Recently I have been talking with a few people about these three ways of conveying information, and have noticed a fair bit of confusion in how people understand them. I want to establish some clarity.
Plain English and plain language are essentially the same thing. Both are concerned with communicating in language that the audience can easily understand on a first reading. Plain English and plain language are not about dumbing down language, but about everyday clearly written prose which is free of jargon so the reader can find what they need, and understand and use the information.
Plain English applies equally to electronic and to all printed material.
Easy Read is quite different. It is an accessible alternative information format along with others such as large print or audio. Some features of easy read documents or web pages are easy words, big writing, and clear pictures. Sound – so that you can listen to the words can be used on web sites. Whether the information is in print or on the web it must also be easy to find the page you want.
The creation of Easy Read requires a careful simplification of the information which is usually targeted at adults not children. Those readers may have learning disabilities of various kinds, or have English as their second language. This format will also be useful for people who have poor literacy.
There is information on how to create Easy Read material on the Office for Disabilities Issues web site. Information in easy read format is available from IHC Advocacy who have produced some excellent material in that format.