Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Burning the midnight oil with Access Easy English: Our experience at the Switzerland virtual Easy-to-Read Conference.

 Our team attended the 2021 virtual KLAARA(Easy to Read) Conference in late August. It’s not quite the same as having lots of conversations face to face from around the world. Evenso, we heard lots, chatted with some, and shared our Australian perspective.

 Day (Night) 1.

The keynote speakers included: Deborah Chinn, Saskia Schuppener, Anne Goldbach, Tatjana Knapp and Walburga Fröhlich.

 Deborah Chinn spoke about the linguistic features that can adjust the readability of texts and discussed research findings from both her work and that of others. The research drew on various disciplines to understand the social and interactional aspects involved in Easy Read.

 Saskia Schuppener and Anne Goldbach discussed the normalisation and acceptance of Easy-to-Read in public spaces in Germany.

Tatjana Knapp explored the research and development of Easy-to-Read in Eastern Europe. She looked at the similarities and differences in the development in six countries in Eastern Europe since the late 1980s and discussed the current situation and challenges facing Easy-to-Read. Knapp also explored how research from around the globe could be mutually beneficial to the development and use of Easy-to-Read.

 Walburga Fröhlich looked at the role digitisation can play in improving the quality of Easy Language and explored both the benefits and barriers of digitisation.

Cathy presented 2 talks. Her first talk discussed her current language analysis between various forms of accessible content. Looking at Easy English, Easy Read and Easy-to-read, Cathy presented a review of national and international perspectives on developing content that is accessible and the need to develop an evidence-based practice for accessible communication for those with a diverse range of literacy needs.

Change meaning by adding or changing an element 

Cathy’s second talk discussed the role of images in accessible communication and the importance of how images are used, and the importance of the text being very simple to identify simple yet meaningful images. There were lots of practical hints on how to make an image more meaningful. Some of this was based on the consistencies in images used on Communication Boards, like use of arrows for direction. It was one of only 2 talks on images at the conference.

Concrete and abstract image of choose

Clearly conversations on images need to be built on further. The second paper on images was on whether easy to read can use Artificial Intelligence to create meaningful images in our work. The reasoning behind this investigation was that finding useful and clear images for our work is very time intensive. Can AI shorten this part of the development?  The upshot – nope. Well not yet anyway. To modify a 3 dimensional image to a 2 dimensional pixelated image did not result in a simple clear image. 

 Lots of presentation used a new term ‘Easy Language’ – more about this later.

 Day 1 was thought-provoking as presenters raised questions about the real-world impact of accessible information. Issues like

  • Does Easy Read provide actual choices, both positive and negative options, for the end-user?
  • What role can Easy Language play in the development of curriculum for Special Educators?
  • How does accessible communication help address asymmetrical conversations and positions of power?
  • How does accessible information play increase the participation of people with ID in public life?
  • What is the role of easy language in translations?
  • Can accessible communication be both direct and polite?
  • What cultural considerations need to be taken?
  • When addressing matters of trauma, how do we find the balance between bluntness Vs. education and knowledge?
  • How can we negotiate expectations of complexity for appearance's sake?
  • Is the message lost in translation to easy read?

 The highlight of the conference was the much-needed discussion around whether the existing accessible information is improving the engagement and participation of people with ID and/or low literacy. Seeing at least some discussion of consumers of accessible information in some studies was good to hear. 

 The type of consumers many were engaging with appeared to have relatively high literacy or were learning the language as a second language. Once again, missing most of the cohort we advocate for.

 It was encouraging (or is that a challenge thrown out to Australia?) to see the incorporation of accessible information built into government policy in many European countries.

 Cass, Cathy and Rachel

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

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