In Part 3, we looked at how to write effectively by using plain language, reader-friendly layout, and making texts accessible and easy to find. Following this advice, you will reach most of your readers.
However, there will still be some people who can’t read your information. Almost 15% of Australian adults read and write very little.2 Others will have difficulty with online information (see Digital Literacy p 33). They might be the people you are trying to reach.
In this section, we want to encourage you to think about why you need to present written text.
Is there a different or better way to provide your information? #
How did you find out about the last three things you bought? Did you read about them, or did you see or hear an engaging text, such as a video, a picture, or a radio ad?
Most effective communication includes visual and auditory messaging.
In this section we ask you to think creatively by:
- Giving a demonstration
- Using an audio option
- Using a visual and audio option
- Talking to people directly
- Providing a phone line
- Providing translations
- Providing interpreters
- Using technology.
Give a demonstration #
If you want people to take action, a demonstration could be as effective, or more effective, than written instructions.
The ATO shows how by using videos to give information
The Australian Taxation Office is using a new type of product on ato.gov.au
The ‘How to lodge a tax return’ video on the Tax essentials page is interactive. It provides the user with a number of options they can explore. The video covers three themes:
- getting ready to lodge your tax return;
- how to lodge your tax return correctly;
- and, what happens after you’ve lodged.
Give an audio option #
Can you let people hear your information? Options could include:
- an audio button that reads out the text on your website
- use of universal design so screen readers can access your text
- a podcast or other recording
The ATO tells how by using podcasts to give information
The Australian Taxation Office is using a new type of product on their website: ATO podcast – in your language | Australian Taxation Office.
These are an easy way for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to keep updated with tax and super information. Episodes are released monthly in Arabic, Korean, Vietnamese and Mandarin, and cover topics to make managing tax and super easier from lodging your tax return, starting a small business, staying safe from scams, and more.
Central Coast Community news presents a summary of the local newspaper
With each issue of the Coast Community News, a Facebook post is created with the headlines in a visual and audio format. Short interviews are included. The clips go for about 5 minutes. The newspaper issues 220,000 print editions with 300,000+ regular monthly website readers. Their Facebook presentations have over 13,000 regular followers and reaches many others. They also broadcast on community radio to provide another listening option.
Talk to people directly #
Many people still like to deal with a real person. Even if you don’t have permanent front-line staff, you can consider options for people to meet face to face, such as at special events or online.
The Central Coast Community Legal Centre runs a drop-in day
Bring your fines day is an opportunity for people facing literacy challenges to talk with someone about their paperwork without judgement.
As with most creative approaches to helping people deal with complex literacy demands, the day is a great for everyone – not just people in the community who need help with reading and form filling!
How to make the most of your frontline staff #
Your frontline staff are the face of your organisation. They may deal with many people who have literacy issues. You can help your staff provide the best service to those clients or customers by educating them about the diverse levels of adult literacy in the community and giving them some simple tips.
Educating your frontline staff #
Develop a work culture where each staff member accepts that they have a responsibility to help the public understand your information.
- Tell your staff about adult literacy in Australia. You can use the information in Part 2 of this guide (Part 2: Understanding – knowing your readers) to begin to provide professional development.
- Use the Reading Writing Hotline website for more information to help the staff who meet your customers.
- Encourage your staff to use the Teach-back method. The teach-back method is a way of checking that your message has been understood. It is not a test of the listener’s knowledge – it’s about checking how well you have explained the information. To use the teach-back method:
- Chunk and check: If you have a lot of information to give, don’t give it all at once. Break it up and check it’s clear before you go on.
- Clarify and check again: You may need to explain things using a different approach, and then check again.
- Ask the client or customer to explain the information to you in their own words
- Give your staff options for presenting information in a different way. For example, provide training on how to:
- Rephrase (explain using different words)
- Explain the key points
- Point out the important information in written texts
- Use plain language
- Use open-ended questions to check understanding and to avoid shaming statements.
CASE STUDY NPS
Medicinewise listens to consumers
In 2022, NPS Medicinewise asked consumers to tell them what it’s like to be given important information verbally.
Makere spoke about being given health information. She explained that remembering a lot of new information is difficult, especially if you are stressed or unwell. This is an example of where the teach-back approach could work.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Teach-back – The Online Learning Module (teachback.org)13
The Community Partnerships Unit, Directorate of Planning, Population Health and Equity, South East Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) and the Health Systems Improvement Unit, Deakin University have developed a free online module to learn about teach-back and how to use it. It has been used successfully by over 12,000 health professionals across the world.
The aim of the project is to show the value of teach-back and how to use it.
The teach-back website is aimed at Health literacy, but the teach-back idea could be used in other fields, such as legal settings, service organisations, and any situation where front-line staff are giving information.
The developers have also created a consumer module for teach-back, called check-back which was developed by Monash University. You can see it here: https://checkback.org/
The Reading Writing Hotline
The Hotline has a phone number that has been promoted for decades through TV and radio jingles. The Reading Writing Hotline gets more than 4000 calls each year from adults seeking help with reading, writing and numeracy. By 2022, The Reading Writing Hotline had over 176 600 calls from adults seeking assistance.
Provide translations #
NAATI is the national standards and certifying authority for translators and interpreters in Australia. It is the only organisation to issue certification to practitioners who work in the profession in Australia. NAATI is a not-for-profit company that is jointly owned by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The Online Directory has a list of currently certified practitioners. These are the people that can translate your documents or help with interpreting matters.
Website: NAATI – home – NAATI
Provide Interpreters #
Interpreters can be for languages other than English, and for Auslan (Australian sign language).
TIS National is an interpreting service provided by the Department of Home Affairs. TIS National provides language services for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.
TIS National has:
- Immediate phone interpreting
- ATIS automated immediate phone interpreting
- Pre-booked phone interpreting
- Pre-booked on-site interpreting
- Video interpreting
- A range of informative publications and promotional materials about TIS National services.
Website: Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)
Use technology #
Mobile phones have given adults with literacy gaps many ways to access text. For example, voice-totext and text-to-voice apps.
When you write your information, check that it can be used by current technology tools.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
The standard for Australian Government writing and editing: the Australian Government Style Manual12 is for everyone who writes, edits or approves Australian Government content. They have information about how people read and how to:
- Make content accessible
- Apply accessibility principles
- Design for accessibility and inclusion
- Cater for literacy and access
- Use inclusive language.
Accessible and inclusive content | Style Manual
An adult learner asks for technology
A student in an adult literacy class told us he sat for his boating license. Somebody read and scribed for him. Although this is a great option for many people, he felt uncomfortable in that environment. He explained that he had been practicing the same test online on the website and he was able to use text to voice on his phone:
“So the technology to help people like myself is already there and working, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to implement and save people like me the discomfort and embarrassment”.
We can create new opportunities by reimagining the way we present information