This guide is currently in BETA, this means we are seeking feedback and making improvements.

Read time: 7 minutes

Make your written information easier to understand for everyone.

  • Dorota is the Chief Executive of an Australian Government department. Dorota needs to grasp key information quickly for a parliamentary request. Dorota doesn't have time to read complex government documents, reports or policies.
  • Marlee lives in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. Access to internet connection is limited. Like Dorota, Marlee just needs to grasp key information quickly. Marlee doesn't have time to read complex government documents, reports or policies.
  • Kala has a learning disability. Kala needs to be able to understand information about their university admission. People with learning disability need access to all types of information. Not just disability-specific information.
  • Areeb is not fluent in English. Easy read helps Areeb understand important information about a community event.
  • Kris has dyslexia. Kris finds the structure of easy read helps to process information.

What is easy read?

Information presented in easy read benefits everyone.

This is because information is made easier to understand by:

  • using plain-language
  • using short sentences
  • telling people exactly what they need to know

For example:

  • We have a policy for making technology accessible.
  • Everyone who works in the South Australian Government needs to use our policy.
  • Our policy was approved on 16 May 2019.

Pictures can also used to support the meaning of words.

For example:

We have a policy for making technology accessible.

Everyone who works in the South Australian Government needs to use our policy.

Our policy was approved on 16 May 2019.

Before you start developing easy read information:

  1. Check for any feedback that your report, policy or written information is difficult to understand.
  2. Think about your audience. What you think is understandable or clear may not be for them.
  3. Read about our journey and how we identified a need for an easy read policy guide.
  4. If you have an existing product, go through your text or document and pick out the main points.
  5. Identify what you can leave out that is of little or no value.
  6. Remove duplication.
  7. Plan to engage your audience as early as possible. Would your audience prefer a plain text version of easy read? Supporting images or pictures? Or both? Always test and get feedback on your easy read product.
  8. Consider commissioning easy read versions of your publications from an expert organisation. We can help with this. Email us at onlineaccessibility@sa.gov.au.

Publishing content on a web page rather than in a document should be the default format for all government information.

South Australian Government agencies using Website Design System can use our easy read component.

  • The pre-built solution is based on research by the UK Government.
  • We also designed this component with experts in Australia. This included people with disability and Vision Australia to make sure it is accessible.
  • Usually used to build easy read resources on content pages, our easy read component can be used on your homepage.
  • It can also be repurposed as a promotional banner or an alternative table display.

For more information about web page design, email onlineaccessibility@sa.gov.au.

  1. Images should be displayed to the left of any written text.
  2. Using a toned background is optional. For our toned option, we use a light blue background of #5ABDEA and a blue border  of #5ABDEA. We also have a plain print ready version. Examples are provided for content pages and home pages.
  3. If a different toned background is used, it should be made up of one flat colour. Do not use patterns, strong gradients or faded out pictures behind text
  4. Toned background colours should match an accessible colour palette. Test any toned backgrounds and text for accessibility.
  5. Do not squash things in to fit. Space things out. Lots of white space makes the document look less intimidating.
  6. Keep in mind some people reading your product might be colour blind. Do not rely on colours to make information stand out or clear.
  7. Number your pages.
  8. Include a contents page that has images and text. It should be consistent with the rest of the product.
  9. Start new sections or chapters on a new page.
  10. Subheadings should be size 24 and bold.
  11. Keep the document as short as possible. Over 20 pages is generally too much. If this happens, try splitting your product into separate versions.

Font

  1. Use FS Me font type and at least a size 14. If FS Me is not available, use Arial.
  2. Do not use hand writing fonts. These are difficult to read.
  3. Do not capitalise entire words.
  4. Add extra spacing between lines of text. Set leading to 18 when using InDesign.
  5. Do not use any shadows, outlines, gradients on text.

Sentence structure

  1. Keep sentences short and to the point.
  2. Ideally lines or text should contain around 15 or less words.
  3. Align text to the left and have a suitable amount of space on the right.
  4. Always finish a word on the line. Do not hyphen words.
  5. Always finish a sentence on the same page.
  6. Always finish a paragraph on the same page.

Keep in mind you are not writing a bestselling novel.

You are designing and presenting information in the easiest format so your customers can understand.

  1. Write your information in short, clear sentences.
  2. Unless your target audience is children, remember you are writing for adults. Do not use wording or images as if speaking to children.
  3. Use active and personal language. Using ‘you’ and ‘we’ makes written content more direct and understandable.
  4. Use the number and not the word. 3 not three, 4 not four and so on.
  5. Avoid questions. Questions can confuse readers.
  6. Each sentence should contain 1 idea or point.
  7. Do not underline.
  8. Use bold to emphasise a word. Then explain that word.
  9. Avoid negative contractions like can't, aren't and isn't. Limit the use of other contractions. Contractions can be hard to read for people with learning disability, people with poor literacy or from non-English speaking backgrounds.
  10. Remove duplication. Remember your target audience. What you include should be relevant, essential and clear.
  11. Do not use complicated words that are hard to understand. For example:
    1. Not accessible
      1. superfluous
      2. strenuous
      3. collaborative
    2. Accessible
      1. not needed
      2. tiring
      3. shared
  12. Do not use jargon. Low hanging fruit, blue sky thinking, holistic approach - use none of these or any other jargon phrases
  13. Some forms and documents contain legal phrases or decisions. In these instances, despite your best efforts, you might have no choice but to use a difficult word or phrase.
    1. Make sure you highlight and fully explain a difficult word or phrase clearly.
    2. An explanation should immediately follow the first sentence it is used in. For example: Legislation means we are doing this because it is the law.
  14. List any difficult words at the end of the product on a separate page along with an explanation. For example, word list for South Australian Government's Online Accessibility Policy.
  15. Try and repeat words that you use. Be consistent if you refer to a place or person more than once. Call them by the same name throughout your document. For example:
    1. Not accessible
      1. You will have an appointment with a medical professional. The doctor will ask you some questions about your health. You will also be able to ask the consultant any questions.
    2. Accessible
      1. You will have an appointment with a medical professional. The medical professional will ask you some questions about your health. You will also be able to ask the medical professional any questions.
  16. Try not to put more than one piece of information in each sentence. For example:
    1. Not accessible
      1. Our office is open between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday and is located at 200 Victoria Square, Adelaide, 5000.
    2. Accessible
      1. Our office is open between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday. It is located at 200 Victoria Square, Adelaide, 5000.

Easy read standards are different to Australian Government guidance. This is because people with learning disability and screen reader users use full stops within bullets to tell them that a sentence or structure has finished.

This section is an example of where easy read standards are different:

  • Bullet points can break up longer or more detailed sentences.
  • Use the following guidelines for bullet points:
  • Use capital letters at the start of lists with longer entries, or include full stops within the bullet point.

Example 1:

Provide interpreters such as:

  • Australian Sign Language translators for face to face interviews
  • Video Relay Service support providing live on-screen translation
  • Lip speakers or note takers to use at you place of work.

Bullet points are preferable to numbered lists, but when using a numbered list, use large numbers. Do not use 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 as this can be confusing.

Example 2:

  1. Contact us
  2. Send us your identification
  3. Wait for our reply
  4. Attend your appointment.

Use lower-case at the start of single word lists or very short entries

Example 3:

  • cats
  • long-haired dogs
  • horses.

The final bullet point, regardless of length, should have a full stop to indicate the end of the list.

Be careful with image selection.

  1. Only use authorised sites or providers.
  2. Where appropriate, use photographs rather than cartoons or illustrations. Some people may find cartoons or illustrations childish depending on how they are used. Remember to test your design with your target audience.
  3. Images should be clear and give the reader an idea of what the written text says.
  4. Images of people in your document should include a good mixture with different ethnicity, health problems, ages, disability and genders.
  5. If you are struggling to find an image to match your text, the likelihood is you need to change your text.
  6. Keep images consistent, if you mention the same thing twice in your product use the same image.
  7. Ideally use a maximum of 3 images per page in your document.
  8. Remove any background clutter that could confuse the reader in some circumstances. Visual example:

    Person at home on phone sitting in wheelchair. Kitchen background is visible.

    Person at home on phone sitting in wheelchair. Kitchen background has been removed and replaced with a white background..

  9. Adding symbols or text to images can make written text easier to understand. However, do this sparingly and make sure there is plenty of space within the image. This visual example is from the UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions easy read document 'Get help from Personal Independence':
    An example easy read page showing 3 images on the 1 page with lots of white space and displays as well formatted.
Page last updated: 15 June 2020