The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has developed a standardised way to produce documents in Easy Read, a format designed to increase accessibility.
The department started researching alternative formats that would help those with learning disabilities, poor literacy or who speak English as a second language, in April 2018. It found that Easy Read, which pairs images on the left of a page with supporting text on the right, was used elsewhere in government, both in the UK and other countries.
However, Ben Railton, the department's senior Easy Read design manager, said that there were no cross-government standards, and that quality of varied.
“We also found there were considerable costs across government in outsourcing Easy Read production to suppliers,” he says in a blogpost.
Standards and prototype
DWP decided to establish standards and processes for producing Easy Read material in-house. It developed and tested a prototype document covering guidance for Access to Work, with charity Mencap organising user testing by people with learning disabilities. The department has since published a version of this document on GOV.UK.
Based on feedback, the department developed standards for its use of Easy Read, which have been endorsed by Mencap, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Health and Social Care. They have also been adopted by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in Australia.
To support in-house production, DWP bought access to Photosymbols, a library of more than 10,000 images specifically for use in Easy Read material, as well as multimedia camera equipment which has been installed in its offices at Tyneview Park in Benton, North Tyneside.
“This has significantly improved the quality of our products and addressed our testing feedback,” writes Railton. It has also made use online tools to improve writing style, including Hemingway App.
DWP is now developing Easy Read documents for personal independence payments and universal credit, as well as an HTML template that will move away from its current reliance on PDFs.
"Providing information in an Easy Read format means that our customers are able to more clearly understand our communications and services," writes Railton. "This has led to some of our customers being more independent as they no longer have to rely on others to understand guidance or explain a document."
Image: Department of Work and Pensions used under Open Government Licence