What is Easy English and who needs it?

An example of Easy English explanation of COVID-19.
Example of Easy English

Easy English is a good example of how less is more. But conveying messages in fewer words is more difficult than writing more words. Cathy Basterfield’s presentation at the UD2021 Conference gave an overview of Easy English, who needs it and why. 

If I were to write this post in Easy English, I would be using short sentences and everyday words. I’d also be leaving lots of white space on the page. I’d probably be using related images and graphics. I do try to keep the language simple and to the point, but it is not the same as writing Easy English.

Presentation slide explaining that access to information is part of universal design.
One of Cathy Basterfield’s presentation slides.

More than 40% of the population has low literacy skills. In some remote parts of Australia and in institutions it is higher than this. There are several reasons why so many Australians need information in easy to understand formats:

– acquired disabilities
– lifelong disabilities
– poor educational outcomes
– psychiatric or mental illness
– dyslexia
– early school leavers
– older people
– different cultural backgrounds
– hearing impaired and/or people from the Deaf community

Accessibility and universal design needs to be considered at the outset of any project, not as an afterthought. Information formats such as brochures and websites are no exception. Some important government documents include an Easy English or Easy Read version, but this is still rare. This is also a forgotten element of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Proficient readers can use Easy English versions to get the take-home message quickly and easily. That’s also why it’s universal design – it’s for everyone. 

Cathy’s presentation slides are helpful in understanding Easy English and why there should be more of it. The Bumpy Road website is a good example of Cathy’s work for interacting with the justice system. 

Cathy has a blogsite that explains more. She did a lot of work for COVID-19 too.