Breaking barriers to adopting simple English for cognitive disability

Dr Scott Hollier is the author of a practical, step-by-step guide for organisational support focused on cognitive disability. He believes that a key pillar for better communication is adopting and embracing simple English, and this was the topic he talked about at the recent Round Table conference, which you can listen to in a fascinating podcast.

Dr Hollier launched this practical guide, and gave an address about it, on 17 May at the 2016 Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities conference in Melbourne. The presentation, titled ‘Breaking Barriers: Adopting Simple English’, provided guidance on how best to address media-related accessibility issues for people with cognitive disabilities.

Summary of the Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide

The Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide is a 12-page booklet written by Dr Scott Hollier, an acknowledged world expert on digital accessibility issues. It’s designed to deliver practical, step-by-step information in order to enable best-practice web and digital communication to be prepared and then delivered in an inclusive and effective way. It also explores the role of affordable consumer devices such as tablets and apps, and features a helpful accessibility checklist too.

Why this Cognitive Guide is helpful for many different roles

Dr Hollier’s presentation concentrated on how the needs of people with cognitive disabilities can be addressed by following web-based accessibility standards and ensuring that accessibility is applied across different roles within an organisation.

“The guide is important for developers as it highlights both the parts of WCAG 2.0 that are currently being implemented in Level AA, and some of the lesser-known aspects of WCAG 2.0 found in Level AAA,” he said.

“One of the other things that we’ve tried to look at when we put this guide together is to say well look, it’s quite often the case that people just assume that if it’s anything to do with IT, then only IT people need to know about it.” said Dr Hollier.

“But what we’ve found is actually marketing people need to know about it in terms of preparing emails that go out, and people that use social media need to be aware of how to prepare social media messages, and there’s actually a need for content producers, and people throughout an organisation, to make sure that information is prepared in the way that effectively supports people with cognitive disabilities.”

Highlight from the presentation – what should be happening right now?

Dr Hollier points out that Australia – like all other countries at the moment – is not going to Level AAA of the WCAG 2 standard.

“The trouble with that,” he explained, “is that there’s four really important things that could be really beneficial if we did include these parts of AAA. In particular, the need to define abbreviations, unusual words and pronunciation which are all important for people with cognitive disabilities. It is also recommended that a website provides an easy English summary sheet if it is difficult to write content to a lower secondary school level.

“In terms of Media Access Australia, we’re not advocating for an entire implementation of Level AAA,” Dr Hollier continued. “There are very good reasons why people don’t go to AAA… But suffice to say, because there are very hard things in AAA, a lot of the good things in AAA that are relatively straightforward to do get overlooked.”

Download the Cognitive Guide

You can freely download the Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide from the Media Access Australia website, as a PDF or accessible Word document.

Listen to Dr Hollier’s address

Listen to an address from Dr Hollier at the Round Table conference on the Media Access Australia Site where he spoke on Cognitive Disability and the factors and approaches that contribute towards being able to implement effective communication.