Easy-read information is information that is easy to read and understand. It is different from plain English or plain language, which is writing that is clear and jargon free.
Here are some examples of words that are changed from boardroom to plain English:
|Cost effective||good value for money|
|Financially viable||possible within the money we have|
|Redeem||pay back, pay off|
Making good, clear easy read information takes plenty of practice. You will need to build on your writing and creative skills and notably have an understanding of the issues people with learning disabilities care about.
The important thing is to understand what readers want, and that means listening to people with learning disabilities. Nothing can replace developing an ongoing relationship with people themselves, but to get you started, here are a few tips.
Making information and communication accessible
The flow of information and good communication are essential to the efficient operation of any workplace. If the forms of communication used in a workplace put a person with learning disabilities at a substantial disadvantage, then the Disability Discrimination Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made.
Try to use easy words that people use all the time. Avoid 'jargon'. If you must use a difficult word, for example the name of a group or report, make sure you explain what it means. Sometimes it helps to write like you are talking to a person. Using words like 'I', 'we', and 'you' makes information friendlier.
Aim for 15 words or less per sentence, with one idea in each sentence. Put no more than 4 or 5 sentences together in each paragraph.
It can actually be helpful to start sentences with words like 'and', 'but' and 'or' as this breaks text into smaller chunks.
Use a sans serif font. These are fonts which don't have any serifs, the horizontal lines added to the top and bottom of some fonts. Popular sans serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica or Univers. The font 'Comic Sans' is often used because the lower case 'a' looks like handwriting, but this can make your information look childish.
The main text should be size 16 point or higher. 21 point makes it easier for people with visual impairments to read.
Layout is about putting words and pictures together on a page to make them look attractive. An easy read layout for easy read is to put the pictures on the left hand side, and the words on the right.
Use plenty of white space, rather than squashing everything together. Without white space, text is unreadable, graphics lose their emphasis and there is no balance between the elements on a page.
This will help give your information a more professional look. Sketching your ideas before you sit at the computer helps you work out how you'd like the words and pictures to look on the page.
Using pictures alongside words helps make ideas easier to understand. This is exactly what photosymbols are designed for. You can use pictures on their own or put several together to explain different ideas. Don't just place pictures randomly. Think about what each paragraph is talking about and use something that fits for each one.
Use active, not passive verbs
Most sentences are made up of 3 parts. A subject, (person, group or thing doing the action) a verb (actions like walk, eat, write, ask) and an object (person, group or thing the action is done to).
Information is much easier to understand if it's written with active verbs. An easy way to do this is to write in the order (1) subject, (2) verb, (3) object.
For example, 'Pete answered the phone'. Passive writing is the other way round - (1) object, (2) verb, (3) subject, as in 'The phone was answered by Pete'.
Get information down to size
Some information will be more complex than others. An Annual Report will be longer than a simple poster, so it's hard to say exactly how many words your information should have. Think about what your reader needs to know and cut out any unnecessary content. You need a very good reason to make anything longer than 1,000 words. The KARE (Kildare) Strategic Plan 2009 - 2011 is an excellent example. www.kare.ie
Map it out
A lot of people make the mistake of just translating a complicated document without thinking about the information structure. This can lead to many of the complexities of the original document ending up in the easy read version. Take some time to plan the flow of information. Group similar topics together, and draw a quick outline of how you'll arrange the different points.