Jason Gordon

Counting Down to AIS

Time’s running out. The 31st July deadline is fast approaching when organisations providing NHS or adult social care – including NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts and GP practices – must be fully compliant with all aspects of the new Accessible Information Standard.

AIS tells organisations how to ensure that patients and other service users get information in ways they can understand, and receive appropriate support to help them communicate.

For paper-based patient letters and leaflets this could include provisions like Braille, Easy Read or large print for blind and partially sighted readers. The new legally-binding standard also mandates appropriate support such as a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or deafblind manual interpreter for those that need it in hospitals, GP surgeries and drop-in centres.

AIS is a bold move that’s unprecedented in the history of the health service – and it’s an initiative that’s warmly welcomed by us here at Texthelp. For over 20 years we’ve been lowering the barriers to clear communication, helping people understand and be understood themselves. Equally, we know that fully implementing AIS in time for July’s deadline may look like a pretty daunting prospect.

We’ve been closely involved in helping organisations that serve the NHS prepare for the arrival of AIS ever since its announcement in July 2015. Since then we’ve spoken to hundreds of healthcare professionals at NHS England roadshows around the country, spelling out what AIS means and what practical steps you can take to ensure that your organisation complies fully with the new standard.

There are plenty of ways we can get you up to speed. Recently adopted by NHS England, our easy-to-use Browsealoud toolbar helps patients and their carers get important information and use services like online appointment bookings. Like our hugely popular Read&Write software solution, this brings ‘Text-to-speech’ capability to any online content, improving accessibility with a choice of read-aloud voices and on-screen highlighters to improve readers’ understanding.

Text can be instantly translated into 100 different languages – great for patients when English isn’t their first language. There’s also a web page simplifier that strips non-essential content away for easier reading, a PDF reader, and an MP3 generator that converts digital health information to audio form. Read&Write’s picture widget can create easy-read documents and simple glossaries at the touch of a button, while font magnifiers are a big help to patients with visual impairments. 

Best of all, our software can be deployed on your site quickly and easily - meaning you’re a big step closer to AIS compliance in a matter of hours, not weeks!

Several leading UK charities have already signalled that they will actively pursue implementation of the new standard. Whether this means the potential of litigation from charities and patient groups remains to be seen. But it’s clear nonetheless that organisations affected by AIS should see this new legislation as an opportunity and not a threat. Boosting easy access to online services is a win/win for patients and care providers alike, speeding delivery and reducing the costly overhead of face-to-face patient interaction for routine information and enquiries.  

If you’re counting down to 31st July – and wondering what to do next – why not join one of our webinars? We’ll be delighted to talk about your organisation’s needs, and recommend ways to ensure you’re compliant with AIS in good time.


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