updated Jan 24, 2011
- Children’s Partnership
- Jakob Neilsen’s site
- The Trace Center
- Web Site Usability: A Designer’s Guide
- ” In Other Words, Communicating Across a Lifespan. Design in Print and Web-based Communication”
- Readability check using existing software
- Simply Put
- Clear and to the Point: Guidelines for using Plain Language at NIH.
- Writing and Designing Print Materials for Beneficiaries: A Guide for State Medicaid Agencies
- The Right Understand: Linking Literacy to Health and Safety Training
- Creating Plain Language Forms for Seniors: A Guide for the Public, Private and Not-for-Profit Sectors
- Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers
- Beyond the Brochure: Alternative Approaches to Effective Health Communication
- Making Health Communication Programs Work: A Planner’s Guide
- The SMOG Readability Calculator
Teaching Patients with Low Literacy Skills, Second Edition (1996). Authors: Doak, Doak and Root. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Company.
This 212-page ‘classic’ is for health educators and health care providers who wish improve communication with adults who have limited literacy skills. The book covers a wide range of topics, including: educational theories, how to test for literacy skills, how to assess the suitability of materials and how to create easily understandable visuals. The authors discuss how to test and revise health education materials. The book includes directions for using the Fry formula, a copy of the REALM and a copy of the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM). The SAM, an assessment tool, was created by Doak and Doak. This text is now available for free download on this web site. Click here.
Bobby is a free web-based service to help identify and repair significant barriers to access. Bobby was created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). To use Bobby, you simply enter the URL of the web site you want tested and click Submit. Bobby limits the number of pages it will check, but you can test an entire set by downloading a version of Bobby.
The Children’s Partnership: www.childrenspartnership.org
The Children’s Partnership (TCP) is a national non-profit organization that informs leaders and the public about the needs of American’s children. TCP recently published a report, titled “Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Americans: The Digital Divide’s New Frontier.” The report examines and makes recommendations about Internet content for underserved Americans, including those with limited literacy. The full report is available on TCP’s web site.
Jakob Neilsen’s site: www.useit.com
This site provides tips for the design of web pages, including information on writing for the web and guidelines for improving usability of the web for people with disabilities.
The Trace Center, a resource on web design:www.trace.wisc.edu/world/web
This site is focused on usability and access. It includes information on: web site guidelines, web access tools, resources on disability and web use, forums for discussing accessibility issues and organizations addressing web access issues.
Web Site Usability: A Designer’s Guide (1999). Authors: J. Spool. T. Scanlon, W. Schroeder, et al. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
This 150-page guide offers practical advice for the design of web pages, and includes a chapter on readability and page layout. The authors discuss provide a guide for calculating the Fog Index and suggest ways to scan web pages. For more information, contact Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, www.mkp.com.
“In Other Words … Communicating Across a Lifespan. Design in Print and Web-Based Communication.” On Call Magazine, January, 2001. Article by Helen OsborneAvailable at http://www.healthliteracy.com
This article defines universal design as ‘an approach to design that not only addresses specific physical disabilities, but also takes into account a wide array of physical, cognitive and linguistic abilities of people throughout the world over an entire lifespan.” The author offers practical advice on using universal design principles when designing web and print-based communications. She discusses font, line length, and graphics.
Readability check using existing software: Cut and paste web text into a blank Word document and test for readability (with Flesch Kincaid Grade Level Scale) using the “Tools” menu, under “Spelling and Grammar.” This does not consider .pdf files or graphics, but will give an indication of the reading level of written text. Hand-computed readability checks, such as the SMOG, can also be conducted on web site text.
Simply Put. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This guide from the CDC helps you translate technical and scientific language used in many fields into information that captures and holds the interest of your intended audience. It provides tips for writing simply, using visuals, and organizing information for easy recall and understanding. Simply Put is available at http://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/simply_put.pdf
Clear and to the Point: Guidelines for Using Plain Language at NIH. Developed by the National Institutes for Health.
This 12-page summary provides guidelines and useful examples of how to write in plain language, engage readers, display information and evaluate materials. Clear and to the Point is available athttp://execsec.od.nih.gov/plainlang/guidelines/index.html
Writing and Designing Print Materials for Beneficiaries: A Guide for State Medicaid Agencies (October, 1999). Author: Jeanne McGee. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Care Financing Administration. Center for Medicaid and State Operations. Publication Number 10145.
This guide, focused on the development of print materials for Medicaid beneficiaries, offers a thorough explanation of key issues for all health related materials assessment and development processes. The guide provides useful advice and excellent tips for writing, designing, and pre-testing written materials. The author offers clear examples throughout. The design and layout of the guide itself provides an excellent model for the presentation of information and concepts and adds to our understanding. We do encourage you to send for this book. We’ve added the very thorough Checklist to this web site. To view the ‘Guide Checklist for Assessing Print Materials,’ click here.
The Right to Understand: Linking Literacy to Health and Safety Training, by Szudy and Arroyo (1994). Labor Occupational Health Program, University of California at Berkeley.
This 200-page manual is designed to help safety and health trainers meet the needs of workers with limited literacy skills. However, it offers clear and focused tips and processes for the development of any materials. Contents include sections on how to develop easy-to-read materials, how to evaluate materials, and how to conduct suitable trainings for a wide range of literacy skills. The ‘How To’ section includes writing, design and illustration tips. The ‘Evaluation’ section provides a quick checklist, instructions on using the Fry formula, a guide to field testing materials, sample questions for focus groups and many case studies on field testing. This manual is available from the Labor Occupational Health Program, Tel: (510) 642-5507. The cost is approximately $20.
Creating Plain Language Forms for Seniors: A Guide for the Public, Private and Not-for-Profit Sectors (1998). National Literacy and Health Program and the Canadian Public Health Association.
This 30-page guide, developed with attention to the needs of seniors, offers clear guidelines for creating forms in plain language. However, the many tips offered can be applied to all health related forms. The guide includes a section on how to use clear verbal communication with clients who need help filling in forms. The guide also includes sections on the benefits of plain language, forms as barriers, and a Plain Language Forms Tool Kit. Appendices include a glossary of plain words [Acrobat Reader required] and instructions on how to use the SMOG[Acrobat Reader required]. For more information, contact the Canadian Public Health Association, Tel: (613) 725-3769, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.cpha.ca.
Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-Literate Readers (1994). National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.
This guide outlines a process for developing materials with, and for, people with limited-literacy skills. The guide contains five sections. Each section highlights specific considerations for materials development: defining the target audience, conducting audience research, developing a concept for the product, developing content and visuals and pre-testing and revising materials. Clear & Simple is concise and easy-to-use, with key information presented in bulleted lists. It contains many illustrations and offers real world examples. The 61-page guide includes a list of low-literacy publications and software. A free copy of Clear & Simple is available from the National Cancer Institute: http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinformation/clearandsimple.
Beyond the Brochure: Alternative Approaches to Effective Health Communication (1994). AMC Cancer Research Center and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beyond the Brochure was developed by the AMC Cancer Institute in the mid 1990s. The goal of the writers is to help readers consider multi-media education materials. The 67-page guide presents innovative interventions and strategies to reach audience. The guidebook begins with a section on audience assessment and participatory processes. The section on pre-testing materials includes basic guidelines for discussion guide development. This publication is available at no cost at www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp, click on ‘Publications’ or by calling CDC at: (770) 488-4751.
Making Health Communication Programs Work: A Planner’s Guide (1989). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health and Office of Cancer Communications, National Cancer Institute.
This guide has become a standard reference and is often referred to as the ‘pink book’. It was developed by the Office of Cancer Communications and sets out key principles for each stage of a communication program development. The section on developing and pre-testing materials includes considerations for message construction, tips for developing PSAs, and methods for pre-testing. It offers practical steps for evaluation of communication programs. Appendices include the SMOG formula, a focus group moderator’s guide and helpful resources on designing a PSA. A free copy of Making Health Communication Programs Work is available from the National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/pinkbook.
The SMOG Readability Calculator by G. Harry McLaughlin.http://webpages.charter.net/ghal/SMOG.html
This Java application calculates a SMOG score for any length of text that can be typed or pasted into the calculator.