Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

Closes 21 Apr 2024

Inclusive Communications

Inclusive communication means sharing and receiving information in a way that everybody can understand. For public authorities and people who provide support and services, it means making sure that they recognise that people understand and express themselves in different ways. For people who access support systems and services, it means getting information and expressing themselves in ways that meet their needs. Inclusive communication relates to all modes of communication: written information, online information, telephone, face to face. 

Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities with communication support needs can face widespread exclusion and disadvantage. The use of inclusive communication is vital in order to allow people to know and exercise their rights, to live independently and to participate fully in life.    

What can the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence (LDAN) Bill do?  

The Bill could assist by providing a stronger focus on how public authorities’ duties around inclusive communication can best be met for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities – potentially providing more specificity than the  Human Rights Bill (recently consulted upon) and existing public sector duties.  The provision of more accessible information links also to our proposals on training. Inclusive communication would inherently be a significant component of that training.    

Although we focus on public bodies for the Bill, it will also be important to think about how we extend and promote inclusive communications to other organisations in the future.  Some or all of the following could be explored further for possible inclusion in the Bill.   

Proposal 1: Alternative means of communication 

Provide for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities to request access to alternative means of communication where the offered means of communication will not work for them. This could mean being able to request an online or telephone meeting rather than face to face, or a telephone call instead of a letter, or other forms of communication.  

It might also be appropriate for neurodivergent people, and people with learning disabilities, to be able to request access to a practitioner with specialist training in certain circumstances. For example, when accessing health care or when navigating the criminal justice system. 

Proposal 2: Easy-read 

Better access to easy-read versions of all public facing communications and documents made by public authorities. This could include a broad duty to make them available on request and an automatic duty to provide them in certain circumstances, such as: 

  • a duty on National Health Service (NHS) Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) to require appointment letters to automatically be produced in easy read; and  
  • a duty on the Scottish Police Service, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service and the Scottish Prison Service to automatically provide information to people in certain circumstances including when accused or convicted of a crime in an accessible way, including standard bail conditions. 

There will be other circumstances too where an automatic duty would be important. 

Proposal 3: Neurodivergent and learning disabilities strategies 

Local and national strategies are discussed more fully in a previous section. If the Bill were to require local strategies to be produced, this could apply to local authorities, NHS Boards and integration authorities, and potentially other public bodies if appropriate. The Bill could provide the Scottish Government with power to direct what these strategies should cover and this could include how communication needs are met.   

Proposal 4: An enforceable Accessible Information Standard for Scotland 

Whilst the Accessible Information Standard made under section 250 of the 2012 Act is not enforceable in Scotland, guidance sets out that it should be considered best practice in NHS Scotland organisations. The Bill could provide for an Accessible Information Standard to be enforceable in Scotland with requirements  for its implementation and impact to be reviewed.  

Please tell us what you think.

Related information

Consultation Questions

The questions in this document refer to information contained in our consultation document and various alternative formats which can all be found here

You need only answer questions in the sections most relevant to you.

Which of these proposals do you agree with (if any), please tell us why?
Which of these proposals do you not agree with (if any), please tell us why?
Is there anything else that we should consider in relation to inclusive and accessible communication?