Plain Language: Accessibility for Content


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Updated with resources added at AccessU 2013

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  • The logo image is the Usability in Civic Life logo. It shows a “super-hero” figure in the middle of a group of people. The group includes young, old, someone in a wheelchair, someone with a cane and guide dog.
  • The image shows a bar graph with the number of people at each level of literacy defined by the US National Assessment ofAdult Literacy: Below Basic: 30 million people or 14%Basic: 63 million people, or 29%Intermediate: 95 million people, or 45%Proficient: 28 million people, or 13%
  • I suggest you take this quiz and read your own results.
  • This site may not be accessible, but the reason I included it is because of how carefully they have created a clear, focused, simple interface. Appropriately for their audience, the pages focus on the photography.
  • The page says:Online Registration RenewalA simple 4-step process.Enter vehicle registrationEnter owner informationPay feesProvide feedback (optional)Make sure you have the following ready:Your registration renewal formYour Social Security Number (SSN)Your Insurance Identification CardA valid credit card4 images show cards for Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
  • The Key Points: Cancer that starts in the bone is uncommon.Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer.Surgery is the usual treatment for bone cancer.With modern surgical techniques, 9 out of 10 people who have bone cancer in an arm or leg may not need amputation.Because bone cancer can come back after treatment, regular follow-up visits are important.People with bone cancer are encouraged to enroll in clinical trials (research studies) that explore new treatments.
  • Here are some I noted;The layout is a tableThe graph colors are not accessibleThe text is too smallThere is a lot of text in the imageThere is no alt text on the graph image
  • The letter says: Hello.   From time to time we update our agreement governing the use of Square's payment processing services, Square Reader, and Square Register. We're writing to inform you of a few changes recently incorporated into this agreement.   Click here to read the updated Seller Agreement.   The vast majority of changes result from either reorganization, clarification of language, the deletion of duplicative text, or other aesthetic changes, although there are a few substantive modifications. (See, for example, Section 6 [Your Square Account], Section 7 [Our Role], Section 12 [Applicable Network Rules], Section 15(a) [Access to Square Account Funds], Section 15(b) [Right to Setoff], Section 16 [Payout Schedule], Section 24 [Taxes], Section 36 [Disclosures and Notices], Section 47 [Representation and Warranties], and Section 49b [Third Party Products].)   The updated agreement will take effect on June 9, 2013. If you continue to use our services after June 9, 2013, you agree to the terms of the new agreement. You will be able to access the previous version of the agreement for the next thirty days.  Thanks,The Square
  • Plain Language: Accessibility for Content

    1. 1. Plain language:accessibility for informationWhitney and Usability in Civic Life
    2. 2. 2Plain language = a11yfor information
    3. 3. 3Plain language means users canfind what they needunderstand what they finduse the informationto meet their goalsThis definition was written by Ginny Redish and is used by the Center for Plain Language
    4. 4. 4Many barriers to cognitive accessibilityare the same as usability problems forgeneral audience…but more severe.- Clayton LewisInvited talk to the 508 Refresh Committee (TEITAC)
    5. 5. 5Plain language = a11y= usability= user experiencefor information
    6. 6. 6Why plain language?
    7. 7. 7People need plain language because...They read with different degrees of literacy.They do not always read carefully.They have a cognitive, language, or learning disability.Visual disabilities can affect reading.They may not know (or read) the language well
    8. 8. 8Cognitive disabilitiesAffect a person’s ability toprocess information: Remember and recall Read information Process information Make choicesExamples• Dyslexia• Attention disorders• Disability from brain injury• Stroke• Developmental disabilities• Down syndrome• Dementia
    9. 9. 9People read with different levels of literacyBelow basic – only the mostsimple and concrete reading skillsBasic – able to manage everydaytasksIntermediate – moderatelychallenging activities likeconsulting reference materialProficient – interpreting text,comparing viewpointsU.S. National Assessment of Adult Literacy
    10. 10. 10Plain language supports the right to understandSandra Fisher-Martins ―The Right to Understand‖at TEDx O’Porto
    11. 11. 11Can users interpret and act on this information? riskVisual informationClear statementInvite actionBuild on success
    12. 12. 12How do you makeinformation clear?
    13. 13. 135 guidelines• Write for your audience• Organize information logically• Write for action• Keep the text as short as possible• Design for reading
    14. 14. 141. Write for the audienceSpeak to themin their wordsabout their tasks
    15. 15. 15Use simple, everyday words
    16. 16. 16Use simple, everyday wordsDescription Of ServiceThe Site is an online community which enablesphotographers and graphic artists to post photographs andimages, share comments, opinions and ideas, promotetheir work, participate in contests and promotions, andaccess and/or purchase services from time to time madeavailable on the Site (―Services‖). Services include, but arenot limited to, any service and/or content 500px makesavailable to or performs for you, as well as the offering ofany materials displayed, transmitted or performed on theSite or through the Services. Content (―Content‖) includes,but is not limited to text, user comments, messages,information, data, graphics, news articles, photographs,images, illustrations, and software.Your access to and use of the Site may be interrupted fromtime to time as a result of equipment malfunction, updating,maintenance or repair of the Site or any other reasonwithin or outside the control of 500px. 500px reserves theright to suspend or discontinue the availability of the Siteand/or any Service and/or remove any Content at any timeat its sole discretion and without prior notice. 500px mayalso impose limits on certain features and Services orrestrict your access to parts of or all of the Site and theServices without notice or liability. The Site should not beused or relied upon for storage of your photographs andimages and you are directed to retain your own copies ofall Content posted on the Site.
    17. 17. 17One version or multiple versionsThis is the question in the originaldocument:Q1: What do you think would be theadvantages or disadvantages of a UK Bill ofRights? Do you think that there arealternatives to either our existingarrangements or to a UK Bill of Rights thatwould achieve the same benefits? If youthink that there are disadvantages to a UKBill of Rights, do you think that the benefitsoutweigh them? Whether or not you favoura UK Bill of Rights, do you think that theHuman Rights Act ought to be retained orrepealed?This is the EasyRead version:Question1: Do you tink we need a Bill ofRights in the UKBoth of these documents are linked from
    18. 18. 18Leap and land on the same word
    19. 19. 19The text in the image says:Living with MS.Whether you just received a diagnosis of MS or havebeen living with it for a long time—this section is filledwith information and tips on how to maintain yourquality of life in the years ahead. Read aboutstrategies to enhance your health and wellness,maximize your productivity and independence, anddeal with emotional, social, and vocationalchallenges.Speak directly to the
    20. 20. 20Speak directly to the audience, even when the readeris a representative of the audience member.§ 408.315. Who may sign your application?(a) When you must sign. If you are mentally competent, and physicallyable to do so, you must sign your own application.(b) When someone else may sign for you. (1) If you are mentallyincompetent, or physically unable to sign, your application may besigned by a court-appointed representative or a person who isresponsible for your care, including a relative. If you are in the care of aninstitution, the manager or principal officer of the institution may signyour application.(2) If it is necessary to protect you from losing benefits and there is goodcause why you could not sign the application, we may accept anapplication signed by someone other than you or a person described inparagraph (b)(1) of this section.
    21. 21. 212. Organize informationlogicallyIn the right orderIn the right format
    22. 22. 22Put information in the right order.Requirements, prompts, warnings, notes andanything else that someone needs to complete anaction correctly must come before the action, fieldor instruction, not after it!
    23. 23. 23Establish context and requirements
    24. 24. 24Put instructions in the right orderDraw a triangle on top of an upside down ―T‖
    25. 25. 25Put instructions in the right orderDraw a triangle on top of an upside down ―T‖Did you draw a pine tree or a wine glass?
    26. 26. 263. Write for actionActive verbsPositive messages
    27. 27. 27Write with active verbs
    28. 28. 28Be positiveWe asked participans in a usabilty test to find out:How much are the annual tuition fees at thisuniversity?A typical three-year degree at £3,000 a yearadds up to to £9,000 – a hefty sum that doesn’tinclude living costs.......on average to £3,046 compared with £9,000...Universities will be able to charge up to £3,000for annual tuition fees and the government ispredicting that average levels of student debt willbe around £15,000 for those entering highereducation next year...
    29. 29. 294. Keep the textas short as possibleShort sentencesShort paragraphs
    30. 30. 30How to vote(1) Mark only with a writing instrument provided by the board ofelections.(2) To vote for a candidate whose name is printed on this ballot fill inthe (insert oval or square, as applicable) above or next to the name ofthe candidate.(3) To vote for a person whose name is not printed on this ballot writeor stamp his or her name in the space labeled ―write-in‖ that appears(insert at the bottom of the column, the end of the row or at the bottomof the candidate names, as applicable) for such office (and, if requiredby the voting system in use at such election, the instructions shall alsoinclude ―and fill in the (insert oval or square, as applicable)corresponding with the write-in space in which you have written in aname‖).(4) To vote yes or no on a proposal, if any, that appears on the(indicate where on the ballot the proposal may appear) fill in the(insert oval or square, as applicable) that corresponds to your vote.(5) Any other mark or writing, or any erasure made on this ballotoutside the voting squares or blank spaces provided for voting willvoid this entire ballot.(6) Do not overvote. If you select a greater number of candidates thanthere are vacancies to be filled, your ballot will be void for that publicoffice, party position or proposal.(7) If you tear, or deface, or wrongly mark this ballot, return it andobtain another. Do not attempt to correct mistakes on the ballot bymaking erasures or cross outs. Erasures or cross outs may invalidateall or part of your ballot. Prior to submitting your ballot, if you make amistake in completing the ballot or wish to change your ballot choices,you may obtain and complete a new ballot. You have a right to areplacement ballot upon return of the original ballot.(8) After completing your ballot, insert it into the ballot scanner andwait for the notice that your ballot has been successfully scanned. Ifno such notice appears, seek the assistance of an election inspector.
    31. 31. 31How to vote (another try)Mark the oval to the left of the name of your choice.To vote for a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, print the nameclearly in the box labeled write-in, staying within the box.Do not make any marks outside the spaces provided for voting. If you do, yourballot may not count.The number of choices is listed for each contest. Do not mark the ballot for morecandidates than allowed. If you do, your vote in that contest will not count.If you make a mistake, or want to change your vote, ask a poll worker for a newballot.
    32. 32. 32Use summaries to communicate key pointsThis example is from
    33. 33. 335. Design for readingLists and tablesInfo designClear fonts
    34. 34. 34Design for reading patterns
    35. 35. 35Clear presentation of quantitative dataHow many accessibilityproblems can you find onthis page?
    36. 36. 36Clear presentation of quantitative dataFocus on meaningMeaningful title with themain pointBrief overview summarizesthe messageInformation in visual formatInformation in table formatAnd,Better alt textNo table used for layout
    37. 37. 37Use design to make information easy to scan
    38. 38. 38Let lists be listsGood information designsupports goodaccessibilityThe most importantinformation in this email isburied in a massive,parenthetical sentence.Hello.From time to time we update our agreement governing the use of Squarespayment processing services, Square Reader, and Square Register. Werewriting to inform you of a few changes recently incorporated into thisagreement.Click here to read the updated Seller Agreement.The vast majority of changes result from either reorganization, clarification oflanguage, the deletion of duplicative text, or other aesthetic changes, althoughthere are a few substantive modifications. (See, for example, Section 6 [YourSquare Account], Section 7 [Our Role], Section 12 [Applicable NetworkRules], Section 15(a) [Access to Square Account Funds], Section 15(b)[Right to Setoff], Section 16 [Payout Schedule], Section 24[Taxes], Section 36 [Disclosures and Notices], Section 47 [Representationand Warranties], and Section 49b [Third Party Products].)The updated agreement will take effect on June 9, 2013. If you continue to useour services after June 9, 2013, you agree to the terms of the new agreement.You will be able to access the previous version of the agreement for the nextthirty days.Thanks,The Square Teamsquareup.comEmail from and link to
    39. 39. 39Myths that hold us back
    40. 40. 40Myth:“My audience doesn’t need plain language”Teens Write simply,using words thatare common toyour readers’vocabulary Be concise andget to the point Make the contentapply to personaland culturalexperiencesOlder adults Use words thatmost older adultsknow Write in plainlanguage with short,simple andstraightforwardsentencesLow literacy Put the most importantinformation first Write text with a simplesentence structure Keep pages,paragraphs, sentencesshortTeenagers on the Web Web Sites for Older Adults, with low literacy web users compare these guidelines for different audiences
    41. 41. 42Myth:My information can’t be expressed in plain languageInformation can betechnically accurate,interesting and well writtenappropriate to the audienceand alsoclear and understandable
    42. 42. 43Plain language resourcesFederal Plain Language Guidelines Plain Language Handbook for Plain LanguageClearMark Awards to write clearly – EuropeanCommission Go of the Wordsby Janice (Ginny) Redish
    43. 43. 44Plain language discussion forums and organizationsOrganizationsCenter for Plain Language - http://www.centerforplainlanguage.orgPlain Language Association International - - Clear – European consortium - and ConferencesLinkedIn Group Group – 2013 conference -, October in Vancouver
    44. 44. 45Storytelling for User Experiencewith Kevin BrooksGlobal UXwith Daniel SzucA Web for Everyonewith Sarah HortonA Web forEveryone
    45. 45. 46Whitney Quesenberywhitney@wqusability.comhttp://www.wqusability.comUsability in Civic Lifehttp://usabilityinciviclife.orghttp://civicdesigning.orgTwitter: @whitneyqSlideshare:
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