Home > News > Government agrees to review of inaccessible shielding communications

The government has agreed to review its practice of sending out inaccessible hardcopy letters about shielding to blind and partially sighted persons, the day before a final hearing in the High Court considering this issue.

The Claimant, Sarah Leadbetter, is registered blind and categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable. She challenged the government’s ongoing failure to send her Covid-19 shielding letters in an accessible format. She alleged a failure to make reasonable adjustments, a failure to comply with the Accessible Information Standard (a key piece of statutory guidance concerning healthcare communications), and a breach of Article 14 ECHR.

In her grounds of claim and skeleton argument, the Claimant suggested a number of reasonable adjustments that could be made, including using an algorithm to extract accessibility preferences from GP records. By way of final relief, she sought a mandatory review of the government’s practice of sending out hardcopy shielding letters.

Her claim was supported by the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Permission to bring a judicial review was granted by Johnson J on 22 January 2021.

The government contested the claim up until the final hearing on the basis that it had done everything it reasonable could to make shielding information accessible, serving detailed grounds of resistance and a skeleton argument. However, the day before the final hearing, the government informed the Claimant that it had now commissioned a piece of work to address the problem of inaccessible shielding communications, that it would commit to begin working on any solution identified within 4 months, and that it would provide an appropriate update to the Claimant on progress.

The government also informed the Claimant that the same work would inform how communications relating to Covid-19 vaccinations can be sent out in an immediately accessible format.

On that basis the Claimant agreed to settle the claim on the eve of trial, with all her legal costs paid by the government.

Tim Buley QC and Alex Shattock represented the Claimant, instructed by Kate Egerton, Sean Humber, Ellie Fawcett and Dan Webster of Leigh Day.

The case was reported on the BBC here. More info can be found on Leigh Day’s website here.

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