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Last week, we posted a link to one of the two performances of I Can Read Clearly Now (a.k.a., the Plain Language Ditty), the song we adapted from Johnny Nash’s original classic I Can See Clearly Now.

HealthNet video on YouTube: I Can Read Clearly Now

This bright and positive interpretation will warm any wintry mood!

Here’s the second way some literacy advocates out there took our words and Nash’s tune … and let their imagination do the rest! This next YouTube rendition was the brainchild of Coco Lukas and his fellow health literacy advocates at HealthNet, Inc., a community health resource center in Indianapolis, Indiana, whose mission is one I can sure get behind:

“To improve lives with compassionate health care and support services, regardless of ability to pay.”

Inspired by the song’s message at the PLAIN conference in Vancouver and the International Plain Language Day events on October 13, Lukas and colleagues went home and put together the colourful, positive video you see below – complete with young, enthusiastic voices … and animals! Have a look and a listen; it’ll no doubt add some warmth to your winter day.


Read, see and hear lots more from the conference on the official PLAIN 2013 conference site. Check it out – and also the Plain Language Association International site – to get the latest in research and insights about clear communication for all. 

https://i1.wp.com/www.plain2013.org/uploads/4/5/8/9/4589105/header_images/1352307258.jpgThis October, come and hear the straight talk from the experts!

Plain Language Association International, the international association of plain-language, document design, literacy and other advocates, will be hosting its 20th Anniversary Conference in Vancouver.

PLAIN logo

The event stands to be a must-attend: You’ll hear from  speakers from all over the world including presenters from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand,  Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and Britain. And of course, colleagues from Canada and the U.S. (including your humble blogger …).

The conference coincides with PLAIN’s 20th anniversary and International Plain Language Day on October 13.

We have a lot to celebrate! Won’t you join us?

> Learn more on the 2013 PLAIN Conference site, or

> check out the PLAIN website to learn about our work and members.

Like many freelancers and women who’ve had babies, I’ve had several occasions over the years to interact with our country’s unemployment insurance program. Heck, I was on it for the first time way back when they still called it ‘UI.’ That was before a shift toward political correctness saw them change its name to ‘Employment Insurance’ from ‘UN-employment Insurance.’

Anyway, during one of those periods in 2003, I learned my benefits would be stopping several weeks sooner than I had understood to be the case.

When I went to the local office to ask why this had happened, I learned that – as with many things – the way they had worded my initial letter had been misleading. I then asked the gentleman why they didn’t explain things in greater detail in their letter to avoid misunderstanding. His answer: “If we gave any more information than we do now, you’d have to wait in a much longer lineup to get to see me.”

I was somewhat shocked at his candour, but not surprised at his answer.

An employment resource that cuts the churn…

So imagine my pleasant surprise at a recent ad sponsored by Employment Ontario, the provincial ministry responsible for training and helping people become more employable. It was in the back of Toronto’s NOW magazine, with the eye-grabbing header ‘Demystify E.I.’ Its first paragraphs read:

Before you decide to sell your Mac and your kidneys to make ends meet after losing a job, look into Employment Insurance (EI). It may be awhile before you find your next gig and EI will help you stay afloat…”

Simple, straightforward, and true to the reader’s situation. In other words, much more accessible! And enough to get me to go look at the online magazine the ad promotes. See for yourself here at Possibilities online magazine, which aims to be ‘Toronto’s online employment resource centre.’

A quick scan shows links to timely articles about employment in different industries, employment resources and connections with a host of community partners who also work to increase access to information in Toronto. And it’s all packaged in more of a magazine format using plain language, rather than the standard government-information format that makes the eyes tend to glaze over.

I’ve not always heard good things about the Ontario training ministry, but I suspect that this magazine is one of their more successful efforts. And it’s quite a contrast from what was available to folks back in 2003.

This morning those of us in the Greater Toronto Area woke up to a new municipal government. Many voters here are just glad to see it over, after an almost year-long, hard-fought and newsworthy race in Toronto, and a somewhat quieter one in the surrounding suburbs.

In York Region, where I live, the incumbent mayor won by a landslide, with most other incumbents also regaining their seats.

The biggest controversy here was that election signs were being stolen and vandalized during the campaign.

On that note, I found it interesting as I came out of the polling station yesterday, to see volunteers hammering election signs into the lawn alongside both sides of the road just in front of it. Others from other campaigns had already left theirs, too – I guess thinking that people who might not otherwise vote would be reminded if they drove by and saw the signs smack in front of the polling station that day.

No surprise since, while people in other parts of the world still fight for the right to vote, municipal elections still have one of the lowest voter turnouts (Toronto’s was up this time at 52%, likely due to how provocative the campaign was).


 

Aussies demystify the voting process

Meantime, while we grouse or cheer about who won in our riding or city, it’s easy to forget that there are lots of people who stay away from the polls because they’re not clear on the process.

But there’s some excellent work being done to change that! For example, the Electoral  Commission in Victoria, Australia has developed information in every language and format imaginable, to ensure that every citizen can educate themselves before the 2010 state election this November 27.

Along with languages other than English, the Victoria Electoral Commission has posted on their website answers to key questions in ‘Easy English,’ Auslan (Australian Sign Language), large print and audio, and has info to help those who will vote using Braille, will vote from outside a voting centre, or for caregivers who will assist those they care for with voting.

It’s worth a visit, if you’re interested in seeing a model of accessible electoral process.

My poor mom.

She just bought a brand-new laptop, and while you’d think that it being brand-new would mean it was easier for her to use, this is not at all the case.

It’s got all the bells ‘n’ whistles: Windows 7, built-in Webcam and mic for Skyping, a gorgeous 17″ screen…you name it, it’s got it. And because she lives in a condo, she’s got the plug-and-play hi-speed cable connection. Heck, the workhorse I use for my work doesn’t do half of what hers does, and all she wants it for is to get her e-mails and print the odd photo.

But with all that sexy stuff comes the complication of having to understand why all the dialog boxes keep popping up, asking whether she wants to update this or load that.

My husband – who knows a lot about such things – actually recommended she buy this computer because it will take her into the future, even if she doesn’t at present feel that she wants to go there. And knowing that her computer literacy was limited, he went through and installed a virus checker and turned off some of the applications that require regular user intervention, before she started using it; he knew she wouldn’t use those, and that it would just intimidate and confuse her to see all these dialog boxes popping up or have apps running that she didn’t need. She already feels intimidated when she has to so much as unplug the thing, thinking that something will go wrong and she won’t be able to fix it.

But still, she phones us once in awhile to say she got a message and doesn’t know what to do with it: Mozilla is asking her if she wants the newest Firefox; she needs to download the newest Windows update; her printer software is warning her that it will only operate for free 24 more times, then she’ll have to buy a copy. It’s got her flustered, to say the least.

This with a very stripped-down system set-up.

At one point, my husband asked for the original Windows disks while he was setting up her system. She didn’t have them. “The computer comes with Windows installed,” she informed him. So no disks. If she wants those, she’ll have to pay more. And if she ever has a problem with Windows, she’ll be stuck without those disks. But no-one at the store told her that.

Oh, but there is help. The HP Advisor box keeps popping up, too, cautioning my mom that if she wants X to happen, she’ll have to do Y. Only problem: she doesn’t have the knowledge to know what they mean when they refer to her ‘browser.’ And because the message is coming from the HP Advisor, it must be important and well-meaning, so she’s tempted to just accept everything it says; except she can’t understand what she’s being asked to do.

“I didn’t know what it meant,” she tells me, “so I just kept clicking ‘No'”

Why haven’t we figured this out yet? Does everyone who purchases a computer and doesn’t speak technocratese still have to put up with the confusion caused by unhelpful pop-ups and computer dealers who don’t tell you everything you need to know?

My take on it, and what I told my mom? It’s partly because people who are even semi-comfortable with technology assume we’ve all gotten past the point of not knowing what ‘installed’ and ‘browser’ means. And, it’s partly because there are still lots of more tech-savvy folks who stand to benefit financially – and perhaps feel better about themselves – each time a person like my mom doesn’t know why her computer is not doing what she wants it to.

Ten years ago, you practically had to hold a training workshop to get people to understand and buy into the benefits of accessible websites. Now – thanks in part to legislation that’s compelled them to do it (see below for more) – even the top establishment are jumping on board.

Here is an excellent page by CIBC that explains the ways they are making services accessible to people with disabilities. Part of what makes their site so laudable is that it’s been certified by the CNIB Site Check program, which confirms that the site meets Web accessibility standards. Meetings these standards means the site will be readable by those using screen readers and other accessibility agents.

Read more about accessibility legislation:

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