If you put the people using the system at the centre of this timeliness, cost, and simplicity become central values.
“By nearly any standard, our current situation falls far short of providing access to the knowledge, resources and services that allow people to deal effectively with civil and family legal matters. There is a mountain of evidence to support this view” – The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell, 2011
Full report available online at http://www.cba.org/cba/equaljustice/secure_pdf/Equal-Justice-Report-En.pdf Dr Julie MacFarlane, author of a study on self-represented litigants released in 2013, recently blogged that “the experiences of SRL’s are reflections of a system problem, rather than the “fault” of any particular justice system actors – judges, lawyers, court staff, or the SRL’s themselves. The real problem is that we have a legal system that assumes that people will be represented by lawyers. Declines in family and civil legal aid have left litigants with the choice of hiring a lawyer at $350 an hour, and many cannot afford to do so. Or they run out of funds before the end of their case (over half my sample) and find themselves alone in the courtroom.”Find her blog and links to the National Self-represented Litigants Study and other research at http://drjuliemacfarlane.wordpress.com/
So what do we mean by literacy, capability and access? Legal Literacy – John Howard Society 1996 – Literacy and the Courts - literacy is the ability to use printed and written information to function in the courts and to achieve one's goals related to the justice system. Even if a person is literate enough to deal with daily routines, he or she may not be literate enough to understand the language and procedures in courtLegal Capability – PLENET on Legal Capability – 2011 - Legal capability is defined as what people need to be and do in order to deal effectively with law related issues. These capabilities draw on three areas of ability: knowledge, skills and attitudes, emphasising that capability needs to go beyond knowledge of the law, to encompass skills like the ability to communicate plus attitudes like confidence and determination.We think of literacy as an essential piece of the capability puzzleAccessiblity – is how we make our Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) resources accessible: useable, easy to navigate, and available to a broad range of users with differing capabilities. Literacy and accessibility contribute to capability
Clients in BC – rural areas and needsBarriers to accessing services – geography, education, culture and language, literacy, colonization, computers and Internet, child care responsibilities, disability…Range of services available and outlets – Regional Centres, Local Agents, Community Partners, Call Centre, print and websitesHow do we enhance access given the barriers…?
Picture of bike lanes on Dunsmuir Street – controversial but necessary, like changes to the justice systemAccessibility Initiatives Report 2013Reasons for report - Over the years, we have had many questions about the online audience for PLEI, the barriers to accessing legal information including literacy, and working with the Aboriginal community, particularly in light of growing online access Key areas examined – Habaneros on web useability – looked at ways to improve our online information through navigation and changes to content or desigDecoda Literacy Solutions – to bring a literacy lense to our on print publications and how we communicate information in person and on the phone, and Sa’hetxw Consulting– to get a perspective on how to respond to the online needs of Aboriginal clients and communities
LSS contracted with literacy consultant Decoda to review our current practicesDecoda reviewed a sample of our publications and web page content and gave use recommendations on literacy levels, communication skills, and raising literacy awareness among our staff
Web consultant gave advice on design to maximize access – found that navigation as well as ability to find information quickly were key issues – large and complex website with over 1200 pagesMore visual elements and infographics in our publications, more white space, less textQRT is an example of what we have been able to produce as result of AI reportFlash cards about the new FLA Not strictly technology but related through designNot intended to be comprehensive review of law – more an overview of key ideasWell received
Aboriginal access to PLEI Sa’hetxw Consulting on Aboriginal online resourcesLooked at web access, ways to improve provision of iinformation onlineFound that simplification was needed – a common theme – as well as improvements to ease of useSocial media needs an Aboriginal focus to attract youth and othersHelped us to better understand the changes taking place in Aboriginal communities in terms of access to technology and continuing Recommendations included more accessible online information, collaborations with partners, improvements to social media and use of video conferencing
Looking beyond these reports, we’ve been developing responses to other changes taking place in the environment Stats on use of technology 7 billion cell phones!25 million in Canada (pop. 34 million)Over 90% households have cell phones (US and Canada, consistent)50% cell phones in Canada can search the Internet; increasing by 1.5 % each month, as old phones retireMove to smartphones cuts across all income levels and demographicsMore youth than adults have smartphones – future clientsStill..some people struggle to access….although 1% of households in Canada lack a landline, more legal aid clients lack phones; many rural and remote areas lack accessPathways to Technology – change is coming in Aboriginal communities, rural and remote areasCell phones in remote areas – Fraser Canyon exampleMobile site – why, what platform
Mobile traffic to the LSS websiteWe’re now averaging (between the 2 sites) around 1 in 5 visitors coming using mobile devices. Keep in mind that mobile stats include tablets, which are a little different in terms of usability and design.Mobile website gets over 3500 page views every month. Current version is a prototype, in the future we will have a website that automatically resizes and displays on both desktops and mobile devicesWe’re calling this legal aid on the go, as one of the key audiences for it is busy community workers who aren’t sitting at a desk – you can get access to legal aid info at your fingertips.Some experts forecast that within five years, access via mobile devices will be the preferred option for most people
60% of Online Canadians are on social media; approximately 50% of all Canadians86% of those on social networks are on Facebook, almost 20% are on TwitterThese numbers are only growingMulticultural communities are catching up in terms of access to the internet and are more likely to use social media and be more active on itELAN blog, Twitter aimed at community workers, advocates, intermediaries, librarians, LSS staff, etc. Available as a blog, RSS feed, and quarterly newsletter YouTube - we host a number of family law videos, ow to videos, examples of processes, multiple languages, viewed almost 50,000 timesFor Twitter, which we started in 2009 we have 687 followers. Facebook (which is just a little over a year old) has 208 fans. At our peak (the week of the FLA) we reached 3,426 people. Our most seen post (below)was seen by 1,070 people and shared 12 times.It’s not so much how many friends you have as how many friends they have. If you create something that people want to share then you can reach a much larger audience. As well you reach people who you wouldn’t otherwise.
while we distribute about 140000 pieces of print material every year, we also get 26000 visits a month to the LSS website, about 33000 to the FLWSWe know from online surveys and reports from staff who provide information that many of these users are not the typical clients of legal aid programsMany are people in the middle who do not qualify for legal aid but can’t afford a lawyerAccessibility initiative report recommendations….improving the user experience on our Family Law website through changes to navigation and design that would make it easier to find what you need more quicklyAdding LiveHelp to ease navigation for users that need guidance (not legal advice)
What are we doing to improve access?Training for intake staff, and community partners in partnership with DecodaPartnership to train literacy workers at a conference in NovemberChanges to websites planned to respond to Habaneros recommendationsReadability of publications will be improving, along with a guide to audiences for usageOn the horizon: more interactive resources and diagnostic tools, more resources built for particular audiences, gamification of the law! And yesterday at the PLEAC conference we talked about virtual augmentationOn a final note, the National Action Committee on Access to Civil and Family Justice just released its final report called A Roadmap for Change a few days ago. It underlines the importance of all players in the justice system to move towards a client-focused solution to the problem.
Plain2013 Accessibility Issues at BC Legal Aid John Simpson
Public Legal Information:
A Bike Route to
costs us all, but
visits its harshest
the poorest people
in our communities“