The Goals of the Research
Perceptions of accessibility and fairness are central to the legitimacy of the legal system.
This makes it imperative to ensure that all lay participants in legal hearings understand
how to prepare, what will happen, and how best to present their case. This is increasingly
important as the proliferation of online hearings risks disengagement with the justice
system and access becomes more complex for the digitally disadvantaged.
This research has focused on how we can best support lay users in online hearings by
researching, testing and refining five public information films for their use. These films
have been produced in partnership with HMCTS, members of the Judiciary and the advice
Our research demonstrates that there is high demand for resources of this kind which are
evidence based, focus on human centred design and sensitive to a range of needs.
Outputs of the Project
Four of the five accessible films have been produced for specific jurisdictions namely the
Special Education Needs and Disability Tribunal, the Social Security and Child Support
Tribunal, the Employment Tribunal and the Family Court (private business). A fifth film
containing general advice about online hearings has also been made.
Each of the films have optional English subtitles, which have also been translated into:
Welsh, Polish, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi. British Sign Language versions are also
The films are platform agnostic to aid ‘future proofing.’ By using a bank of 450 customised
digital illustrations rather than live actors, the films can also be easily updated and drawn
upon in the future to make additional films at minimal cost.
Additional outputs include the design guidance contained in this report, survey data
deposited with the UK Data Service and a flyer advertising the films for use by the advice
The films have been placed on the HMCTS YouTube site and links to them will appear in
correspondence with litigants in the four jurisdictions we have worked with.
The Consultation, Research and Design Cycle
The production of the films involved a cyclical process including stakeholder engagement,
a national survey, the production of a prototype film, testing the films with professional,
lay and disadvantaged users in focus groups, refinement of the prototype, and production
of customised films for the remaining four jurisdictions.
What did our research reveal about designing resources for lay users?
Accessibility and the needs of disadvantaged users of the justice system have been at the
heart of this project from the outset.
This report identifies seven important issues for consideration in producing materials for
lay users of the justice system and the challenges involved in them. These are empathy,
language, diversity, accessibility, intelligibility, participation and customised advice.
It is evident that there is considerable demand for more work in this vein, as well as an
appetite within HMCTS and the judiciary to be involved in taking this initiative further.
Mulcahy, LindaRowden, Emma
School of Architecture
Year of publication: 2022Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-06-30