Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Easy English. Easy Read. What's it all about?

Over the last 18 months I have been presenting papers at various international and national conferences on just this issue.

The papers have been based on the research I have done looking at the visual and the linguistic differences between Easy English and Easy Read.

But first let’s dispel a myth.
Australian Easy English was originally and continues to be developed for a range of people with low or little literacy skills. It is not that this is for people with intellectual disabilities, and something else, such as Easy Read is for those one do not have an intellectual disability. If I am writing for a Disability Service, I may choose different images and some specific vocabulary compared to a project for the local Courts. However, the final look of a document, the way elements are put together and the sentence construction will be the same. Easy English is relevant to anyone in our community who needs it. At this time of stress and anxiety about COVID19 and constantly changing rules and regulations, Easy English is valuable for everyone in our community.

The development of Easy English or Easy Read is a multi-faceted and multi-layered mix of language, vocabulary, sentence structure, format, images and consumer testing. Trying to unpack each of these categories and then the many elements in these categories to determine what functionally works best can be a challenge. We need to start progressing the conversation and build awareness of the fact Easy English and Easy Read are different.

How then does this relate to the latest research that looks at comprehension of Easy Read?
You need to read the next blog to hear more about that.

First impressions are very important. So, let’s look at a visual comparison of Easy English and Easy Read. 

Research in this area explains 'white space is thinking space.' 
Having clear and delineated space between topics enhances the readers desire to engage with the material. The document needs to feel open and welcoming to its readers.

For this blog, I am taking 3 documents on the same content on COVID19.
Let's look at a page of 

1) Australian Easy English 2) Australian Easy Read and 3) UK Easy Read. All three have been published in the last 3- 4 weeks in 2020 (Late March/early April).

1.Easy English  Australia



















2. Easy Read Australia

3. Easy Read UK



















Element
Australian
Easy English
Australian
Easy Read
UK
Easy Read
Title
With image
No image
With image
Title in line with body of text.
Yes.
In line with text
No.
Left aligned
Yes
In line with text
Use of white (empty) space
Yes
No
Yes for text
No for images
Double line space throughout
Yes
No
No
Use of columns
No
Yes
No
Coloured images to enhance meaning
Yes
No
Yes
4-5 images per page
Yes
No
Yes
Selection of images
Symbols.
Used by people with disability
Line drawings.
New images. Stylised
Photos.
Of people with disability.
UK models

Images connected visually to the text
Yes
No
No


This table and the examples do demonstrate there are visual differences between Easy English and Easy Read. Of note, there are more similarities between UK Easy Read and Australian Easy English than the Australian Easy Read in this specific example. You would need to do a comparison across multiple documents to see the clear pattern of differences.

Why is it important to know and recognise these differences?
Content developed needs to use the best available research and evidence. It is imperative that when developing accessible content for vulnerable audiences what is developed best reflects what the research tells us, such as
 - the value of white space;
- the importance of images with headings;
- predictable places to find the text and content. i.e. always find the image on the left, and the text beside it, i.e. no use of columns.

The two Easy Read versions above, may be appropriate for some audiences. However, it still leaves a substantial percent of people without access to meaningful information. It would be far better to develop content that meets the needs of far more people in the first instance, rather than still leave the more vulnerable people in an already vulnerable group out of access to information. 

For a final thought. Compare the front pages of the 3 documents. 
A front page is something with lots of white space with connections to what you want to find out about and know. 
 
1. Easy English Australia





2. Easy Read Australia

3. Easy Read UK





















Read the next blog to look at some of the language analysis similarities and differences of these 3 documents

Stay safe 
Cathy
Cathy Basterfield
Owner Access Easy English
Consultant – Speech Pathologist
Telephone: 0466 579 855

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