‘Know your audience and communicate to as many people as you can, including disabled people’, says Sarah Brown Fraser on effective, accessible communication. That Sarah can whittle information down to valuable nuggets might be a consequence of her role as Head of Communications and Policy at the Activity Alliance.
As our guest, Sarah is timely, with accessible and inclusive communications being a hot topic. How do we communicate effectively with a diverse audience via various methods: print, website, social media, video, web links, in-person and even emojis? Is there such a thing as a fully accessible comms? Sarah helps us with what we need to think about initially and how to adjust as we go along.
From Liverpool with aspirations to be a TV Presenter, Sarah has found her niche in communication. Before starting work, Sarah moved from Merseyside to London to study for a BA in Media Studies at the University of East London. It was the mid-90s, but she was the first student with a disability to do her course. She is also an Everton supporter.
Simon Minty 0:19
Hello and welcome to The Way We Roll with me Simon Minty
Phil Friend 0:22
and me Phil Friend.
Simon Minty 0:24
It is the first of the year and we are delighted to have a guest. Her name is Sarah Brown Fraser now, Sarah has got over 20 years of experience in marketing and communication roles. And this is a topic I'm coming across a lot more right now. Now as a well, as well as that Sarah as a wheelchair user, she's an Everton supporter, so she's used to the ups and downs of life I'm sure, her job at the moment is an external affairs manager for Activity Alliance, although I've heard you've just been promoted. Is that right? Tell us a bit about yourself. So what do you do and what's your background?
Sarah Brown Fraser 0:57
Okay, so my new title is Head of Communications and policy for Activity Alliance the wonderful charity that I worked for, and have worked for for quite a few years. I was going to reveal my age then, but I have had 20 years of experience in marketing. I started that actually, do you know what I went? So I was a girl growing up in a little village called Formby, Merseyside, a wonderful town. And I went to university to study media, because I was convinced as a teenager that I wanted to be a television presenter. I was going to be on , Saturday morning, TV, I wanted to do all that. I don't know if you guys remember, but Going Live and all those sort of programmes. And I got a few gigs. I got a few presenting gigs and wanted to do that as a young kinda gobby, teenager. So I went to study media in London, and probably the first family member that moved away. And obviously, the same concerns as any teenager that moves away from home at 18, London, you really want to go to that London. So I went, and I enjoyed three years in London and stayed, snd got a job, bought a house. Got a wonderful job, but I ended up in marketing. Because as we know, presenting is not as easy as everybody thinks. And especially in the 90s, late 90s. It wasn't as easy for disabled people to get presenting work. And every meeting I went to,
Phil Friend 2:28
were you already a wheelchair user then so so you've been using a wheelchair for sort of all your life?
Speaker 1 2:33
I have I've got a I got a condition called spinal muscular atrophy which is a rare disease. I like to say rare because it makes it sound really good.
Simon Minty 2:42
Are you SMA Oh, yeah. Baby food.
Phil Friend 2:50
But that must have been I mean, you know, you kind of just chuck it in there, but moving from Formby to London, a wheelchair using a woman of what 18 Yeah, it's a pretty awe inspiring thing to have done.
Speaker 1 3:05
Massive, but as you can probably you know me Phil as well. At 18 I was like, Yeah, I can do that. And if you're gonna tell me, I can't do it, I'm gonna do it. So. And I was still walking a bit at 18. So it was a bit more independent, physically. But I was so determined to get into media and get into that presenting role. I just thought London was the place to be and it was. But yeah, there were challenges. And I had to find, especially universities, because campuses are all over the place. And I found and accommodations not that accessible. But luckily, I really found a good I went to the University of East London. And they'd had, they just developed some new accommodation that had accessible bedrooms and bathrooms, which were the important thing for me, and I met some really good friends. And, you know, the tutors. There were some challenges which I had to go up against, especially in media because I was the first disabled person doing media as a degree that comes with the sort of, you know, the, the deep rooted barriers that sometimes those educational establishments have like, oh, I don't think you can do video try graphics
Simon Minty 4:23
If you'd said 1970s but you know, you're talking late 90s, early 2000s, not long ago, and just a little what's the word when you have to declare an interest. So Phil, what are you in the Activity Alliance but what's your role?
Phil Friend 4:40
I'm the vice chair and I also on various other bits and pieces. So Sarah and I meet usually several times a year as a trustee with Sarah obviously presenting things to the board and that kind of stuff.
Simon Minty 4:56
Now obviously I could easily describe the Activity Alliance because I'm like that, but as we've got head of comms someone who is new to it, how and the Vice Chair, how would you describe the Activity Alliance's work Sarah?
Speaker 1 5:09
So we are a charity and we are the leading voice for disabled people in sports and activity. We were formerly known as the English Federation of Disability Sport. So people might remember us as that, but we have been around since 1998. And we work with mostly a lot with other organisations in sport and activity trying to help them to do better and include more disabled people. That is a lot of my team's work, as well as the other teams that we have, including partnerships, research and insight. We also produce a lot of robust information and research because there's a lot of gaps in the sport, you know, a lot of people need us to actually produce that information to ensure that they can get funding and also run programmes that are fit for purpose and actually meaningful for disabled people. Because, you know, if you've done it for 20 years, and disabled people aren't coming, why are you still doing it that way?
Simon Minty 6:10
In terms of sort of, like the the organisational setup, and I'm thinking, so I'm, I'm obviously an athlete, everyone knows that. But there's the Dwarf Sports Association that I'm part of. Now I know sometimes they might go to British Paralympic Association, but they might always might come to you too. Are you the kind of a sort of sports body that helps lots of organisations, presumably disabled and non disabled people to try and include them, but I would come sideways to you rather than you're not connected to the Paralympic organisations.
Speaker 1 6:44
We are in terms of we sit as a members of Paralympics GB but so and the Dwarf Sports Association that you talk about we call them NDSOs and National Disability Sports Organisations, and they sit as members of us. So we from from an elite level to grassroots level, we work with all organisations. But we are probably more definitely more about the grassroots because elite level has a place Paralympics has a place plus a really small number of disabled people that can and want to be an elite Paralympian or an elite athlete. So we work with a lot of the organisations at grassroots level to try and ensure that disabled people have an option and a choice at every level. You know, you I mean, Tani often talks about the right to be rubbish at sport. We believe in that.
Simon Minty 7:36
And that now make sense because I when I read stuff about Activity Alliance about getting us as disabled people active, and that sort of makes sense isn't just about all about that really makes sense. And you could work with any organisation, particularly a local organisation that isn't about disability but isn't getting people in. So you would say, Look be better at this.
Phil Friend 7:55
I think one of the things I just chuck in is that when we were the English Federation of Disability Sport, certainly on the board, there were more people who were in the upward elite areas. So there were you know, we're more interested in proper sport. And I think what Sarah's talking about is the research and the insight work we were doing back then showed that that was a turn off. For a lot of disabled people. They didn't want to do that. They just wanted to have some fun doing stuff with other people. So you began to introduce this idea of activity for its own sake. And now we're much more I think one other thing I'd refer to very briefly is that the Insight research work we've done one of the most, I think one of the most interesting things we did was when we did work around benefits and physical activity, which showed particularly was I think it was commissioned, was it by the muscular dystrophy group wasnt it?
Sarah Brown Fraser 8:53
No it was Dwarf Sports Association
Phil Friend 8:55
Of course it was.
Simon Minty 8:57
Of course very elite always at the vanguard.
Phil Friend 9:01
But what that showed was that disabled people were reluctant to go and do stuff because they were frightened that their benefits would be stopped.
Speaker 1 9:08
Half the disabled people that the stats were half the disabled people fear being active because they're afraid that they might get the benefits taken away
Phil Friend 9:17
So if you can do that, why can't you work or why can't you know that kind of stuff, and
Simon Minty 9:21
I would have been in the other half, which is I was fearful of sports because I knew I wouldn't be very good at it. So why bother and that fact that Activity Alliance is saying you don't have to be your you can enjoy and that's the big C change for me just to enjoy it for the sake of it, which is lovely.
Phil Friend 9:35
So let's go let's go back a bit again. So there you are doing a university stuff you come out of that you go into marketing, I suppose I'm looking for the link to where you then end up at EFDS. You know, what's the kind of connection there?
Speaker 1 9:48
So while at university and you might remember this organisation because it goes way back but British Sports Association for the Disabled.
Phil Friend 9:56
Sarah Brown Fraser 9:57
BSAD. Wasn't a great acronym. So I actually did some work experience with that organisation. And I think it's very challenging as a disabled young person I was, I was like, I don't want to go and work for disabled people or I'll go work in an organisation just because I'm disabled. I wanted to do things just because people valued me and my talent. But I ended up in this fabulous organisation with really caring people. And I went for work experience. And I ended up doing other odd bits of marketing and media with them. So when I came out of university, I got another job in marketing, I did see I work in CRM so customer relationships, and then a job came up at then Disability Sport Events. And I went for it and got it. And so I ended up in sport for disabled people, and worked my way up from there really, so started in fundraising. But I knew obviously with my media degree, and then I went and did more qualifications in marketing, but I ended up doing a lot more in marketing for DSC and then then merged with English Federation of Disability Sport.
Phil Friend 11:14
So you've been with the Alliance for how long now, sir?
Speaker 1 11:18
Well, so this is why we have had a few different roles. But if you've talked about Activity Alliance, then the name change was in 2018. But EFDS I mean, I started at DSC in 99 sport events. I know, there's a lot of acronyms. And organisations that have merged and then moved on. So yeah, I guess 99 as a fundraising officer, and then moved, obviously, since then into Head of Communications,
Simon Minty 11:53
As a sideline, I have a empathy with you that bit of where you're doing your job, and I want to be known for that job. And then you get involved in the disability part. And although How long did that take before you went? Oh, actually, I embrace this, this is a good thing as well, you know, there's, there's something I can add to it. I mean, occasionally, I kind of go, I'm gonna go back to banking, because that's what I did. There's no way but I don't know, do you ever have those things? I'm gonna get out again.
Speaker 1 12:19
I mean, I'm very lucky in the job that I do. And I'm sure we'll talk about it. But in the communication side, I do mix with other sectors. And I do meet with other leaders in different areas. So I don't feel like I'm siloed. And actually, I think it comes when you find your purpose. So when you realise, actually, you know what, as a disabled person, I need to talk for different disabled people, I need to give a voice for other disabled people who don't get the chance that I do. So I think it comes probably with age as well. But I've also I've got a disabled sister, so it's never been anything new. I just, I think I probably got it more in the last 10 years. I haven't been, you know, in the last 20 years. But definitely in the last 10 years, I've found more, especially in inclusive communications, because I feel like it takes that label out of it. And I feel very comfortable in myself. And my role.
Phil Friend 13:22
It's fair to say, isn't it, Sarah, that you also do bits of disability activism for want of a better expression outside of the Alliance? I mean, you're you live in Manchester, I think, don't you and you're active there in various guises.
Speaker 1 13:37
I sit on the board, I sit on the Greater Manchester Moving board. So that gives me opportunities to do it locally. And with that comes the different relationships that they have locally. So the likes the devolve regions like Andy Burnham. Yeah. So there's a lot of local work. And I think during COVID Especially, I was definitely more of a local voice around things like cycling lanes and inaccessible cycling paths. Not thta I cycle, by the way, but I'm speaking for other people that want to and should have the right to have access. Because there's nothing you guys will feel the same. There's nothing worse than seeing an injustice thing happen. And you think why has nobody thought about that? Why has nobody thought I can't take my disabled child or I can't take my disabled mother out to enjoy the locality that we have. So yeah, I'm not a quiet one.
Phil Friend 13:37
No, I kind of I think that's very well put.
Simon Minty 14:43
I have this hypothetical question say I was going to talk to a sports organisation about inclusive communications. Just say that happened. You weren't available and I had to do it instead. Give me an overview or maybe give me two or three things that what that means do you think?
Speaker 1 15:05
So I talk about accessible and inclusive communications because it can be such a broad subject.
Simon Minty 15:14
I'm taking notes not too fast!
Sarah Brown Fraser 15:17
And I also talk about reaching people, including disabled people, because we shouldn't automatically assume that inclusive and accessible communications is just for disabled people. When you take the barriers out, or when you look at the barriers, everyone has issues with communications, everyone has barriers to communications. And I don't know about you guys, I'm not registered blind, I'm not visually impaired. But I go into restaurants. And the menu is really small, and it's really dark. And I was like, can I just have my lighter , or I get my torch on my phone out, because I can't read the menu. Those sort of things matter to everybody. But when we think about disabled people, a lot of people have more barriers to communications. So inclusive communications is really about thinking about the barriers, and trying to think about communications in a different way.
Simon Minty 16:09
I like that, you know, what you're making me think. And when we talk about adjustments, or physical environment, all those things, and I'm speaking for Phil, and he can say something different, there's always this bit, well, 90% of this, you should be doing automatically. So everything is done, it's there it exists. But we also know that where we live in a world at the moment, and there's certain conditions impairments is limited, but you might need to do a little bit of tweaking. So you're gonna say, Make everything good for everybody. And then occasionally, we're gonna have to make it more accessible or do something additional.
Speaker 1 16:39
Yeah absolutely. I think once we start thinking about as communications lead, I know I don't start a project without thinking what barriers I might create, or what barriers I can take away. So when we think about barriers, and inclusion from the get go, we don't have to stick plasters on it at the end, or we don't have to fix it or pay more money out at the end, because we thought about it. So actually, it's better for everybody, because you won't have as many people calling up and saying, I can't access your annual report.
Simon Minty 17:09
I'm gonna let Phil come in but you remind there's a chap called Jamie and Lion, he used to create tech for the BBC, and still does very involved with IPlayer and so on he has a lovely line where he says I will not create any technology that will disable someone. So you won't make any communication that will disable someone and I think it's a beautiful way of approaching it.
Phil Friend 17:31
So I suppose I suppose it's getting into the nub of it. Obviously, the Activity Alliance is a communicator, it's communicating research, it communicates positions on subjects, ie we want to campaign about cycle lanes that disabled people, whatever it is, as head of that kind of comms area. How do you go about tackling that? So if you're going to release a report for for the Activity Alliance? What are your thoughts around the barrier removal? Before you start? Obviously, I classically, I'm thinking large print, and, you know, I mean, what, what's your kind of process that others could say, Ah!, that's interesting, I could do that, you know.
Sarah Brown Fraser 18:22
So I think the first thing you need to know is there's no such thing as fully accessible. So there will always be somebody who needs it in a different format, or a different, you know, in a different colour. But there are quick tricks that you can do as part of your planning process. So knowing the fact that you won't get it 100%, right. But what I do is, I ensure that everything we do, actually, because Microsoft was built on accessibility, the whole notion of Microsoft was about getting things accessibly out there. But people don't use it to the right level, because there's so many good accessible things in Microsoft, that people don't know how to use. So the checkers, the checkers, the reviewing that you can do on Microsoft Word, the readability score. So actually, what age is your document written for? A lot of people don't even think about the National Reading age is nine in this country.
Simon Minty 19:20
So I read that in the pre show notes. Now, first of all, Oh, my goodness, that's terrifying. And then I thought, well, hang on. Is nine quite good. I can't. I don't know what that level is. Do you see what I mean? What? What's the highest level 18?
Sarah Brown Fraser 19:34
I mean, if you think about the newspapers that we read, or don't read, they're written to a certain level so people are writing newspapers to a certain level. So if you think the Guardians around 13 to 14, the Sun is eight. And we can think what we like about newspapers but actually the readership is that about the fact it's easy to read, and I don't know about you guys, but my reading age is definitely not nine, but I love it when I get sent things in plain English, because I have got so much to read during the day, I haven't got time to read 80 pages of jargon. So give me two pages of plain English. I love it. So I think we've got a problem in this country and probably in the world that where we think we have to write things to make us sound intelligent. But I think, and I certainly do, because I know how hard it is to transfer that into plain English. So I have a personal belief, if you can write it in plain English, I think that makes you more intelligent.
Simon Minty 20:34
I have certain authors. Remember, Graham Graham was one or the Economist is another place where they write really complex information in a perfectly accessible format. I remember doing usually business communications, and there was a lovely line that said, if you're looking up words to put in your document, why? Because that means the other person at the other end is going to have to look at that word as well. You've just doubled the time for everybody. Yeah,
Phil Friend 20:56
and the premise is that you're writing it for the reader aren't you, you're not writing it for yourself. So okay, so having an understanding of who your audience is, and making an assumption, maybe unfairly, but making the assumption that their reading age is quite low, you're going to then adjust the tone that anybody could understand. I mean, if the Guardian reader wants longer words where they can add their own in can't they, it's, but there's a question comes up for me, which is you run a team, you are part of a team, you're a manager of a group of people who are all doing this every day? What's the training you go through? How do you ensure that your colleagues get this because this is for you has been a mission for a very long time, but for them, they've just joined the Alliance, they're new, probably quite young, maybe less experienced? What? How do you take them on the journey then Sarah,
Sarah Brown Fraser 21:50
so one, we have it in our values. So it's important to have values as an organisation, and so accessibility is actually within our values, and our behaviours. But as a team, what tends to happen when people apply for jobs, they do read up on a lot of our work on inclusive communications, so they do come armed with I really like what you're doing and accessible comms, I'd like to know more. And as comms people, I don't know about the comms people, you know, we're all a bit of sponge, we like to be a sponge we like to learn, we like to learn new things. We're a bit nosy. So what we do with our team is when they start we put them through an induction. So they do learn inclusive communications is one essential things, we do this as part of your training. So we give training, it's not just my team, by the way, the whole of the organisation's so when we got a new chief executive last year, he went through training, it's really important that we have it at every level so that it doesn't just fall on the comms team. Because inclusive comms is everybody's job. So we'd look very silly as Activity Alliance if we don't practice what we preach. So training gets done, we then when we have projects, if it's a new person we'll get we'll probably buddy up with one of the other team members who already knows about it. So they'll be able to flag the issues that we have within that project. And then we'll just check and challenge along the way we'll say Well, have you done it in that format? Have you done it? This is how you do it. And you'll always get my team? I'm very lucky with my team. But my team are very good at spotting things, but pulling me up because pull me up because I won't get it always right. So with like you can do that service and accessible about oh, like it?
Simon Minty 23:40
I'm gonna get controversial, which is always lovely when we can. But I'd really welcome your opinion. So I totally agree with you the two page plain English, I can read and understand this. But you're not saying the 800 page report that had quite complex concepts or I'm thinking universities where there needs to be that still exists. We're not saying everything. This is about getting something out that most people can understand. And if people want to dig deeper, is that is that what I'm understanding?
Sarah Brown Fraser 24:08
Yeah. And I like Phil says, for your audience, knowing your audience is the best thing. academic papers will always assist academic people will always read them. So but if we were in a dangerous situation, if we're putting an academic paper out for grassroots providers who won't necessarily know that information, or want to read 80 pages when they're trying to deliver clubs across the country, so writing it for your audience is the best way.
Phil Friend 24:37
I do remember, I was chairing a group for Surrey police, which was a neighbourhood you know, bringing in the public to advise police on how to do things better, all that stuff. And stop and search was a big issue. And so they they they chuck this huge report from the Home Office into this group that I was chairing, and it had had on it people that had gay police officers, it had travellers it had race, good racial mixes, Sikhs, you name it, they were in the room. And the traveller picked this report and said, You know, I'm illiterate? How am I supposed to tell you what my views are? Because we do have them, you know. And what we did was we got the Surrey police to take it away, and turn it into comic form. So it became pictorial, it was much more, and we will just read what it was about. But yeah, that's the sort of thing you're talking about, isn't it? Because you can have your 800 page report for those that are capable. But you need what I guess we would call an easy read version of that, which kind of gives you the salient points in formats you can understand. Do you do that? Is that something the Alliance does?
Sarah Brown Fraser 25:49
Yeah and, our key pieces of information will always have set format. So we'll have an accessible Word version. I mean, people undermine word, but actually, it's so accessible for people, especially with screen readers. So if you get a Word document, right, we have an accessible Word document, we have an accessible PDF, which is different to PDF, by the way, and a lot of people get that wrong. So if PDFs aren't set up, right, they can play havoc with things like screen readers, where they just read all over the place, and you've lost that. You've lost that person and that reader by just doing inaccessible documents. And then we do easy read, we do British Sign Language videos and subtitles and audio file. You'd be amazed how many people like audio files, I mean, talking of podcast. So we do those sort of formats. But it's often we still need to be open to people coming to us and saying, I can't read that kind of have it in this format. You've got this sort of set format, you don't tend to have many people come back
Phil Friend 26:54
back. So those are your sort of foundations for anything you write, you've got these things in place every time like a template. Really? Yeah, got it.
Simon Minty 27:04
I was gonna say I can see audio files really coming to the fore. And as someone who loves audiobooks, now, probably more than don't get me wrong, I still love physical books. But also, when I'm in the car or out an about, I often send Phil a voice note much to his annoyance, but I would quite happily just do that, rather than have to type. And now they're typing out, they do automatically typing them on. So you can listen to the audio or whatever it may be. I totally see that coming. So I wanted to stay on my difficult topics, just for one. So I have a colleague, and she is part of a team of people who were doing sensitivity reading. And this is about reading certain books and seeing where they are now. And she was involved. I don't know if he remembers it last year, the year before the Roald Dahl book. And there were certain bits of language that Roald Dahl had talked about. And they said, some of this language would be not appropriate today, and it all kicked off. Now, I wondered, would that ever come in your remit? Are you visiting older documents? And I just kind of wonder how do you navigate some of the I don't know what was then compared to now.
Sarah Brown Fraser 28:06
So we do cover language and terminology as part of inclusive communications and part of the workshops that we run as well cover that, but it's all mainly around the social model of disability. So and you'll be amazed even though Phil and I have been around talking about social model for years, the amount of people that don't know exists, or, you know, say my mate Dave doesn't like that word. So I'm not gonna use that. They don't understand the passion behind the social models. So I do a lot of work on that. But I don't want I also don't want to scare people into thinking, Can I say that? Can I not say that? I just don't, I just won't speak to that person. Because I don't know what to say, I don't want that situation for anybody. Because I just think we have to take. Sometimes we have to take the seriousness out of terminology. But there is a time and place we have to get it right. And that is in communications. And if I'm running campaigns, I'm going to follow the social model because it's there. It's there for a purpose. That's practice what we what we want in positive terminology. But I will say that I also say in workshops, that language evolves. So we need to keep up with language and terminology. And just like our mums and dads managed to change from shilling to pence, they managed to get into the tech banking, they managed, you know, to go on to digital and work out laptops in some of some people, then we move with language, we have to move with the up with the updates on language and learn and that comes from education and reading your past selves. I can't feed your language terminology sheet if you're not going to learn and keep up to date with that language. So I'm very passionate about it.
Phil Friend 29:52
I suppose one of the big changes to Sarah, you mentioned the social model and Simon and I've had a number of conversations on this podcast. Ask with others about disability and who are disabled people. Now, one of the big transformations in say the last five or six years has been the neurological, you know, the neuro diverse communities within which are a huge range of different conditions or people's issues. How have you adapted that? Because I suppose the kind of the old people like me still think about disabled people, the blind and deaf and wheelchairs, you know, there's this huge range, and you've got to communicate for and with them, too, haven't you? So what's your take on that new newer sort of community, really.
Sarah Brown Fraser 30:41
So we work with the experts in that space, we cannot be the expert on every language possible. And that goes for every diverse community, it's not just disabled people, you know, we would never say we are the language experts of people within diverse communities or ethnic diverse communities. So we work with the experts in that space. And there are experts in neuro diversity, so we go to them and we ask them, and it's, it's also very, it's the way the language set up for neurodivergent people, actually is different to the social model. So you've got to learn a bit more of that. And they do have guides, they do have guides, and I read them and actually have to learn myself from them. And you've always going to have individuals who prefer an on an individual basis, you ask that person, what would you prefer? What is you know, how would you express yourself? But in a mass communications, you can't do that? You can't do individual comms.
Simon Minty 31:44
So, um, I know in your bio, there's, you've been involved in organisational strategies, action plans and campaigns, I'm interested in a campaign or two where you've right I love that one. Or that one really gave me a buzz or it had an impact, what are some of the sort of favourite projects that you've done?
Sarah Brown Fraser 32:00
I mean, recently, we've been working with the FA, on we worked on their project of play football your way. And it's nice to go in, I like the ones where they have very expensive agencies who've got a huge budget, and you go in like the grim reaper of comms. And you go, that's nice, but it's not accessible. And what I love is that light bulb moment when you see the agencies, because they usually big campaigns are usually run by big agencies who have run, you know, they know what they're doing, and they've run these campaigns for years, they've had millions of pounds. And then you sit there and you say, Well, you know, you could get a lot more people, if you actually did it this way. And those are the lightbulb moments where they actually suddenly realise there's also a pound sign to it, they go, Oh, we could actually make money from this doing this the right way. I also helped at the beginning of This Girl Can. So when This Girl Can was being launched, it was quite a while back. I was sitting in that to see sort of, and I love those sort of campaigns. I like when it's not just about disabled people. I like it because people because, you know, we disabled people don't come with a label on our head saying talk to me, I'm disabled. There's a lot of disabled people in this country who probably don't even identify as being disabled. So really thinking about the accessibility and inclusion of all campaigns and thinking about the intersectionality of disabled people. I'm a woman first, if you talk to me and motivate me as a woman, you're probably more likely to get me to do things than as a disabled person. And we do that wrong, we label a lot of people and go sit in your box, and we're market to you in your box. But actually, we don't work like that as humans, you know, I might talk to Phil as a young whippersnapper. Something might motivate Phil, that isn't about being disabled. You know, chocolate might be my biggest motivator, to be fair.
Phil Friend 34:05
But I think I think going back to This Girl Can which was massive, had a huge impact. I'm guessing Sara, looking back on that. That disabled women may not have been thought about in quite you know, there was this kind of blanket idea that if we do this, this is but for disabled women particularly disabled women mobility issues and that kind of thing. undressing and dressing in, you know, swimming pools, all that stuff, which we know many women feel uncomfortable with, but the disabled woman was that was that what you added the value to in a sense, which was saying Don't forget this group of women may have these experiences.
Sarah Brown Fraser 34:47
Yeah, it was mainly about imagery and representation because I think what happens with these campaigns, and I'm not talking about This Girl Can what happens is you they bring out people that are just must have somebody with Down syndrome because you can tell they're disabled or I must have a wheelchair user, because everyone will believe that I've involved as a disabled person. And it's very visual but actually, you know, disabled people are as much as wheelchair user the best impairment group
Phil Friend 35:19
No, arguement there there's no argument there at all.
Sarah Brown Fraser 35:23
But as much as we are we are only 8% of disabled people, we are not a big proportion of disabled people. So we shouldn't really think "wheelchair user" every time we think of disabled people, we need to start thinking mixing that up and put in a lot more people.
Simon Minty 35:41
I looked at some notes, and watched, the Activity Alliance video on accessible comms. And there's some really great stuff. One of the things I mentioned is social media. Now, there's a little nod to that not everybody uses it. But it is so phenomenal. Now. I mean, what are the some of the challenges and the benefits in terms of accessible comms and social media, particularly the providers and the tools that they might give us?
Sarah Brown Fraser 36:06
Probably, the settings change all the time. So if I think back to things like Facebook, it was really inaccessible to start with, but actually, it's improved. So I think we have to keep up with those updates. So half the issue is actually a lot of people don't realise, you know, x has done this or tick tock does this, looking up what those platforms actually can do for accessibility, and sometimes it's turning something on, on your settings. So turning image descriptions on to make sure you can put the image descriptions on your social media. So the settings, it always changes and also just the same things you do in documents like image descriptions, colour contrast, plain English, those sort of things. I tell you what, my big bugbear in social media is though emojis. Oh, so emojis are not always what you think they are in terms of being read out by a screen reader.
Phil Friend 37:09
This could be fun.
Sarah Brown Fraser 37:11
And so you know a lot of people use emojis as sentences, don't they? They're like, Oh, everyone will understand what this emoji means. As a sentence. You read it in the screen read and it just goes to pot so so be very careful with emojis I'd say as well. They're not what you think they are on a screen reader.
Simon Minty 37:30
So sometimes when someone's done really something brilliant. I just put that sort of fire and the flames and around a hand clap. I'm kind of worried now that it's probably sounding flames. I hope you burn or something. Oh what have I done!
Phil Friend 37:45
you know if you live in the universe where I do where emojis are still a dark art and I never use them, I'm much safer Simon than you Wizzy kids who are doing this stuff
Sarah Brown Fraser 37:55
Less is more with emojis I'd say like, no, some people love emojis Just treat them minimally. Don't make them a sentence.
Phil Friend 38:05
Well, I hope Simon is listening and making notes about that point, Sarah.
Simon Minty 38:10
I'll be honest, I've never. I'm now worried that emojis are not accessible. I'm putting stuff up there. I'm more worried about access, rather than making a fool of myself. But a bit of both.
Phil Friend 38:21
I mean, presumably, I've never done that. This is really interesting. Presumably there's audio description for any emoji.
Sarah Brown Fraser 38:28
Yeah, yeah but the tag is not what you think.
Phil Friend 38:31
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's,
Sarah Brown Fraser 38:35
A lot of people in sport, do numbers. So they'll do like 100. But they do 1-0-0. And it's something I think the tag behind it isn't like Unicode tag, one, Unicode tag zero, Unicode zero. That doesn'tsay 100.
Simon Minty 38:51
No, there was a period where all Phil would eat was aubergines and I'm telling you. And we got blocked by a lot of people.
Phil Friend 38:58
Actually, it's Alpen that's what I normally eat. Now we've been chatting away here for a long time already its gone. wizzy whiz. I just want Sarah to spend a little bit of time we have left to just kind of say what's coming down the track. So you've talked a lot and very well about what the position is, and some of the ways we can improve and and some of the pitfalls emojis, for example, but what do you think the future looks like four or five years ahead, from your point of view, working at the Alliance and doing what you do? What challenges do you face?
Sarah Brown Fraser 39:34
Well, if I was to look back at the impact of the last five years, and especially the last year actually COVID was an interesting time. Yeah, but actually, we got a lot of demand, especially for my time during COVID for the digital exclusion, digital exclusion because everyone on COVID to suddenly went online and forgot about a lot of our nation who can't or won't, or just just for you know, other reasons cannot use digital. And we also think about digital poverty is a huge bugbear of mine, as well. So, we still have a society where people have to choose heating and food over data. Don't assume that everyone has four laptops in their household to do homework. So that sort of digital exclusion, I think will get bigger, the more that we have this cost of living problem, right? You know, people won't be choosing digital ways they need things through their door to get to them. So we have to probably go back to a bit of traditional marketing in a way. So that a lot of that, but the impact we've had is actually interestingly diversity and inclusion I'm glad has become a bigger thing, especially in sport. It's always been there. But suddenly, some people and more people are talking about inequalities and the problem we have as a nation. And with that has come the demand or the interest in inclusive communications. And we can't talk about diversity and inclusion without talking about disabled people. We can't be diverse ish. So we need to start thinking about those barriers in communications. So the demand has been quite high in the last few years in terms of Sarah, can we borrow you for this campaign? Can we we know what will it cost for Activity Alliance to be part of this project? So that's nice that actually people are seeing the demand in it. I think it can only get better. But this year, especially for us as a charity. We have obviously the Paralympics happens on the Paralympics in Paris in 2024. And as much as we obviously, are not, we're not helping to organise that the interest goes up during that period. Whatever happens during the Olympics and Paralympics, people start thinking about being active and saying, Well, what can I do as a disabled person? And for that is where our partnerships team comes in. Because locality matters? We don't all you know, we all don't think about oh, when are we going to be active, I'm going to travel 200 miles to Stoke Mandeville, and we're gonna do some wheelchair basketball, that doesn't work in the real persons world. So we want to know what's on our doorstep, we want to know our local gym, you want to know go to our local leisure centre. That's when we work with localities to really make them think about accessibility in their local areas. There is that interest that we'll have alongside that in policy, which we haven't talked about much, but is general election this year. So whenever that comes, could be quite soon, or before Paralympics, we've got to be ready to start challenging. Either the same government or the new government, about policy and disabled people in sport.
Phil Friend 42:47
Are you thinking given on it, one of the things we haven't said either is just how incredibly busy you are? You're a small team and you're rushed off your feet? I know that personally, because I've seen it, with the election coming? Do you have the space to talk to the political parties about their manifestos? And you know, that kind of level? I mean, I'll get the government but once they're in, then we obviously talk to them. But what about influencing the political parties beforehand? Is that within your
Sarah Brown Fraser 43:17
Yeah, yeah, we're doing it, we're doing it already. And actually, the last year has been very interesting in policy. And we are already having meetings with a lot of government departments and also shadow. And we have to be open, because we just don't know what the general election is going to bring. It might not bring one party, it might bring several in a coalition. So we are getting actually I've seen what I've liked is that where people are now approaching us in government, and several parties are saying, well, can we talk to you about this? Or can we can we have some information or research on this? What we need to be very aware of in government is there's no new money, there's not going to be billions of pounds more for disabled people in sport. So we have to work with what we got. But we have to make that better for disabled people because some of the policies that affect how active disabled people could be are not right, not right.
Simon Minty 44:18
Well, I do. I do agree with you, Sarah. I think the work that you do, I'm always obviously important in itself, but it feels like it's it's becoming a bigger and bigger issue. And you know, my traditional training that I do around employment or management, I'm getting requests around specific stuff that is your bit and the bit I'm taking away I think there is a movement of generally around disability of this, which is this isn't just about accessible comms, it's just about a better comms all the way through, which means everyone can get it. But always in the bit where I get jumpy and probably the same just making sure even with the best comms, there will still be those individuals that we might need to do that something extra because we can't go we've done it all, now that's the you can't completely forget it just by making it accessible if you see what I mean.
Phil Friend 45:07
Well, what can I say? That was brilliant. I mean, I, you know, there's there's so much going on, I suppose the thing that Sarah and I know, and those outside the organisation perhaps don't realise is is just how important this is from the point of view of obviously health and all those things. But also its leisure, isn't it? What do we do with our leisure time and going for a walk or a ramble or something or pushing a lawn mower or having a game of table tennis, whatever. It's all helping us maintain that mental health and also stay a bit fitter. Sarah, it's been a joy really enjoyed talking to you. I'm not had this long of conversation with you ever about comms before even though we see each other quite regularly. So that was really good. Thank you so much for your time.
Sarah Brown Fraser 45:52
Thank you for having me.
Simon Minty 45:53
Thank you, Sara. It's great to meet you. Keep up the good work as well.
Sarah Brown Fraser 45:59
Phil Friend 46:01
Well I thought that was brilliant. I learned I personally learned a lot from Sarah about what what's what in the inclusive comms area? And what about you?
Simon Minty 46:09
Yes, there was the lovely confirmation of that bit of one single route will not make it accessible to everyone. So you know, you're always gonna have to have alternatives and I really like that. And yeah, there's some real gems and real nuggets of I got page and a half for notes. So yeah, I think I'm an expert now.
Phil Friend 46:27
Yeah, you're an expert fine. Yeah. No worries, your watch what you do your emojis presumably from now on?
Simon Minty 46:36
The bit that I have heard is how brilliant Microsoft Word is in terms of all these sort of, you can check it for neurodivergent readers for other readers and all that sort and that PDF there was a lovely line she put in the notes which is about maybe having links, make sure they're self explanatory in themselves don't just do these massive great long links. So some really nice touches in there
Phil Friend 46:58
I suppose. Yes, I know that Sarah through the Activity Alliance do run courses for organisations that so they can be hired to do this. Oh, and I suppose part of the thing is that the people in the organisations need to remember or learn what accessibility bits there are in say Microsoft Word or Pages on Mac so are they as good as Word from that point of view, I don't know I must have a look.
Simon Minty 47:25
I don't know I'm just slightly embarrassed but You're shameless promotion of the organisation. You're the vice chair of I don't remember agreeing that!
Phil Friend 47:31
What the Activity Alliance which is a brilliant organisation which does amazing things
Simon Minty 47:35
just because you retired you kind of doing me out work here. I've got a page of notes!
Phil Friend 47:39
I've undercut you by doing it for nothing.
Simon Minty 47:44
Same as it ever has been.
Phil Friend 47:48
Ev en when we worked together I undercut you. Listeners Corner Mr. Minty great excitement well. Last month, we just before Christmas, it was although, if you're listening to this in July, who knows? We had Andrew Miller did we not for Motability CEO at Motability. And it's been very well received. I mean, we've got a lot of listens. So good on you, Andrew, if you're listening, but we had a couple of communications. I think one from somebody you know,
Simon Minty 48:18
Pat Simmons is her name and she is a new she joined the Motability scheme about a year ago and she's been learning to drive the bit that's interesting about Pat is she is in the early 60s. And learning to drive for the first time. So yeah, it's been a revelation for her I think she's passsed theory. And will be hopefully doing her practical test soon.
Phil Friend 48:41
she dropped us a line saying how much she enjoyed the podcast and how excited she was about you know, soon to be a driver out there. And good for you, Pat and thanks for for dropping the load. That was good. And someone else who was in touch with us James Williams. Now I knew James through through Lloyds Banking Group, we did some stuff there together. But he dropped us a note saying he was really pleasantly surprised by the podcast in the sense that he thought it could be a bit of a dry subject, but you know, because whatever. But he said, I Andrew was very engaging and very open and very accepting that he has a lot to learn. And he also enjoyed the fact that the he asked us some questions too, which was was good. So James, thanks for again, taking the time to drop us a note that was much appreciated.
Simon Minty 49:31
James eluded something I think is really interesting, where he said, We need a bit more of that from chief execs. And I do think chief execs have this fine line of I've still got stuff to learn. I need to listen to people, but at the same time that Chief Exec and you're like well, you're ment to know your stuff, so there's a real balance between that and it sounds like James thought Andrew just nailed it.
Phil Friend 49:50
Yeah. So there we are. Nice postbag.
Simon Minty 49:54
Lovely. Any new year's resolutions?
Phil Friend 49:57
Broken already? I don't make New Year's right resolutions I remember Dave Reese my old oppo that I did all the personal development work with always saying that you know, the trick with new of New Year's resolutions is not making them but keeping them so I don't make them that way I don't get disappointed when I don't keep them that's all a bit garbled?
Simon Minty 50:16
Really happy I've asked that question. Great start to 2024
Phil Friend 50:22
I'm gonna live a full and productive life forever.
Simon Minty 50:28
Phil Friend 50:30
Well, what about you? Have you got any? While we're on the subject?
Simon Minty 50:33
I haven't I got a new playlist, I start a new playlist every six months of songs that double and this one is titled things are going to change. So I've kept it very vague.
Phil Friend 50:47
We may have an election that could change your playlist. Yeah. Billy Bragg.
Simon Minty 50:52
Oh, okay. We're going somewhere with that aren't we. Fine, we should let the listeners get on with their lives.
Phil Friend 50:59
Simon Minty 51:00
Thank you for listening to the end. And thank you for listening. And thank you, Sarah for being our amazing guest.
Phil Friend 51:05
Yes, indeed. And if you want to get in touch with us by the old fashioned email route, our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon Minty 51:15
We are also on LinkedIn. We're on Facebook. We're on Twitter X and Instagram, so drop us a line.
Phil Friend 51:23
So take care everyone, see you soon.
Simon Minty 51:25
Thank you for listening to The Way We Roll with Simon Minty and Phil Friend. If you enjoy the show, don't forget to subscribe, rate and share
Transcribed by https://otter.ai