Easy Read is an accessible format designed to make information easier to understand for people with learning disabilities, and others who have difficulty using standard versions of information.
Easy Read documents present information using a combination of simple language in short sentences, clear layout, and pictures that help to convey the meaning of the text.
When information is easier to understand, people are empowered to take more control over their own lives. When people are provided with clear and accessible information, they can:
Take part and feel included in the world round them.
Make informed decisions.
Understand their rights.
Have an impact on issues that affect themselves and society as a whole.
Develop their knowledge and discover new opportunities.
Whilst Easy Read does not guarantee comprehension (some people will still need support to understand Easy Read information, or require a different format, like video or audio) - Easy Read does provide a valuable method for breaking down difficult information and making it more inclusive and accessible.
What does the law say about Easy Read?
There are laws relating to Easy Read, which indicate people’s right to accessible information and organisations' obligation to provide accessible information.
The Equality Act 2010 requires organisations to make reasonable adjustments - these are small changes that enable disabled people to access services like everyone else. This includes making Easy Read versions of information avaialble to people with learning disabilities.
The Accessible Information Standard requires all health and care services to provide accessible communications for service users. This includes making Easy Read versions of health and care documents available so that people with learning disabilities can access important information.
Other legislation is tied into the United Nations work to make the whole world more inclusive for disabled people. Countries that are part of the United Nations, including the United Kingdom, have made a promise to reduce the barriers that stop disabled people from taking part. This commitment includes making information more accessible for disabled people, like providing Easy Read documents for people with learning disabilities.
What are the guidelines for Easy Read information?
Easy Read should always be produced with the end user in mind. Some Easy Read information is intended for a particular individual, or group, and should be tailored to suit their needs. Where Easy Read information is intended for a wider user group, it should include clear context regarding the source and purpose of the information.
The objective of an Easy Read document is to convey key information as clearly and concisely as possible. Easy Read documents that present a literal translation of an entire piece of original information, like for like, can become very long and overbearing.
There are some stylistic differences in the appearance of Easy Read information, but generally all Easy Read documents should incorporate the following:
No jargon, difficult words & phrases, or idioms. If any difficult words are used, they should be explained. Acronyms should be written out in full unless they are very common (e.g. NHS).
Sentences should have a maximum of 15 words ideally. Each sentence should convey one idea. Longer sentences should be broken down using bullet points.
Pages of Easy Read should have plenty of white space so they’re not too busy. Headings and subheadings should be used to help to make the information easier to follow. Colours should have good contrast (e.g. no light coloured text on a light background; or dark on dark). Text should be written in a sans serif font, like Arial, and in a large font size (minimum 16pt).
Images should capture the essence of each sentence, to help convey the meaning of the words. Photos or drawings can be used, although cartoon-like images are best avoided if the information is intended for adults. Imagery should be disability-positive and represent diversity.
How can Easy Read help organisations to be more inclusive and accessible?
There are various ways that organisations can adopt Easy Read to make their services more inclusive and accessible for everyone. For example:
Health and care organisations can provide Easy Read information to improve people's health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.
Regional councils and local authorities can use Easy Read information to meaningfully engage with their local communities, so that people can access services where they live.
Government departments and organisations can use Easy Read materials to increase opportunities for everyone, in all parts of the country.
Public services can use Easy Read as a way to communicate more effectively with their service users, so that they can speak up and help to make services better for everyone.
International bodies can utilise Easy Read in their work to ensure no one is left behind.
Charities, voluntary and support groups can use Easy Read to raise awareness of the important work they’re doing.
Arts and culture organisations can produce Easy Read information to connect marginalised groups with creative opportunities and enrich more people’s lives.
Who produces Easy Read information and how is it provided?
Anyone can produce Easy Read information - individuals, small or large organisations, and specialist providers - like Easy Read Online.
There is various training and guidance available to get started. But it’s important to get Easy Read right, so that it serves the people who are using it. That takes time and practice, and ideally the people creating the Easy Read will have experience of working with people with learning disabilities.
It is always worth considering a specialist Easy Read provider, because they will have the right expertise and experience, plus access to practical resources like Easy Read images and design software.
Either way, Easy Read should be produced with the end user in mind and people with learning disabilities should be involved in the process where possible.
Easy Read information should be provided with the option to print out a physical copy, or to view a copy online that is compliant with accessibility regulations and compatible with screen-reader software.