court to intervene in Sarah’s case and had provided important legal submissions to support Sarah’s claim.

Now the Department of Health and Social Care has agreed:

  • To reconsider its practice of sending out hardcopy letters to people on the Shielded Patients List that are not individually tailored to their communication preferences
  • To consider how information on shielding can be given in an accessible format to disabled people and/or people with communication needs who are on the Shielded Patients List
  • To commission work to investigate technical issues in identifying communication needs of people on the Shielded Patients List, and to work out how to address shortcomings in the information held in the Personal Demographics Service (which records communication needs)
  • The work will be completed and any new system will start to be implemented within four months of the date of the court’s Order
  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will continue to work with GPs and hospitals to improve the recording of communication needs in patients’ records

Read the full article here