Accessible pregnancy handbook launched

Gill Lea-Wilson, DPPI Information Officer, reports on the launch event for My pregnancy, my choice, the new easy-read guide to being pregnant and giving birth published by CHANGE, a leading UK national equal rights organisation led by and for people with learning disabilities. Price: £38. Available from www.changepeople.co.uk

On 25 February 2009, CHANGE launched its new publication for parents with learning disabilities, My pregnancy, my choice, as well as its new website.

The event was held at the organisation’s new premises in Leeds. The programme included presentations by staff and volunteers to inform the audience about past and current projects. Presentations were broken up with a little audience participation in the form of a game to demonstrate the importance of not using jargon or complex words when something can be explained in simpler terms, and a drama presentation to demonstrate how accessible information can empower and give confidence.

People with learning disabilities were involved throughout and constituted the bulk of the presenters and actors. They talked about the previous parenting resources produced, as well as current projects to produce accessible information for people with learning disabilities on the subjects of employment, cancer, and sexuality and relationships, as well as the campaigning work in which CHANGE is involved.

Fiona McDonald, the Illustrator Project Co-ordinator at CHANGE, along with one of the CHANGE volunteers, gave a presentation about the development of My pregnancy, my choice.

The drama presentation followed the stories of two couples with learning disabilities, and began with both of them suspecting that the women might be pregnant and deciding to seek help.

In the second scene, both couples were attending their first visit to see a midwife at an antenatal clinic. The first couple were offered a standard Department of Health booklet which they found hard to read and understand. The midwife tried to be helpful, but had nothing else to offer. The second couple were initially given the same standard information, but when they expressed concern that they would not be able to understand it, the midwife showed them a copy of the My pregnancy, my choice book. They were much happier with this, although they were told that they could only view it while at the clinic, and could not take it home.

The next scene was several months later when both woman were starting to experience pains. The first couple were very anxious and unprepared for this, leading to them calling an ambulance straight away. The second couple were much calmer and more confident; the woman seemed to know what was happening to her body and since she thought she was probably experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions did not feel the need to rush off to hospital.

The message was clearly that accessible information is very important in order that parents can know what to expect and be more confident about knowing what to do. There was also an underlying message that the provision of accessible information can smooth service delivery, since parents are more likely to access maternity services when they need to.

It also highlighted that it is very difficult for health professionals to support parents if they do not have the tools. Clearly at £38 this book is not a publication that parents can or should have to buy for themselves. Having one copy of this book in a clinic is good, but the hope is that local antenatal services will purchase multiple copies so that they can be given or loaned to couples with learning disabilities when needed.

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