BBC News and disabled audiences
Yesterday, several newspapers picked up on an internal e-mail I sent to BBC News TV presenters asking them to avoid using the phrase "as you can see on your screens" when pointing audiences to the BBC News website. I asked them if they would please spell out URLs, e-mail addresses and phone numbers, pointing out that a significant number of blind people use television news. The phrase "as you can see" excludes people with visual impairments, and means they can't get the information they might want. This is discourteous, and we can do better than that.
Commentators, and one reported "BBC insider", have said: "This is political correctness gone mad." It is not. This issue is not about avoiding causing offence. It's about information and how to access it.
Eleven million adults are considered to have a disability in the UK which affects their everyday life, and this group make up 19% of the working population and an even higher proportion of our audience. For instance 21% of the audience to the BBC News at Six on BBC One is considered to have a disability. Surely it's not political correctness to consider whether the content we're producing is suitably accessible and understandable?
The BBC has a commitment to help people with disabilities use our services. There are various pages on the BBC site which give information about how it addresses this - for instance bbc.co.uk/accessibility which helps arm audiences with tools which enable them to make the most of the web. There's also the Ouch! website - which reflects the lives and experiences of disabled people with articles, blogs, and an active messageboard.
I'd be interested in hearing from you on what more BBC News could do to makes its services more accessible to all and also about the range of stories we cover.