Our Askability website, www.askability.org.uk, was inspired by The Children’s Society’s Solihull branch, after children had misunderstood the news about the war in Iraq. They decided that there was a need for a website which presented news and information in symbols, making it accessible to disabled children and young people who do not use text as their main means of communication. It is also designed as a forum for them to express their views, again entirely in symbol.
Since then, the site has developed a rich array of content ranging from daily national and international news, sports and reviews of games, dvds and more. And, in 2011 we plan to launch a social networking function.
Askability uses Widgit, below, a specially created 'symbol language' consisting of over 10,000 simply drawn symbols, each providing a visual representation of a single concept:
Local to you
The Askability team works with local authorities and schools to develop localised pages giving details about events, clubs, activities and more, together with information about accessibility. We also produce a 'speak up' section, dedicated to consultation.
Local authorities can subscribe to Askability so that they can make information about local news and events accessible to disabled children and young people in their area.
Wolverhampton City Council has had localised pages on Askability since 2008. The council recognises the importance of Askability as a learning tool for disabled children and young people, and also understands the challenges involved in simplifying information without compromising meaning. Our dedicated workers help to develop content and convert the material that the local authority provides into this specialised accessible symbol format.
A young person's perspective
'I'm profoundly deaf and use an electric wheelchair because I have cerebral palsy. My first language is British Sign Language, not English. Askability is amazing - it has opened up a new world for me and my friends, who have communication difficulties too. Symbols make information easy to understand - it's like reading a newspaper. I now know a lot more and feel more confident about joining in conversations. Best of all, I can make choices about where I want to go.
'I think it’s really important that councils involve people like me when they decide what we need. This will make sure money is well spent on things we really need and not wasted.
'The Children's Society has always involved us in Askability - I'm an editor for the site at my weekly work placement.'
We know that many of you have already started using Askability. For those who haven’t, access costs a local authority around 3p per child per week, according to DCSF research. If you’d like to know more about the service do email us at email@example.com, or call Fran Murray or Andy Vine on 0121 704 4577.