This section provides a set of recommendations to help CAMHS providers ensure that their websites are accessible to young people with autism. The recommendations are given in three groups , addressing the appearance, structure and content of the website.
For examples of these recommendations in practice see ‘Best Practice Examples / Case Studies – Websites‘.
Below is a set of recommendations to help CAMHS providers ensure that their websites are accessible to young people with autism. These are broken down into three groups, addressing the appearance, structure and content of the website.
The recommendations in this section are designed to ensure that young people of all ages and those with a broad range of communication and language difficulties, learning difficulties and sensory impairments can all access and understand the information presented on CAMHS providers’ websites.
- Provide a range of embedded accessibility tools, including:
- text size adjustment
- a variety of colour palette or contrast options
- a text-to-speech function
- a text-only version of the website if it contains large numbers of images, or if it makes use of patterned or multi-coloured backgrounds
2. Ensure that there is always strong contrast between text and the background on which it sits. For instance, avoid strong-coloured backgrounds behind black text.
3. Use images to illustrate and clarify concepts and information contained within the text.
4. Use bold colours to highlight different sections of text, menu items and types of information but restrict this to a few key colours to avoid the potential for confusion and sensory overload.
The recommendations in this section are designed to ensure that young people and their family members of all levels of technical ability can access and benefit from the resources CAMHS providers make available online. Careful consideration of the website’s structure and organisation can prevent frustration and create a positive first impression of CAMHS, as well as a sense that the service is there to help.
- Ensure that the CAMHS section of the website is easy to locate from the homepage, requiring as few actions as possible on the part of the user. For instance they could select menu items entitled ‘Services’ followed by ‘Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services’.
- Ensure that all information relating to CAMHS is available in one place, either on a standalone CAMHS website or gathered together as a single section on the main website. This should include information on:
- the therapies offered within CAMHS
- the conditions CAMHS can help with
- the different staff roles and individual staff members within CAMHS
- the locations where CAMHS are delivered
- what to expect from a first appointment at CAMHS
3. Use straightforward, self-explanatory titles for sections and subsections, such as ‘Where we will see you’ or ‘Problems we can help with’, and avoid clinical terminology.
4. Ensure that users can navigate to content via a range of different routes and do not encounter ‘dead ends’. For instance this could include making information about the buildings and departments where CAMHS are delivered accessible via menu options entitled ‘Services’, ‘Locations’ and ‘Find Us’.
Ensure that all website content is kept completely accurate and up-to-date. it could cause significant stress and anxiety for young people with autism, and their families, if reality does not meet their expectations due to outdates or inaccurate information.
Consider joining NHS England’s Information Standard as part of a commitment to providing high-quality, easy-to-use health and care information for patients and their families.
1. Provide content which is adapted to be suitable for different age groups and label this information in a clear and straightforward way. For instance consider using age ranges rather than potentially ambiguous terms such as ‘kids’ or ‘young people’, as some service users may not identify with any of the particular terms chosen. As a result they may struggle to understand which content is relevant to them.
2. Provide links to a range of other organisations which can support young people with mental health problems and autism. Alongside each link include text to explain to young people what services that organisation provides and with what type of difficulties they can help. Links could include:
- The National Autistic Society
- Autism Alliance UK
- Local member(s) of Autism Alliance UK as appropriate
- Young Minds
The next set of recommendations in this section deal with actions trusts can take to help young people with autism familiarise themselves with CAMHS. This can significantly reduce young people’s stress and anxiety about their appointments, help to build trust between them and their therapists and allow for a more effective assessment of their mental state.
3. Provide clear information, in a downloadable format, about what to expect from CAMHS. This can include:
- questions young people should ask of their therapist
- questions they should expect to be asked
- how long their appointments will last
- who they will meet
- where CAMHS are provided
4. Provide easy read information about what to expect from CAMHS, using simplified language and images to illustrate the concepts within the text. The Department of Health has published guidance on producing easy read information.
5. Provide one or more videos explaining to young people what to expect from their CAMHS experience. To ensure that the videos are informative and engaging for young people with autism the following should be avoided:
- A pure focus on the experience of one person or a small group of people without any explicit generalisation. This can be of little interest and no apparent relevance to someone with autism.
- Use of clinical terminology rather than everyday, accessible language.
- A focus on group discussions between service users about their experience, which can be difficult for people who struggle with social interaction. It can also lead to confusion due to the seemingly conflicting views of young people using subtly different language to convey similar ideas.
Provide transcripts of all videos as some young people may prefer to be able to read and digest the information at their own pace. This will also minimise the risk of sensory overload and distress.
6. Provide photo or video tours encompassing a young person’s journey through CAMHS, including, where relevant:
- the approach to the building
- the main entrance and reception
- the lifts and stairs
- the CAMHS reception and waiting area
- a representative selection of therapy rooms
Please note: a combined approach can be highly effective in meeting recommendations 5 and 6. Consider providing a video which offers a tour of CAMHS facilities alongside information about what to expect at a first appointment.
7. Provide individual photographs and concise biographies of each staff member, including a mixture of professional and personal information.
The final set of recommendations in this section are designed to reassure young people with autism, and their parents and carers, that CAMHS professionals have an appropriate understanding of autism, and of their needs, relating both to their autism and mental health.
8. Provide information about autism, including:
- how to identify someone who may be autistic
- the difficulties autism can cause
- brief advice on how to support an autistic person, for instance by modifying communication style and language
- the link between autism and mental health
9. Ensure that the website explicitly states that CAMHS work with autistic young people and that, whilst a young person’s autism and mental health may be interlinked, this does not mean that their mental health problems cannot be treated through CAMHS.
10. Be explicit about adjustments which can be made to the service to support people with autism, including the availability of quiet waiting areas as well as flexibility around the location and timing of appointments
11. Provide a hospital passport or similar document for young people or their parents to complete prior to attending for their first appointment. This should form the basis on which reasonable adjustments are made and should also serve to reassure them that their needs will be adequately understood and accommodated