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Easy to Read

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Page author(s): Shadi Abou-Zahra, Andrea Petz, Kerstin Matausch, Birgit Peböck, Klaus Miesenberger


Easy to Read, Plain Language, Guidelines, Language, Internationalization.

Background and Context

Providing information in a way that can be understood by the majority of users is an essential aspect of accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes rules, guidelines, and recommendations for authoring text, structuring information, enriching content with images and multimedia and designing layout to meet these requirements.

This domain is summarized with the term "Easy to Read". Different proposals of guidelines and recommendations have been made available. Some first guidelines, tools and heuristics supporting practice have emerged (e.g. "European Standards for making information easy to read and understand" - see "References", European Standard "Information for All").

Other researchfields show potential to support Easy to Read, too. These include:

Research in usability on the Web came up with the concept of Plain Language and different methods and tools to measure readability (e.g. Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning Fog Index, Wiener Sachtextformel, Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook (SMOG), Gunning fog index (FOG)) (e.g.: Jaan Mikk: Textbook: Research and Writing. Lang, Frankfurt u. a. 2000). The area of usability provides a wide spectrum of guidelines and methods to make the Web appropriate to use (i.e. design guidelines for homepage usability, international user interfaces), which ask to be investigated regarding the needs of users with cognitive disabilities.

The domains of linguistics and language technologies including natural language processing have made significant progress in grammar & style-checking (sometimes called Controlled Language), translation, annotation/enhancement and summarizing.

Finally, research and development in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) provides a related set of resources on user requirements, guidelines, methods, techniques and tools for the use of language including the use of symbol systems/languages, e.g. WWAAC.

Easy to Read today is first of all driven by day to day practice of translating information (on demand). More research is needed to better understand the needs of the users, to analyze and compare the different approaches, to come to a common definition, and to propose a way forward in providing more comprehensive access to language on the Web.

Measuring Readability

Some methods for measuring readability include:

  • Flesch Reading Ease
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Index
  • Wiener Sachtextformel
  • Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook (SMOG)
  • Gunning fog index (FOG)

See also Jaan Mikk: Textbook: Research and Writing. Lang, Frankfurt u. a. 2000.

User Groups

  • People with cognitive disabilities related to functionalities such as
    • Memory
    • Problem solving (conceptualizing, planning, sequencing, reasoning and judging thoughts and actions)
    • Attention (e.g. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - ADHD)and awareness
    • Reading, linguistic, and verbal comprehension (e.g. Dyslexia)
    • Visual Comprehension
    • Mental health disabilities
  • People with low language skills including people who are not fluent in a language
  • Hearing Impaired and Deaf People


  1. Research on the state of the art in e2r including approaches to define the area.
  2. To what extend do other fields contribute to e2r, e.g.
  3. Is it possible and/or reasonable to simplify texts or information by just implementing standard rules and guidelines (e.g. European Standard on easy to read information) to be easily used and understood by every possible user or
  4. Is successful information just a matter of custom-fitting for the audience / target group and standards might only consist of standardised workflows including extensive user testing?
  5. Are users (to be) required to learn while working / reading / using information, documents and/or websites?
  6. Are common standards and guidelines concerning "readability" possible on an international level or in any case to be adapted to individual linguistic needs and abilities?
  7. To what extent is readability linked with the basic layout and the used / implemented navigation elements / navigation possibilities of a website? What elements are crucial and what layouts are most profitable and might be a good starting point for additional evaluations?
  8. To what extent is readability linked with the "normative power of the factual" - what means that widespread popular websites and interaction schemes are "easy to use" even if the basic layout / structure / design is not supportive (following research, rules and guidelines - e.g. Facebook)
  9. To what extent do basic accessibility rules and guidelines (e.g. no fixed fonts and font sizes) interfere with the necessities for a primary target group of easy to read text / information (e.g. people not knowing where to change these settings directly in the browser)?
  10. Do existing web accessibility rules and guidelines already provide enough suggestions on design, layout and navigation that also support readability and usability for the biggest possible user group?
  11. What are the most promising initiatives in automated (computer based) evaluation of readability / complexity of information / texts?
  12. What is the state of the art in challenging R&D areas related to "text independent web" like
    • Automatic or supported text annotation (e.g. pictures, symbols, sounds)
    • Automatic or supported text translation in e2r or symbol languages
  13. Having in mind that even basic accessibility features (e.g. alternative text for graphical content) that are introduced and mainstreamed for years but nevertheless implemented only to a very small extent in mainstream web pages - can we expect mainstream to implement e2r and what time line is possible for mainstream websites in terms of easy to be read and used information / text?
  14. Models of implementing e2r in practice
    • Is e2r text designed for all or do we need specialised or individualised pages?
    • Should we bring up the idea of "special pages" in e2r again?
    • Is e2r a specialised service (on demand) or can we expect/force mainstream to implement it
    • Cost benefit analysis of different implementation approaches of e2r.


  1. Nielsen, Jakob: Designing Web Usability; New Riders, 1998.
  2. Tronbacke, Bror: Guidelines for easy-to-read materials; IFLA professional reports ed. 54; IFLA headquarters 1997.
  3. Jakob Nielsens Blog on usability, Last: January 2012.
  4. European Standard "Information for All"
  5. Website of "Information Architects", especially:
    1. Easy to Read, Last: January 2012 and
    2. What is next in Web Design?, Last: January, 2012.
  6. Information Site of the swedisch Easy to Read Center, Last: January 2012.
  7. design to read - Designing for people who do not read easily
  8. World-Wide Augmentative and Alternative Communication project (WWAAC)

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