Accessing health information on the web is now even easier thanks to a recent investment by the local NHS.
NHS North of Tyne, working on behalf of Newcastle Primary Care Trust (PCT), North Tyneside PCT and Northumberland Care Trust has invested in a special piece of software to make it easier for people with a physical or visual impairment to get information on local health services in their area.
The system – called Browsealoud – reads out text from web pages highlighting the words as they are heard.
The combination of spoken word and highlighted text is especially useful for people with literacy difficulties, such as dyslexia, and those with mild visual impairments who find it difficult to read text online. Visitors for whom English is their second language can also find it easier to access website information using Browsealoud.
Alison Blackburn, of Newcastle Disability Forum, welcomed the new system. She said: "This is a step in the right direction. NHS North of Tyne has listened to the discussions we have had over the last few months and has taken on board the relevant points for health education and information. Our forum's IT manager Paul Cadle was also involved in the proposals and was very happy with them."
"As long as a person is computer literate, education and information should no longer be barrier to them."
All website visitors can make use of the free system by downloading the application directly to their computer. The software is safe to install with easy to follow instructions.
Chris Reed, chief executive of NHS North of Tyne, working on behalf of Newcastle and North Tyneside PCT's and Northumberland Care Trust said:
"During our discussions with the public, patients and carers one of the many issues they raise is we need to do more to make sure we have information on health and health services available in different formats such as large print for people with visual impairments and audio. When we looked at Browsealoud, we asked Newcastle Disability Forum for their views – and to see how easy it was to use."
Mr reed added: "Our public websites are an important source of information for opening hours and access points for walk in centres, pharmacies and local community health services.
"We've invested in the Browsealoud software to ensure that our websites are accessible to as many people as possible. As an NHS organisation it is important that patients, visitors and staff with visual impairments or reading difficulties can have the same access to local health information as anyone else.
"We also have a legal duty – under the Disability Discrimination Act - to ensure our websites are accessible and Browsealoud is proving to be a valuable tool to many patients and visitors wishing to use our sites for information."
Browsealoud software has been installed on the websites as part of a complete redevelopment of the public websites which contain information on all the primary and community health services available across the whole North of Tyne area.
The websites contain useful information about how to stay healthy, including stop smoking support and sexual health advice, information about the full range of local health services available with details of how they can be accessed and details of the latest news, events and board meeting minutes from Newcastle PCT, North Tyneside PCT and Northumberland Care Trust.
For further information about Browsealoud and its applications visit www.browsealoud.com.
The websites with browsealoud
Links to download the free software are available on the homepage of each of the four NHS North of Tyne websites listed below:
NHS North of Tyne - www.northoftyne.nhs.uk
North Tyneside PCT - www.northtynesidepct.nhs.uk
Newcastle PCT - www.newcastlepct.nhs.uk
Northumberland Care Trust - www.northumberlandcaretrust.nhs.uk