Have you ever signed an important document, skimming over the terms and conditions, not reading the fine print because it is not written in plain English? Or perhaps you fall into the one in a thousand who reads the terms and conditions of each contract you enter?
A 2014 study revealed that only one in a thousand shoppers accessed license agreements. The researchers looked at the internet browsing behaviour of nearly 50,000 visitors to 90 online software retail companies in a month. They found that accessing it is one step, but of those who do, they read only a small portion.1 Reading and comprehending the fine print was the real barrier to being informed of contractual obligations.
Pages and pages of difficult to comprehend text, written in a small font can be off-putting for many consumers. These factors are barriers to many for making sense of transactions they make. But small changes can minimise barriers.
Small Changes Create Fewer Barriers
While adults may experience this in our daily lives, students may also face similar experiences. As CAST, the founders of UDL explain, classroom materials are often dominated by information in text. However, text can be an inferior format for presenting some concepts and for explicating most processes.
Also, text is a particularly weak form of presentation for learners who have text or language-related disabilities. Providing alternatives—especially illustrations, simulations, images or interactive graphics—can make the information in a text more comprehensible for any learner and accessible for some who would find it completely inaccessible in text.
In May this year, Bankwest, a division of the Commonwealth Bank in Australia, released their Terms and Conditions in illustrated format. The bank partnered with the University of Western Australia to reinvent the way their fine print is presented. They claim it as a banking ‘first’ in Australia.
The goal was to eliminate confusing fine print and simplify the product schedule to make it easier for customers to understand what they need to know about certain account products and how they work.
This is a great example from everyday life that educators can take back to their learning spaces. CAST recommends:
- Presenting key concepts in one form of symbolic representation. For example, an expository text or a math equation with an alternative form. For example, an illustration, dance/movement, diagram, table, model, video, comic strip, storyboard, photograph, animation, physical or virtual manipulative.
- Making explicit links between information provided in texts and any accompanying representation of that information in illustrations, equations, charts, or diagrams.
For further posts on everyday examples illustrating lessons for educators in reducing barriers to learning see the latest posts here.
1Bakos, Y., Marotta-Wurgler, F., & Trossen, D. (2014). Does Anyone Read the Fine Print? Consumer Attention to Standard-Form Contracts. The Journal of Legal Studies, 43(1), 1-35. doi:10.1086/674424