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Make it easy to read: Principles and practices

This video describes the Easy Read principles and practices.
Hello, and welcome back. In our final week, we are getting to the nitty-gritty of making reasonable adjustments to ensure inclusion and accessibility in your practise. We’ve explored the concept of reasonable adjustments, and your obligation as a practitioner to engage in such a principle. Now we are going to explore the principles of building accessible material and get some practical tips on how to do this. We’re going to use an example from an easy read document that I use with my patients for assessing blood pressure. Easy read format is a way of presenting information. It uses both pictures and words to help people with an intellectual disability understand information.
Easy read can be applied to a variety of areas such as setting an appointment, explaining what is going to happen in a health assessment, or for a health promotion booklet. The principles are the same and can be adapted to all of these situations. Here are eight simple steps for creating your own easy read document. Before beginning to develop your easy read material, think about your audience. If it is for a child, write for a child. If it’s for an adult, write for an adult. Ensure your message is clear and accurate. And remember, one size does not fit all, but make easy read part of your values through practice.
In this example, I created the explanatory document for having your blood pressure checked for adults with an intellectual disability. You can see that I have used images of an adult rather than a child. Decide what type of document you would like to create. For example, information about a particular assessment, health promotion, or an appointment card. At the onset, it is important to make the document look good. You want to portray a professional finish that reflects your professional practice. Sending well-designed material to the person also respects them. Plan out the document that you will be creating. In this case, I have used a table with an image on one side and text describing the step on the other side.
It is important to pay attention to design and layout, as clear consistent layout will make the information easier to read and understand. Don’t overcrowd your page. Use clear headings and short paragraphs. Deliver the information in chunks in order to ensure it flows and makes sense. Use plenty of space in a uniform manner and make it easy to follow in a logical format. Now, set up your font and text size. I would recommend using font size 14 to 16, sans serif typeface. Do not use all capitals, underline, or italics, as these make the writing harder to read. If you want to highlight a particular word, make it bold. As you start writing your document, keep in mind these important points.
Write your letter in short, plain sentences. Do not use ambiguous language, jargon, abbreviations, or words constructed with apostrophes, such as, don’t, can’t. Instead use do not, or cannot. Use alternate words. There is always a way of saying something in a simpler manner. Make sure your information is up to date, and avoid using acronyms or abbreviations. For example, in Ireland, GP is a term frequently used to refer to the general practitioner. But not everyone will know this. It’s better to use the word doctor. Do not dumb down your message, but rather, write for the audience using plain language, one concept per sentence, and be respectful. Do not use colloquialisms or cliches, for example, at the end of the day.
This may be interpreted literally. Stick to the point. We can see this in my example in the sentence, take off your bulky coat or cardigan. And, the cuff will be placed around your arm. Remember, do not use jargon. Keep the message clear. If you think of your sentence order as subject, verb, object as much as possible, that way you will keep the sentence succinct and to the point. When giving instruction, cut out superfluous words. People are asked to ring the bell first before entering. Instead use, ring the bell. Now that you have written your text, reflect on what pictures you will be using. Pictures are very important to get right. Make sure your pictures match the phrase.
You will want to match each of the main points to a picture or photograph to support the person’s understanding. Either use one medium or the other. Don’t mix them. If you are going to use all photographs, make sure you’ve got permission. It is important to have pictures large, clear, and representing the main message. Avoid using a lot of extra background detail. And don’t have the pictures too busy. It may be difficult to understand what should be interpreted from it. Don’t have text surrounding pictures which would be confusing for the reader. Put the pictures on the left before the sentence. This makes them seem more important. This is a good message to adopt for people who find words hard at times.
Now that you’ve created your material, think about how you were going to print the document. Consider the type of paper you are using. Has the person got a visual impairment? Perhaps a contrasting colour would work better, such as, cream or pale yellow. Do not use shiny paper, as it makes the writing harder to see due to light reflection. Use good quality paper, at least 90 grammes thickness, which is thicker than the usual photocopying paper. This makes the letter or document easier to handle and pick up. Finally, it is good practise to review, edit, and test your material. Having a co-producer with an intellectual disability would support this activity and can be reviewed from the perspective of the intended audience.
Edit from the feedback and test the document again with your co-producer and or an independent reviewer. This will ensure that the document is clear, and that you were getting your intended message across. Although this may take time, it is time well spent. There are a lot of organisations that support this type of work, and we have included some of these in the see also section below. Overall, we have explored the principles that underpin the development of easy read materials to support your practise. We have identified specifics that you should include when designing your material in terms of paper, font size, and text style. We’ve considered sentence structure, word, and pictures use.
And finally, emphasising that it is good practice to ensure you do not develop your material on your own, the adoption of a co-producer to assist and review is prudent. Now we are going to ask you to create your own easy read material using these principles.

An important practice that you can do to include reasonable adjustment during health assessments is to create Easy Read materials. Let’s recap on the eight strategies for creating your own Easy Read document:

  1. Think about your audience
  2. Decide on the document you would like to create
  3. Plan out your document
  4. Select your font and text size
  5. Start constructing your words
  6. Carefully choose your pictures
  7. Print your document
  8. Review and edit using a co-producer

Thinking about creating an Easy Read document:

  • Which of these steps do you think are the most important for a successful Easy Read document?
  • Why?

We have added some examples of Easy Read documents that we use at Trinity College Dublin that you can review, in the Downloads section.

In the next step, we’ll be asking you to create your own Easy Read documents.

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Improving Health Assessments for People with an Intellectual Disability

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