Accessible communication makes content available for people with different communicative needs. Texts can represent barriers that prevent users from accessing them. A text can be
- … a sensory barrier if it requires a sensory channel that is unavailable to the users (for example an audio text for a person who cannot hear).
- … a cognitive barrier if it is too abstract for the recipient to process.
- … a motoric barrier if its physical shape and mediality are not adequate for the users, for example if a website is only accessible via mouse and the user navigates online sites via tab stop.
- … a language barrier if it is in a language that the users do not understand.
- … an expert knowledge barrier or expert language barrier if it uses specialised language or addresses experts and the users are not experts.
- … a cultural barrier if a text presupposes cultural concepts that the users do not know or share.
- … a media barrier if its mediality or channel of distribution are not preferred by or accessible to potential users. (Rink 2020: 135ff, Maaß/Hernández 2020)
Accessible communication strives to dismantle such barriers with the help of different translation and interpreting forms or techniques. This platform welcomes research on these forms and techniques, be they text or user related.
Translation into Easy and Plain Language are forms of accessible communication. They strive to make content easier to understand.
Easy Language is the maximally comprehensible variety of a natural language (Maaß 2020). In English terminology, it is often referred to as “Easy-to-Read”. As it is also used beyond and independent of reading (for example, in audiovisual formats or in interpreting settings), we use the term “Easy Language”. This variety was originally designed for and with people with cognitive disabilities. Today it is also used in communication with other groups with and without disabilities that do not have access to the original versions of a text: People with dementia-type illnesses, prelingual hearing loss, aphasia, but also functional illiterates and language learners.
Easy Language uses basic, everyday vocabulary and avoids complex grammatical structures. Concepts that are considered new to the target groups are explained. The texts are presented in a perceptible layout and accessible media formats. They are distinguishable from standard texts. These features may lead to a reduced acceptability of Easy Language texts and may even trigger stigmatisation processes (Maaß 2020).
Plain Language is also a comprehensibility-enhanced variety of a natural language, but not to the extent of Easy Language. Plain Language usually addresses lay people in expert communication. In some countries, Plain Language is also used for communicative inclusion to meet the needs of people with communication impairments. Plain Language displays features that are similar to Easy Language (reduction of complexity, explanation of new concepts), but is less pronounced in its extent. The layout is usually similar or identical to the respective standard text types. Therefore, Plain Language texts may not be perceptible or comprehensible enough for some of the users with communication impairments. On the other hand, Plain Language is usually much more acceptable for the broad public than Easy Language.
Easy and Plain Language thus have complementary profiles (Hansen-Schirra/Maaß 2020):
|Easy Language||Plain Language|
Hansen–Schirra, Silvia and Christiane Maaß (2020, in print): Perspectives on Use and Production of Easy and Plain Language texts. In: Hansen-Schirra, Silvia/Maaß, Christiane (eds.): Easy Language Research: Text and User Perspectives. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Maaß, Christiane and Sergio Hernández Garrido (2020, in print): Easy and Plain Language in Audiovisual Translation. In: Silvia Hansen-Schirra/Maaß, Christiane (eds.): Easy Language Research: Text and User Perspectives. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Maaß, Christiane (2020, in print): Easy Language – Plain Language – Easy Language Plus. Balancing comprehensibility and acceptability. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Rink, Isabel (2020): Rechtskommunikation und Barrierefreiheit. Zur Übersetzung juristischer Informations- und Interaktionstexte in Leichte Sprache. Berlin: Frank & Timme.