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easy read consultation documents August 22, 2007

Posted by Bradley in : Uncategorized , trackback

One of my interests is in how governments, regulators and supranational standard setters carry out consultation exercises. In particular I have focused on multilevel financial regulation – regulation which involves supranational standards and domestic implementation – and I have recently argued that financial firms and their trade associations have enormous advantages in terms of helping to frame debates about financial regulation and to affect outcomes. The UK’s Treasury Department has an ongoing consultation exercise on gender as a factor in the assessment of insurance risks (comments to be submitted by September 4th). The Treasury links to the Government’s wider review of equality law. In contrast with the Treasury’s consultation, the broader consultation by the Communities and Local Government Department is presented in the normal versions and in an “easy read” version with pictures.

In principle I think that the idea of presenting consultation documents in ways that maximise the number of people who can participate is a really good idea. But the execution is odd in this case. The pictures are really ugly and often don’t link well to the text. And in contrast with the Disability Rights Commission‘s web pages, which are also presented in an easy read format, the document has no audio files (although it does appear to be possible to obtain an audio version). Here is an example which , I think, illustrates how the drafters missed opportunities: alongside text which reads “The Government would like to hear what you think by 4 September 2007, there is a picture of a calendar showing September 2007. The picture does not suggest that the 4th of September is different from any other day. As another example, just below this the text reads: “The details about how to tell us what you think are at the end of this paper.” The illustration alongside this text shows a picture of a hand holding a pen poised above a piece of paper.

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