The KLAARA 2023 conference held in Portugal was a gathering of experts focused on language and accessible communication. The conference aimed to advance research in modified language used to communicate with people facing difficulties in understanding standard forms of language. Experts from diverse fields like social sciences, linguistics, special education, visual communication, translation studies, and information design presented and discussed their studies.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the right of individuals with disabilities to access information on an equal basis with others. It is the first time that the concept of Easy-To-Read is included in such a document, which obliges countries to follow it.
Despite this positive development, people with disabilities still face difficulties accessing information and communication. They encounter daily obstacles that prevent them from exercising this fundamental right.
To address these challenges many people and organizations who work on creating and adapting documents, providing training, developing accessible books and information leaflets, and designing adapted training curricula met at The multidisciplinary KLAARA 2023 conference.
1st Conference on Easy-to-Read Language Research KLAARA 2019 vas in Helsinki and 2nd KLAARA 2021 was in Switzerland. The organisers who have been actively involved in the third KLAARA 2023 Conference were the National Federation of Social Solidarity Cooperatives (FENACERCI) and the School of Education and Social Sciences, through its Centre of Resources for Digital Inclusion (CRID) at the Polytechnic of Leiria.
The conference featured an exciting program with various sessions, workshops, and a round table discussing different topics related to accessible communication. Some of the topics covered include the development of plain language and easy-to-read text, the role of people with intellectual disabilities as content validators, linguistic asymmetry and conversation analysis, cognitive accessibility, easy audiovisual content, and cognitive accessibility in the future. The event also included visits to places providing attendees with enriching experiences.
The KLAARA 2023 conference served as a valuable platform for experts to share knowledge and collaborate across disciplines. With these efforts, the aim is to make language and communication more accessible, empowering individuals with disabilities to access information and knowledge on an equal basis. By fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, the conference took a step forward in creating a future where communication is accessible to all.
The speakers presented important and interesting topics related to accessible communication, including Easy English, Easy Finnish, cognitive accessibility, and inclusive education. Their contributions are making information and communication more accessible for people with disabilities, ensuring everyone can access information on an equal basis.
The conference topics were:
1 – Plain Language and Easy Language
2 – Involvement and participation of target groups
3 – Easy language in the oral aspect
4 – Media accessibility
5 – The right to information and communication
6 – Education, health, employment… The importance of access to information for the exercise of rights
On the KLAARA 2023 conference keynote speakers talked about:
Cathy Basterfield discussed Plain Language and Easy Language, sharing her expertise on how to write in Easy English. She emphasized the importance of making information more understandable for people with intellectual disabilities, enabling them to access essential information.
Leealaura Leskelä presented on Easy Language in the Oral Aspect. She explored how to make spoken language more accessible for people with communication difficulties, improving their ability to engage in conversations and understand information.
Marta Nogueira contributed to the topic of Media Accessibility. She discussed how accessible communication in media, such as TV, radio, and online platforms, plays a vital role in ensuring that everyone, including individuals with disabilities, can stay informed and engaged.
Rocio Barnabe Caro addressed Education, Health, Employment, and the Importance of Access to Information for the Exercise of Rights. She highlighted the crucial role of accessible information in various aspects of life, including education, health, and employment, enabling individuals with disabilities to fully exercise their rights and participate in society.
Sandra Marques and Célia Sousa’s presentation Cognitive accessibility and accessible information: a vision for the future focused on the topic of Media Accessibility and the adaptation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Easy Reading. They shared insights into making media content accessible and emphasized the importance of adapting legal documents to ensure inclusivity. They addressed the topic of Involvement and Participation of Target Groups. Their research focused on finding ways to engage individuals with disabilities in communication and decision-making processes, ensuring their voices are heard and respected.
Tatjana Knapp and Nevenka Kos contributed to discussions on Involvement and Participation of Target Groups. Tatjana Knapp discussed her work in promoting Easy Language and anthropology in the context of disability, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Nevenka Kos’s talk centered around The Right to Information and Communication. They both emphasized the significance of ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to information, which is a fundamental right stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Ulla Bohman’s talk revolved around Education, Health, and Employment, with a focus on Easy Language and its impact on accessibility and human rights. She shared experiences from her work at the Swedish Easy Reading Centre, promoting inclusive communication and accessible services.
The speakers’ contributions covered a wide range of essential topics, all aimed at making communication more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Their research and expertise play a crucial role in ensuring that everyone can access information and exercise their rights, regardless of their abilities.
Here are the most captivating topics at KLAARA 2023 for empowering VET Professionals:
Among the diverse range of topics discussed, some of the most interesting ones are relevant for empowering professionals working in Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs.
Incorporating Easy English into Universal Design: The relationship between low literacy and linguicism (language and linguistic phenomena) in health communication was explored by Cassandra Wright-Dole in an online presentation. This topic addressed the challenges faced by VET professionals when communicating with individuals with intellectual disabilities and how incorporating Easy English can enhance accessibility.
Visual Support in Easy Language: Mariona González-Sordé presented an eye-tracking study that examined the impact of visual support on comprehension and reader behaviour for users with cognitive disabilities. This research holds immense value for VET educators in understanding how visual aids can improve the learning experience for individuals with disabilities.
Mapping Easy Language Elections Coverage in Europe: Andrej Tomažin delved into the realm of Easy Language journalism and showcased how VET professionals can play a vital role in making information more accessible. This topic highlighted the importance of ensuring individuals with disabilities can access critical information.
Easy Language Speed Dating: Ulla Bohman and the ELIN network conducted a workshop that engaged participants in an interactive session to promote Easy Language. This engaging approach can inspire VET professionals to explore innovative ways of teaching and interacting with individuals with diverse communication needs.
Easy Spoken Language: Cathy Basterfield shared a speech pathology perspective on Easy Spoken Language. This talk was highly relevant to VET educators, as it provided insights into how they can adapt their teaching methods to accommodate the speech needs of students with disabilities.
Involvement and Participation in Disability Movement: Soufiane El Amrani and Helen Portal organized a workshop on involving people with intellectual disabilities and complex support needs in the disability movement. This topic resonated with VET professionals as it encouraged them to promote inclusivity and ensure active participation for their students in society.
GameIN: Practical and Methodological Path for Accessible Games: Carla Sousa, Filipe Luz, and their team introduced a workshop focused on creating accessible games for people with disabilities. This workshop provided VET professionals with valuable insights into the benefits of using gamification to enhance learning experiences.
These topics showcased the significant role VET professionals play in fostering an inclusive and accessible learning environment. By integrating Easy Language (Easy-To-Reads -ETR, plain language, universal design), visual aids, and interactive methodologies, educators can empower individuals with different needs to achieve their full potential in vocational training. The conference underscored the importance of collaboration among various disciplines and highlighted the positive impact such collaborative efforts can have on creating an inclusive society for all.
As a closing remark and a final thought, perhaps the results of the SIMPL4ALL project could be presented at KLAARA 2025.