Engaging young people with learning disabilities

The Participation Works blogging platform platform may still be a noticeable omission from the Participation Works Network for England offering – but it's good to see a few more comment articles coming through from PW, particularly when they are sharing some great insights.
In this report from the North West Participation Workers conference, PWNE co-ordinator Natalie Jeal shares her reflections from the event, including a pointer to a new research website from Mencap and the OU – and including tips about how to engage young people with learning disabilities in participation work. The tips include:

  • Writing minutes and agendas with BIG text and no long words
  • Using pictures and symbols where appropriate to tell the story
  • Using creative methods instead of just talking
  • Making the most of frequent breaks
  • Introducing a jargon wall so any complicated words can be explained later on
  • Ensuring young people have time to prepare properly so sending out agendas and activities in advance, even to providing Dictaphones so pre-recorded questions can be used during interviews or formal meeting

I can't emphasise enough the importance of thinking about accessibility and creative methods when planning any participation project or opportunity. With the rise of photo sharing websites like Flickr it's easier than ever to find images and quickly put together visual resources – and thinking carefully about ways to remove jargon from any documents not only helps those with learning difficulties – but helps make the participation process more accessible to just about everyone involved.
One area I'm keen to learn more about is writing and creating online content in more accessible ways – as being aware of the literacy levels and particular abilities of participants in online consultation and participation opportunities is no less important that being tuned in at in-person events – and hopefully I'll get the chance to explore that on some projects coming up soon.

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