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Written information

Before deciding on a written information format you should ask people with intellectual disabilities what would be best for them. You may think an Easy Read report is accessible but if it is hundreds of pages long it is not easier to understand! 

If self-advocates say that a written format is good for them, choose the format for information that people with intellectual disabilities in the country you are working in are familiar with. 


Plan to make the information accessible from the start.


It is much quicker to create one accessible version of information from the start rather than try to ‘translate’ a more detailed or complicated version. 

Creating one accessible version of a document is good practice and more inclusive.


Remember that most people prefer to read an easy to understand, short document than a longer complicated document.

​​Many self-advocacy organisations have produced guidance or offered training on how to create accessible written information, for example, plain language or Easy Read. Some of this guidance is linked at the end of this page. 


Involve people with intellectual disabilities at every stage.

This includes planning the information and checking the final version. 

Some self-advocacy organisations run services to create accessible information. Other easy read or plain language providers work with self-advocacy groups. Make sure when you are looking for a provider that they pay self-advocates for this work.


Plan enough time to create a document.

It is important that there is enough time for people with intellectual disabilities to take part in the process.


You may need to plan for 3 or more meetings. For example:

  • Meeting 1:  To talk about the background of the information and talk about the format

  • Meeting 2. To plan the content

  • Meeting 3. To check the final information 


This is especially true if there is a complicated version of a document that needs to be ‘translated’. 


Creating accessible information means working together with people with an intellectual disability.


Talk together about:

  • the content

  • why you are creating the information

  • what is really important and what can be left out 

  • what the key points are

  • how to break information down into shorter parts.


Choose a format that is accessible and right for the information you are trying to share. 

The right format will be different for different types of information. 

For example; 

  • Plain language might be right for a blog post

  • Easy Read with images might be better for an information leaflet

  • Video might be better to report on a project.


You should choose the format for information that people with intellectual disabilities in the country you are working in are familiar with. 

For example;

  • in the UK many groups use Easy Read with Photosymbols.

  • Some other countries use plain language without pictures.


Check the language is accessible. Use clear, everyday language in short sentences.


Avoid jargon, long words or acronyms. 

Use examples or stories to help explain information.


Including images, pictures or symbols can make the information easier to understand.

But the image must make sense and relate to the information. 

Images of people (either illustrations or photos) are easier to understand than symbols.

Illustrations can often be more specific than photos. 

Images should represent your audience. For example if you are making a document that will be read by people in India using images of people in Germany not useful because the items they are using will look different.

Do not use cartoons or childish illustrations like ClipArt.

The best way to choose the right images for a document is to ask people with an intellectual disability. 


Think about the layout for written information.


Fonts should be large and easy to read. For example; Arial size 16.

There should be plenty of white space around the written information. For example double spacing. 


The information should look friendly but not childish.

Use headings and bullet points to break the information into smaller sections.


Check translated information is still accessible. 

Make sure the translators understand about keeping language short and clear.  

Ask people with intellectual disabilities who speak the language to check the translated information.


Think about other ways to support the written information. 

For example including videos or an audio clip of a person reading the information can be helpful. 


Plan how to share the information. It should be shared in places that people with intellectual disabilities can find.

If you are only using email, websites and social media, many people with intellectual disabilities will never find the information.

Ask people with intellectual disabilities for more ideas about how to share information. 

Think about organisations you work with who can help you to reach more people with intellectual disabilities. Their meetings may be good ways to share the information. 

If your information is very important, plan your own accessible meeting where you can share the information. 


Make sure finding the information later is easy.


For example, make it clear on your website where your reports are stored. Avoid making people click through lots of pages and menus to find it.

Check that your information is easy to find through search engines like Google. 


People may need support to read your document.


Even if you have followed all the guidelines and worked with self-advocates to create your document, many people with intellectual disabilities will need time to read through it with a support person.


For example, a support person can give background information to the document that relates to the person's life or work to help them to understand it.

There is no format that is completely accessible for everyone. 


Provide a way to ask questions and give feedback in your written information. 

Include information about who to talk to if there are questions about the information.  


Ask for feedback. For example, by including a link to an easy feedback form or through an email address. 

Useful resources


European Standards for making
Easy-to-Read information


Guide for writing Easy Read from People First New Zealand 

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