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Blind woman secures promises from government to provide accessible pandemic communications

25 March 2021

A blind woman has won a legal case which secures fundamental promises of changes to how the Government communicates with people during the pandemic.

Sarah Leadbetter, who is registered blind, was due to have a judicial review hearing concerning the government’s failure to provide her with accessible shielding information.

The hearing was due to consider Sarah’s challenge to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s practice of sending hard copy letters to people who are shielding without considering their communication needs. These letters were inaccessible to Sarah and other people with visual impairments who cannot read hard print.

At least four letters were sent to Sarah from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about shielding during 2020, but she did not know she had received any of them until her mother told her, and she was unable to read any of them independently. She did not receive an email that the DHSC said had been sent to some people in the shielding category.

Sarah was arguing that the failure to provide accessible shielding correspondence to blind and partially sighted people was unlawful disability discrimination, a breach of her human rights, and a failure to comply with the government’s own Accessible Information Standard.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had been given permission by the Court to intervene in Sarah’s case and had provided important legal submissions to support Sarah’s claim.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Accessibility should be standard across all NHS and government communications. It’s incredible that 25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act became law, that we are still having to bring cases like this to court.”

Read more on Sarah’s case, including the promises that have been secured, here.