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Making our service accessible

Assistant Director of Strategy and Partnerships

2-8 May is Deaf Awareness Week, and the theme for this year is common purpose.

The UK Council on Deafness is focusing on what is being done by organisations that work with people who are Deaf or have hearing loss to make sure they have equal access to all aspects of society. Part of this is about providing information in an accessible format, which is something we feel strongly about at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Our vision is for everyone, to be confident that complaining is straightforward, fair and can make a difference. Making it easier for people to access our service is a huge part of that.

That's why we feel it's so important that our communications are available in different languages and formats. When we're in contact with someone who has specific communication needs, we will make adjustments to make sure they are able to access and understand the information we provide. For people who are Deaf or have hearing loss, we can provide information in British Sign Language (BSL) such as our information video about who we are and what we do, and a video with tips on complaining to the NHS. We also provide access to our service through BSL Sign Video software, which allows Deaf people to speak to our customer services team through a live interpreter.

We can also provide information in large print, Braille or audio CD for people who are affected by sight loss or have information translated into different languages for those who don't speak English as a first language.

As we all know, the push to become more digital is increasing every day, and we are keen to keep up with developments. But it's important to make sure that being more digitally-focused doesn't alienate people or create communications barriers.

To make our digital content more accessible, we use software on our website that can both read pages out loud for those with visual impairments, dyslexia or low literacy or translate them into multiple languages for people with English as a second language.

In response to findings from research into who uses our service, we created a campaign aimed at people with learning disabilities, to encourage them to complain to the NHS if they had received care or treatment they were unhappy with.

As part of the campaign we produced information on how to complain to the NHS in Easy Read, which is text in an accessible, easy to understand format. We also created an animated video giving an example of why someone might want to complain.

We are committed to making our service as accessible as possible and would welcome your views on how we could make it easier to use. Please email publications@ombudsman.org.uk with any suggestions.