Information that reaches all users

Accessible information means that everyone, regardless of ability, should be able to understand information and use services. The reasons why users have difficulty understanding public information vary. In recent years, information to immigrants has been in focus and Funka therefore makes an investigation of the situation, starting in Sweden.

10 years ago we conducted a study on how persons with cognitive disabilities understand information on the web. The reason for this was partly that we saw so-called easy to read texts of poor quality and that one specific authority used the occurrence of that format to measure accessibility in general, which of course was completely insane.

Many users and several disability organizations which we work closely with, were sometimes skeptical, sometimes outraged. They stated that the easy to read information was often outdated and incorrect, it was shortened so that it did not help readers and that very few actually found the information.

To offer people who have difficulty understanding written information additional text seems like a rather unimaginative idea, so we decided to investigate if it was really as bad as users said, comments Susanna Laurin, CEO of Funka.

The survey clearly showed that easy to read at the websites in most cases worked poorly for the target groups that need an alternative to well-written text. Very few website owners had contact with the target groups to check whether the texts served its purpose.

Mapping and user testing

The result of the survey led us to a series of research projects together with a group of disability organisations. The aim was to test and better understand what actually helps users who for various reasons have difficulty understanding written text, and what they prefer.

The conclusion of the project is that well-written text should be supplemented with sound, images, video and illustrations to reach as many people as possible, says Karin Forsell, language expert at Funka. A couple of follow-up project continues to this day, together with among others the Swedish Dyslexia Association.

Nowadays, the challenges of making understandable content is a little different. With a greater proportion of people who have a mother tongue other than Swedish, it is even more important to understand how the public sector can best communicate, to reach as many users as possible.

Therefore, we have decided to make a follow up to the original investigation and this time add more of the perspective of informing persons who do not read Swedish.

This is just a start, we know that the area is neglected, so we are working in parallel with several projects to develop practical advice and support to our clients. This applies to general comprehensibility, but also models for information, with special focus on persons with a mother tongue other than Swedish. Our recommendations are always based on tests in real life, so first we need to make a lot of user tests before we can conclude on recommendations.

During the spring, we will perform similar studies in our other markets as well.