The first ever newspaper designed specifically for people with learning disabilities – called Easy News – will be launched today (23 January) at a high profile event at the House of Commons. The newspaper has been created by national disability charity United Response in an “easy read” format, which uses simple words and visual cues to explain the news stories of the day. Currently, just 11% of people with learning disabilities read newspapers as a result of their complex language – Easy News is designed to change that.
The newspaper is the latest in a series of initiatives by United Response designed to promote greater inclusion of people with learning disabilities in our society. It follows on from the charity’s award-nominated Every Vote Counts campaign, which saw the numbers of people with learning disabilities voting in the 2010 election double from 2005.
The newspaper is being launched as the first campaign of the charity’s 40th anniversary year. Journalist, former newsreader and United Response President, Martyn Lewis CBE, will be compering the event and speakers will include disability blogger and activist Kaliya Franklin as well as Eleanor Laing MP.
As United Response’s research while developing the newspaper found, a lack of accessible news makes it harder for people with learning disabilities to engage with politics. Just 16% of people with learning disabilities said they were interested in politics, and over half didn’t feel that politics actually had an impact on their daily lives.
Emma from West Sussex has been supported by United Response for the last eight years. She has never engaged in politics and does not read newspapers. “I cannot read them so I would not understand them” said Emma. Easy News aims to help people like Emma by delivering major news to those who struggle to understand the mainstream media. Nick from Manchester says, ”It’s important to learn what’s going on in real life, to find out what’s happening. I think keeping up with the news is good for everybody, it shouldn’t just be for people who can read well.”
Easy News will be produced every other month and will be available in paper, downloadable PDF and audio versions. The first edition covers top stories from 2012, including changes in the NHS, recent successes in the Paralympics and much more. The stories have been translated into easy read from a variety of news sources and are delivered in an unbiased, non-partisan way. The selection of stories is based on areas of interest indicated by survey respondents. The project has been part funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
United Response Chief Executive Su Sayer CBE said: “I’m very proud that we are starting our 40th anniversary year by launching something as creative and important as Easy News. The people we support are affected by events in the outside world, including politics, as much as anyone, if not more so. Yet they often find it hard to find out what is happening because news outlets and politicians tend to use very complex language. This easy read newspaper will give them the chance to find out what is happening and to get involved, by voting or making their voices heard.”
Disability blogger and activist Kaliya Franklin helped create the concept for the newspaper alongside United Response. She said: “Of all the campaigning I have done over the past few years Easy News is the project I am most proud and excited to be involved in. Full participation in society means being able to understand and inform ourselves about the world around us – only then can we choose for ourselves who to vote for and be part of the democratic process as full citizens.”
The launch event will take place on Wednesday 23 January from 4.30-6.00pm in the Member’s Dining Room in the House of Commons and will include brief speeches from disability activist, Kaliya Franklin, United Response President, Martyn Lewis CBE, host Eleanor Laing MP and UR Consultants, the team of people with learning disabilities who produced the easy read version.
For further information on Easy News and to download a copy, go to www.unitedresponse.org.uk/easynews.
Darren is 39 years old. He has been supported by United Response for six and half years. He is a confident speaker and is able to express his views and opinions verbally, but finds written information difficult to understand because he can’t read very well and his eyesight is poor.
Darren is interested in politics because he feels that it has a direct impact on his quality of life. He states, “the more prices go up, the less I can do.” Darren named the budget as the biggest event that he had seen in the news recently.
Darren keeps abreast of news and politics by watching it on the television and talking about the news with other people. He relies on his support workers to explain the things politicians say in simple terms. He does not read newspapers.
Darren has voted in local and general elections, spoken with his local councillor and signed a petition opposing the increase in petrol prices. Darren said that he would be interested in receiving a newspaper with simple words and pictures, and would like to see if it helped him understand the news better. He said “I like to know what is going on.” He said that he would be particularly interested in receiving stories about money and benefits, health, transport, gossip and celebrity news.