The Professionals’ Hub

The Professionals’ Hub

Our #MakeHealthAccessible campaign is dedicated to ensuring that vital health information is available and readable for blind and partially sighted people.

Our Health Hub is designed to support healthcare and social care professionals in achieving compliance with the Accessible Information Standard (AIS). What sets it apart is that it has been created by blind and partially sighted individuals, informed by their lived experiences.

Here, you’ll find a wealth of tips to assist staff in applying and implementing the AIS. We also provide guidance on how best to support patients with visual impairments.


The AIS, introduced by NHS England in 2016, was intended to ensure that individuals with access needs, including blind and partially sighted individuals, receive health information in their preferred formats. It serves as a crucial component of the legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010. However, despite its legal foundation, our research indicates that most visually impaired individuals do not receive health information in their preferred formats. Additionally, many healthcare professionals are either unaware of the AIS or lack the knowledge to accommodate access preferences.

The AIS has the potential to revolutionise healthcare experiences if consistently applied at every level, from a leaflet at a GP’s surgery to an individual’s medical notes. Readable formats include braille, large print or audio and even digital alternatives like text messages or emails.

  • Steps for Healthcare Professionals

    Here are steps that healthcare professionals can take to implement the AIS effectively:

    • AIS Policy: Establish an AIS policy either as a standalone document or add it to an existing access policy.
    • Training: User the policy to influence accessibility training during staff briefings, ensuring that practical AIS sessions are part of the induction process for new team members.
    • AIS champion or specialist: Consider appointing an AIS champion or specialist, ideally someone who has recently received disability awareness training.
    • Consult: Seek input from individuals with disabilities to assess AIS success and improve data systems.
    • Work with sight loss specialists: Many regions have voluntary Sight Loss Councils or sight loss charities that can help test new measures related to accessible information.
    • Regular reporting: Keep a log of materials produced or preferences recorded to drive progress effectively.
    • Materials: Keep a supply of popular materials in alternative formats to save time.
    • Information needs: Ask people about their information needs by including questions in registration forms or adding AIS statements to letters. People may be unaware that alternative accessible formats are available.
    • Accessibility: Although not enforced by the AIS, 2018 accessibility regulations outline the legal obligation to make web material accessible. Failure to comply contravenes the Equality Act 2010 and may lead to an investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)


  • Individual Staff Members' Roles

    Every staff member plays a vital role in ensuring accessibility:

    • Ask about information needs: Ask individuals about their information requirements and how you can meet them.
    • Consistent queries: Consider using a set, standard question to enquire about information needs during first contact with a person.
    • Listen: Actively listen to individuals as they usually know what they need.
    • Record preferences consistently: Establish systems for consistent handling of access requests and flag an individual’s record so the access needs are always visible to all staff.
    • Share information needs: Share information preferences with consent, ensuring information preferences move with people as they are referred.
    • Seek advice: Promote understanding by discussing AIS-related questions with colleagues.
    • Be considerate: Remember blind and partially sighted people are parents and carers too. Their right to dependents’ information should not be queried due to their visual impairment.


  • Working with Blind and Partially Sighted Individuals
    • Approach people. Introduce yourself as a member of staff and ask if, and how, you can help,
    • Remember not all sight loss is visible. Not everyone carries a white cane or has a guide dog,
    • People with all degrees of vision may still benefit from the AIS. This applies even if the person can find their way unaided, make eye contact, recognise your face or read signs.
    • Avoid the word ‘suffer’ when discussing sight loss or visual impairment. The language we use is ‘blind’ or ‘partially sighted’ or ‘visually impaired’. We do not use ‘the blind’ or ‘the visually impaired’. ‘Handicapped’ is also no longer an acceptable term. Use ‘people with disabilities’ instead.
    • Don’t worry about references to ‘taking a look’ or ‘seeing if this works’. Most blind or partially sighted people use these everyday phrases themselves.
    • If you need to discuss the visually impaired patient with a colleague while they are present – use the same diplomacy and respect that you would for anyone else.
  • Additional resources

    For more information and resources, explore the following links:

    • Read more official NHS online information regarding the AIS
    • The Care Quality Commission (CQC) provides regularly updated guidance on how best to apply the AIS
    • You can find further information on reasonable adjustments and general information on the Equality Act 2010 on the government website
    • The Reasonable Adjustment Flag is a national record that indicates that reasonable adjustments are required. It may include details of their significant impairments and key adjustments that should be considered.

    Read more about the Flag

Make AIS Work

Discover how University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and Sight Loss Councils (SLC) are taking steps to improve health information accessibility for blind and partially sighted people. Watch our films to gain insights and practical examples that can benefit patients.

Download the transcript to make AIS work

In this film, blind and partially sighted people share experiences and stories of getting health information in an accessible format. It highlights the growing work at UHBW in implementing AIS and provides practical examples other NHS Trusts and health organisations can make that will benefit patients.

A strategic perspective on the AIS

Download the transcript for a strategic perspective on the AIS

This film features Professor Deirdre Fowler, Chief Nurse and Midwife at UHBW. She outlines why equality of access is so important to the trust and how the AIS is being implemented at the trust.


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