Am I making myself clear?
Mencap’s guidelines for accessible writing
Thank you for your interest in ‘Am I making myself clear’. I hope you find these guidelines helpful. Why you should think about accessible information There are nearly 1.5 million people with learning disabilities living in the UK. Changes in policy and legislation, and a change in attitudes, mean these people no longer live in long-stay hospitals and other institutions. They are part of the community, needing information and services. Requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it unlawful for service providers to discriminate against disabled people. It applies ...view middle of the document...
Changing the way we write and present information can make it easier for everyone to understand. At Mencap we are working with people with learning disabilities and other organisations to find out how we can make information more accessible. We do not have all the answers, and are still learning from our mistakes, but we are starting to make ourselves clearer.
Many people find reading difficult. They may prefer to get information on audio tape or face to face. If you have to provide written material there are ways to make it easier to understand. You can:
Use clear and simple text (plain English) with short sentences, simple punctuation and no jargon.
Use larger print (at least 12 point), a clear typeface and plenty of spacing.
Use bullet points or story boxes and fact boxes to make the main points clear.
2 Am I making myself clear?
Use images such as photos, drawings or symbols to support your text. Aim to make the subject of your material clear at a glance, even to a non-reader.
Do not rely heavily on abstract symbols unless you know your readers are confident symbol users. Choose one or two simple, pictorial symbols and put them to the side of the words.
Important information may need to be available on audio tape or video. Keep tapes short. Always say when to turn the tape over and when it ends.
If you send emails remember that formatting can be lost. This can make material harder to understand.
Am I making myself clear? 3
First steps towards accessibility
Knowing your audience
Thinking about your intended audience, and its abilities and needs, is the key to producing accessible information.
Ask what information is relevant to your intended audience. Cut out any confusing or unnecessary detail, while making sure the essential information is very clear. Always use plain English.
Remember that you are writing for adults
If the words or pictures that you use are inappropriately childish they will meet no-one’s needs. But if you do the job well you may find that everyone prefers the “accessible” version.
Involve your audience
Wherever possible involve your audience in the creative process. Seek the advice and ideas of people with learning disabilities as early as possible.
4 Am I making myself clear?
Be prepared to ‘do whatever it takes’
When Mencap asked people for ideas on making information more accessible, this was a phrase often used. ‘Doing whatever it takes’ means using a variety of formats to get across your message. • The same information can be written, on audio tape and on video. • Take time to find the words, pictures or photos that best support and explain your message. • Sometimes you may not be able to find the image you need, and may need to draw pictures or take photographs yourself. Although material for large or external audiences must meet certain standards, when you are working with individuals or small groups...