Navigating an accessible world with patients

When one of our GLOBALHealthPR partners in Italy said ‘things will never be the same again’ earlier this month, they were right. And maybe that is a good thing…

For decades, patients and patient groups have been campaigning to make the world a more accessible place. From upgrading access to buildings to navigating websites with keyboard commands or voice recognition, there have been huge improvements to the lives of those who are physically impaired or impacted by a disease that limits their abilities. There have also been huge strides in trying to make essential services accessible for those challenged by mental health problems. But it has been relatively slow and accessibility challenges still exist.

When our world changes, we change

Then an unprecedented pandemic arises, affecting most of the world’s population. For the first time, many people are experiencing constraints on their everyday life, being unable to go to their place of work or socialise with their friends and family. We have been forced to embrace a “new normal” and it’s incredible how quickly we have been able to adapt our lives, now that we all feel personally affected.

Service businesses are pivoting and opening online, private sector companies are being run from the living rooms and bedrooms of their employees and our extraordinary public services continue to run at great personal risk.

At Aurora, we are continuing to work closely with clients to address the crisis, reach patients and continue to manage the impact on their businesses. Many healthcare conferences or meetings have evolved to become virtual, with healthcare agencies and clients having to rapidly adapt their traditional approaches and adopt new ways to communicate.

Adapting to patient accessibility needs

However, providing advice on how to adapt and make collaborating with patients accessible isn’t new to us. For many clients, we have accommodated patients that have been unable to travel or are susceptible to further illness if over-exerted, by running virtual advisory boards. This provides patients with a voice and an opportunity to provide opinions, feedback, ask questions and share personal experiences that they may not have been able to do previously. Partnering with patients in this way has shown that we have been able to gain patient community insights and co-create materials that genuinely resonate with the people they are intended for, without asking patients to step foot outside their homes.

In the last few weeks, we have taken this further and collaborated with one client to evolve a face-to-face focus group with patients and caregivers to an online, virtual focus group. The attendees can see the rest of the group through video conferencing and can creatively brainstorm, using a breakout room function, maintaining the key elements of an in-person brainstorm. Screensharing technology and the use of professional illustrators allows us to visually capture the outcomes of the discussions and produce an inspiring output.

When this is all over

For our clients, patients, caregivers and us at Aurora, this unique experience will likely cease to be unique in the coming weeks and months. And it shouldn’t be unique to times of change or crisis.

When we are all released from our homes and go back to work, embracing what will seem to be normal life in a post-pandemic world, we should all remember how much we missed the little things that are deemed so important by people with accessibility issues, whether its physical or mental.

We cannot discount the benefits of meeting face-to-face but with businesses discovering new ways to be inclusive, engage and communicate, regressing to the way we were before the pandemic seems unlikely.

And for people with accessibility challenges, this can only be a good thing.

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Aurora has established a dedicated COVID-19 Task Force composed of senior, experienced operators with extensive reputational, scientific, social and digital, media, internal comms, and issues / crisis expertise. We’re offering an expert sounding board for any business – client or not – looking for help navigating the current situation. Get in touch here: COVID-19@auroracomms.com

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