Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute (VRRI) in Alberta is an excellent source of information for people with disabilities and people who work with them. Plain language booklets are available from the website on a range of health and life skills. Also available are short, practical publications for service providers to facilitate respectful and successful communication and support. The following recent item caught my eye:

Speaking Plain Language: How disability support workers can use plain language with clients who may have limited literacy or language comprehension skills by Aiofe Freeman. (FastFacts Vol 1, no. 2 March 2008)

While resources on plain language writing are happily fairly plentiful these days, information about how to communicate verbally in accessible language is more unusual. This brief guide with a reference list offers practical tips for conversing with people who have difficulty understanding because of literacy or language challenges. While these tips sound like common sense, consistently putting them into practice can be tricky.

Suggestions include:

  • Think about your audience
  • Be aware of your tone
  • Reduce the amount of information you provide at one time
  • Use short and everyday words
  • Find out if you are being understood--but recognize that your listener may be uncomfortable admitting that they don't know what you're talking about!