Part of my work life now includes translating documents and information into plain language for people with intellectual disabilities. The fact that this is now being done is a testament to thousands upon thousands of parents over many, many years who fought for the right to a real education with real outcomes for their kids. I have been witness to this over my years in doing training for people with intellectual disabilities. At one time, maybe 20 years ago, most of the people who came to my workshops were not able to read. Now, many, and very nearly most, can.
We see accessibility in too narrow a way. We see it as getting access to places. We tend not to think about it as getting access to information. A convoluted sentence with words like 'convoluted' in them can be just as much a barrier as an uncut curb. So, now, we are at the stage of making sure that information is presented in an accessible manner, like we are ramping language.
I had to do this yesterday. I had several pages of information that needed to be translated into plain language. The first thing I noticed was that the information wanted and needed was buried under all sorts of words. Words piled on words piled on words. One sentence was five lines long consisting of 60 words. That's a long sentence. I found myself working to follow it and understand the major message it was conveying only to realize it was just saying, 'Here's what we found.'
So, I set about the work. I admit to enjoying doing this a lot. It's like a word game for me and I approach it that way. I was totally engrossed by the work.
When done the first draft, I did a read of the original a read of the translation to make sure that no important points were left out, and to ensure, of course, that what I deemed to be extraneous was indeed extraneous. One more go through on the text and it was done.
Reading the plain language text, for me, was such a pleasure. I found myself taking in meaning more easily and really understanding the intent of the original text and the point of the work it represented. I'm willing to bet that if you were given a choice of reading one or the other, you'd probably go with the plain language one.
This is the radical next step.
People with disabilities have learned to read.
Now we have to learn how to write.