Within many businesses there are a lot of reports that need to be written for the daily running of a business and documentation or articles to share with customers. Sometimes it’s best to have a second pair of eyes to look over these documents and, that’s a service that our guests speaker today provides.
Rebecca Thomas runs her own business, Thomas Editing, where she helps you ditch jargon, scrap waffle and reveal the message of your start-up, consultancy or not for profit. As an editor who uses clarity, simplicity and trust, she creates accessible and inclusive content, online and in print.
What do you do for a living?
I run a business called Thomas Editing and my aim is to make written content accessible. I want everyone to understand important info quickly and easily, be they customers, staff, service providers, equipment suppliers or decision makers.
With a background in print and digital journalism, I’ll tackle anything with words – web pages, reports, tenders, grant bids or training materials. I:
- check accuracy and sense
- edit, reorder, rewrite
- summarise and make consistent.
My goal is to give readers a comfortable dose of ‘cognitive ease’, which is a measure of how easy it is for our brains to process information.
How did you become involved in editing and writing to improve access & inclusion?
I’ve learnt a huge amount from inclusive design consultant Tracey Proudlock, who I met via local business networking. I’ve done editing work for her company, Proudlock Associates, including her current website, but it has been the conversations about her work and why it is important that really got me interested in access and inclusion.
My passion has always been making important stuff easy to read – complex doesn’t have to be complicated – and I’ve realised I want to use that to promote access, inclusion and diversity. I enjoy the fact that it is values-based, while also being tangible and factual.
On a personal front, my awareness and interest has grown since my diagnosis with relapsing remitting MS in 2013. I’ve always supported equality, but that made it personal!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
- Being in nature: my cat Roger, birds in the garden, trees in the parks, cliff tops, seaside, woods, riversides. Love it all!
- Going to the cinema: escapism in a comfy seat.
- Weight training at the gym: as a convert I’m amazed and amused at how good it makes me feel.
Where is your favourite place to visit and why?
My dad’s memorial bench on Southsea seafront. It’s got big and ever-changing views over the Solent and the harbour, with lots of boats and birds to watch. It can be dead calm like glass or, when the wind is up, the waves smash over the prom, spraying you with shingle. It’s a great place for people watching too; families getting their dose of fresh air on the prom.
Being by the sea in general is my favourite place, especially where there are seabirds to watch. Seeing gannets feeding off the Shetland Islands last year was incredible; a powerful natural world.
Outside of your own work, what do you think could be done to improve accessibility and create a more inclusive society?
Ok, I’m an editor not an economist, but I think a really big company – a rail company for example – needs to make inclusion their business priority or core mission statement. They need to demonstrate that by investing in actions, at scale, which make their business truly inclusive. To use the rail example: deciding to make every journey accessible, from street to seat or wheelchair space. Someone needs to take the first step and lead the market by example.
Of course, the government could lead the way with this too…
Back in the real world, I think tech offers a supportive, accessible way to share information about access and inclusion – as shown by companies like Oovirt and Neatebox. I imagine these approaches help people understand why access is important and appreciate the benefits to their customers, at a relatively low risk.
How do you feel a virtual experience could help improve accessibility?
Virtual experiences allow planning and planning cuts anxiety and the fear of getting lost or stuck.
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve got lost going to appointments by public transport in London because, under stress, my brain’s processing speed slows down and I can’t orientate myself on maps.
So, knowing what somewhere looks like and being able to plan my route in a quiet environment is reassuring; I know I can recognise a building or route if I’ve seen it before. I’ve got lost inside buildings too, so it’s great to be able to identify landmarks and plan routes.
It’s great for neurodiversity and, from a physical perspective an essential tool to see what obstacles you might face – or to be reassured that there aren’t any.
Thank you to Rebecca for answering our questions.