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As part of the mainstream media, we are proud to play our part in crises, to provide essential information, ask relevant questions and convey what we know as clearly as possible.
We appreciate there is much information for people to absorb in the Covid-19 crisis and it is important people get accurate, up-to-date details in what has been a fast-moving situation, whether it be through newspapers, radio, television or online.
The Government has set up a dedicated Covid-19 website which has extensive information including about what we are expected to do during the lockdown and the help available. It has been a welcome and necessary move. However, we wonder how much thought has been given to how easily understandable some of this information is for those with limited literacy, digital or otherwise.
It may seem churlish to be critical when those behind the scenes will be working hard to convey information as quickly as possible, but a brief look at the official website’s 200 words on staying at home, for example, shows it is peppered with multi-syllable words and phrases that could have been replaced with simpler ones.
As the Citizens Advice Bureau pointed out in its ‘‘Face to Face with Digital Exclusion’’ report published earlier this year, even with access to digital devices, many people lack skills or confidence to navigate processes or simply lack the reading and comprehension to make sense of what they are looking at.
That report, which used data gathered from the bureau’s clientele, cast doubt on the common assumption digital exclusion is only an issue for older people.
The CAB found while older people were disproportionately represented among those struggling, there were people across all age groups who were digitally disadvantaged.
As well as finding online information hard to access, those who may be cognitively challenged watching a television broadcast might only understand part of the message or get it wrong.
Have images of people queueing at supermarkets been interpreted by some as a sign things must be running out? Even those who are supposedly not cognitively impaired seem to find it hard to get the message which has been drummed home incessantly, that there will be plenty of everything if only we shop normally.
Does someone who is not listening closely, or unable to do so, just hear that things are shutting down and assume it is everything?
In these circumstances, those of us who are able to read and understand reliable information and keep up-to-date should check in regularly with those we know who might be struggling to comprehend the situation, to ensure they grasp what is going on and offer reassurance where it is needed.
We are all in this together.