Writing for the Learning Disabled

While authorial style is original to each individual writer/author, during the writing process audience/reader must be taken into account. Audience does not only depend on age or demographic, rather audience also addresses micro-divisions within demographic such as readers with accessibility needs and disabilities. An article entitled, “Is there a place within academic journals for articles presented in an accessible format?,” discusses the definition of an accessible text in relation to readers with learning and mental disorders.

The article references accessibility in terms of more visual ways of writing articles. The article references Jean Ross, author of “Hey, I can read that! Perspectives on plain language and people with development disabilities.” Ross,  learning disabled, states, “It’s not fair when things we need to know are not written so we can read them. We feel left out. We have to wait for support workers, or our family to tell us things. Sometimes they don’t have time or they forget. We should be able to read for ourselves” (Ross and Pringle 2002, 1).

This brings up an interesting point. How exactly should one go about writing for the learning impaired? Rather than simply write in an easier, more straightforward way, Ross argues that peer support and counseling may be more relevant and effective in aiding those with disabilities. While studies show that those with reading disabilities “prefer a simple text so that they can read the information themselves,” (Garbutt, 359) the article stresses the importance of consultation and those with disabilities must be present in the writing process, and in this way, authors should consult the audience directly.

Accessible information gives disabled people more power, control, and choice in their lives and is relevant to a larger and more varied audience. Garbutt discusses that avoiding unnecessarily cumbersome and technical terminology will increase accessibility in written style; however, he also goes on to discuss aims, word length, format, referencing, font, and illustrations, which addresses our question in the introduction. Can we simply address writing style without referencing written format? Garbutt stresses the importance of “clear 14 point size font,” and illustrations for visually relaying the information. Illustrations are a more straightforward approach to relaying information in many cases, especially in instruction-based texts and guides.