Part 1- Writing for Neurodiversity: Why accessible and inclusive content should be a priority for Pharma
Welcome to our new series “Placing accessibility at the heart of your health communication strategy”. In this series, we look at the responsibility the pharmaceutical industry has to tackle health inequity and the role that health communications plays in this. We explore the importance of inclusive content creation and strategies to engage people, which are based on a real understanding of their needs.
Let’s dive right in as we kick off our series with our first blog… Writing for Neurodiversity: Why accessible and inclusive content should be a priority for pharma…
Inclusive and accessible content is an essential step towards an equitable and diverse world. And as healthcare communicators, we have the power and responsibility to make health information accessible to all.
Information is what enables us to make decisions and live our lives to their full potential. Having difficulty understanding and making use of information can affect all aspects of life and lead to inequalities.
That’s why our Curious Health team has recently set time aside to discuss this topic during one of our regular Curious Labs. We wanted to reflect on how we can drive positive change in healthcare comms and make health resources more accessible, including to neurodivergent audiences.
After all, creating accessible and inclusive content is vital to drive engagement.
Accessible content matters
In recent years, there has been a growing focus on patient-centricity and shared decision-making in healthcare. Patients are increasingly seen as partners in their own care, and their healthcare journey should take their needs and preferences into account.
Shared decision-making requires people to be knowledgeable about their health and able to make choices. This can only happen if healthcare information is accessible to everyone, regardless of their category or mind, background or abilities. Thus, healthcare providers have a duty to make their resources accessible, including to neurodivergent individuals.
Since 2016, all organisations offering NHS or Adult Social Care must follow the Accessible Information Standard by law. The aim of the Standard is to make sure that people who have a disability or sensory loss receive information in a way they understand. This includes providing information in Plain English, as well as in different formats (Braille, large print and audio) and languages.
Pharma companies have long been on a journey to put patients at the heart of what they do. Ensuring their content is accessible and inclusive is a key step in this process.
Neurodivergence is more common than you think
Neurodiversity is a concept introduced in the 90s to refer to the wide range of natural variations in the human brain.
Neurodivergence includes dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyscalculia. In the UK, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. This means that there are almost 10 million neurodivergent people in the UK, who might be seeking healthcare information and support.
Neurodivergent people are found in all walks of life and our understanding of the struggles, but also the positives of having a mind that works on a ‘non-typical’ way is growing rapidly. What distinguishes them from the ‘neurotypical’ is their way of processing information and communicating. This can make it difficult for them to understand healthcare resources that are not designed with their needs in mind. This could create a barrier to access to health services and lead to discrimination and poorer health outcomes.
Why writing for inclusion should be a priority for pharma
There are a number of reasons why it is important to write for inclusion in healthcare.
First, it is simply the right thing to do. Everyone deserves accurate and accessible information about their health, regardless of their abilities.
Second, writing for inclusion can improve patient outcomes. When people understand their condition and treatment plan, they are more likely to adhere to it. This can lead to better outcomes and a more positive experience for people.
Third, accessible content can lead to greater engagement, not only among neurodivergent audiences. Seven million people in the UK struggle to read. Estimates show that 42% of working age adults are unable to understand and make use of everyday health information. When you write for neurodivergent people, you can make your resources more effective for everyone.
So it’s time we look at our content and ask ourselves: are we leaving anyone behind?
How you can make your content more accessible
Neurodivergent people have different communication needs than neurotypical people. For example, they may struggle to understand linear information or be more sensitive to extreme colour clashes. When developing healthcare resources, it is crucial to keep these needs in mind.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep it simple: Use plain language that is easy to understand. Avoid jargon and technical terms. Don’t overload your content with numbers, percentages and fractions – they may be hard to understand for someone with dyscalculia.
- Keep it short: Use short sentences and paragraphs. Break up your content into bite-size chunks. Some ADHD-people have a short attention span.
- Say what you mean: Provide clear instructions and use concrete examples. Figurative language, such as idioms and metaphors, might be hard to understand for some.
- Mind the layout: Ensure your resources have a clear and simple layout, as this can affect readability. Use visuals to supplement your text, but make sure you don’t overload it.
- Use different formats: Tailor your content in a variety of formats, such as videos, infographics, and podcasts. This allows your audience to approach the information in the way that works best for them.
- Comply with accessibility standards: Make sure your resources are accessible to people with disabilities. Provide transcripts for videos and audio recordings, and make sure your website has an accessibility plug-in.
- Test it: If possible, test your resources with the end user. Or, even better, develop them in partnership with the community – a golden rule to ensure your content resonates with your target audiences.
Being able to understand and make use of healthcare information is crucial to making choices about your health. The healthcare industry is increasingly focused on patient-centricity and shared decision-making. Creating accessible content, including for neurodivergent audiences, is an essential step of this process.
Neurodivergence is a broad term that includes conditions such as dyslexia, autism, and ADHD. It refers to differences in the way people think and process information. Neurodivergent people can struggle to understand resources not designed with their needs in mind, and this can lead to inequity. However, our understanding of what it means to have a mind that works in a ‘non-typical’ way is changing rapidly and we have a responsibility to keep up to date with this.
To make content more accessible to neurodivergent people, it is important to be aware of the different ways that they process information, and tailor content accordingly.
Accessible and inclusive content is not only vital to create a more equitable and diverse world, but can also lead to greater engagement.
If you would like to discuss how you can make your healthcare resources more accessible and patient-centric, get in touch with our team: firstname.lastname@example.org