I am working on something very, very cool.
An agency has asked me to go through the paperwork that they are using with people with intellectual disabilities and translate them into 'plain language.' They've realized that though they have always been careful to explain the intake process, and all that entails, carefully with those seeking service, the forms ultimately signed read as if written by a lawyer.
They want to listen to people with disabilities and their requests for plain language documents.
So, they are doing it.
I have found the process much more difficult than one would imagine. I've discovered it is possible to write simply and clearly, in a jargon free manner, and in a way that's not patronizing - but it's difficult to do so. These documents use big words and long sentences. If they can be explained, in face to face meetings, they can be written similarly.
What pleases me about this is the desire to move towards service delivery that considers, first and foremost, the needs of people with disabilities. Signing documents written in language not understood makes all of us feel diminished. I remember signing forms to buy a house in Quebec, in a language that I didn't understand, left me feeling vulnerable and requiring me, without consideration, to trust someone I didn't know.
But this job seems to me to be part of the larger wave of change in human service. People with disabilities have asked for a long time to have material in plain language. It takes a while for us to hear, to understand, and then to act - but when we do, we do.
In fact, just before writing this, I took eleven words out of a sentence replacing them with three. The odd thing is, there isn't a loss of clarity, there's just a loss of verbiage.
So, I'm working on something very cool.
And I like it because I like what it means.