Easy-to-understand language
and barrier-free information

The 9 most frequently asked questions about easy to understand, simple and easy language

Easy language, simple language, easily understandable language, barrier-free information and communication: Here we go into the many terms and the most frequently asked questions on the topic of “barrier-free communication” and explain why you should also pay attention to easily understandable language!

The most frequently asked questions about plain language and accessibility

What does easy-to-understand language include?

Leichte Sprache, einfache Sprache, Leicht Lesen, leicht verständliche Sprache: All these terms refer to texts and content in German that are very easy to understand. Also for people who have difficulty with the German language, for example people with learning difficulties or learners of German.

Content written in easy-to-understand language is divided into three language levels. These three language levels are called A1, A2 and B1.

Texts in easy-to-understand language contribute significantly to accessibility.

What is Simple Language ("Einfache Sprache")?

Simple language is a simplified version of standard language. Another name for simple language is “citizen-oriented language”. It often differs only slightly from the original texts and is also not visually recognisable at first glance as an easily understandable text.

The language level used for Simple Language is approximately B1. In Simple Language, sentences are shorter and the sentence structure simpler than in standard German. Simple Language avoids foreign words, technical terms and metaphors wherever possible.

The aim of Simple Language is to inform and reach as many people as possible. This includes people with low reading skills.

What is Easy Language ("Leichte Sprache")?

Easy language is often confused with simple language – but there are clear differences. This is also due to the fact that Easy Language was developed specifically for people with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Unlike Simple Language, Easy Language follows clear rules. These include language rules, content rules and spelling rules. There are also recommendations for text design, because barriers can also occur in media design. Texts that are created according to the set of rules for Easy Language roughly correspond to language levels A2 or A1.

Unlike Simple Language, Easy Language follows its own rules for spelling.

For example, word compounds are separated with a hyphen. For example: Frühstücks-Tisch, Sozial-Ministerium, Wochen-Zeitung, …

In easy language, grammatically incomplete sentences can also be formed. For example: “Our family is big. We have three pets. A cat. A dog. And a budgie.”

What is Easy Reading ("Leicht Lesen")?

“Leicht Lesen” refers to texts that have been created according to the TÜV-certified capito method.

capito has developed a level model for comprehensible language. The idea behind this is that people with low language skills do not need “plain language” for every text. Conversely, for some topics, people with good reading skills also need a text in a version that is easier to understand. So what the right language level is depends not only on reading skills, but also on prior knowledge and experience. The capito method is the only one that makes it possible for people to choose for themselves which of 4 possible language levels is now the right one for them.

Grafik Stufenmodell Leicht Lesen der Sprachstufen A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 von capito

The language levels “Leicht Lesen A2” and “Leicht Lesen A1” cover the rules for easy language. Language level B1 covers everything you should take into account for texts in simple language.

Only with the capito method is each text checked by representatives of the target group for its comprehensibility.

Texts that have been produced according to the capito method and checked by a review group receive a seal of quality (“Gütesiegel für Leicht Lesen”). The seal of approval shows that the capito quality standard has been met.

What is easy-to-understand language?

“Easy-to-understand language” is the umbrella term for texts written in Easy Language, Simple Language or Easy Reading. The common denominator is that the texts are, as the name suggests, easy to understand. The texts do not use complicated words or sentences and aim to be as clear and simple as possible.

Why is easy-to-understand language important?

In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, around 24 million people cannot read and write properly. Most information issued by companies and authorities is not comprehensible to these people.

If content is also offered in easier-to-understand language, more people will understand it. This not only prevents misunderstandings and misinformation, but also promotes accessibility and inclusion.

After all, reading and understanding texts are essential prerequisites for an independent life.

3 good reasons for barrier-free communication

Inclusion

With accessible language, you contribute directly to an inclusive society and enable people to lead a self-determined life.

Reach

If you formulate information in a way that is easy to understand, more people will understand you. Your information reaches more people.

Comprehensibility

If you communicate in a way that is easy to understand, your information will be understood. You avoid misunderstandings and increase satisfaction.

Where is easy-to-understand language used?

In principle, easy-to-understand language is used wherever as many people as possible are to be reached as simply and quickly as possible.

The creators of easy-to-understand language are therefore companies and enterprises as well as authorities, agencies and institutions.

The references capito can refer to are correspondingly broad. Our clients include Special Olympics, APA, the Ministry for Social Affairs, Integration and Equality of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Bank Austria.

What are the language levels?

capito translates texts into three different language levels. These are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is the European standard for evaluating language competence and is divided into three different levels.

Level A indicates elementary, Level B independent and Level C competent language use. Each level is also divided into two levels.

How many people need easily understandable texts?

At capito, we refer to texts written in the language levels A1, A2 and B1 as easy-to-understand texts. 60 % of people rely on these texts.

The target group for easy-to-understand texts is therefore by no means only people with learning difficulties or people with a non-German mother tongue. Reading difficulties can be found throughout the population.

Grafik wie viele Personen leicht verständliche Sprache benötigen, capito

That is a problem. Because only those who also understand information can make truly informed and self-determined decisions. Reading and understanding texts are essential prerequisites for an independent life.

As you can see, comprehensible texts benefit a large proportion of people. It's not just about simplifying texts. It's about formulating a text in such a way that as many people as possible can understand it.

At capito, we attach great importance to writing a text in such a way that it can be easily understood by as many people as possible. The target groups for information are often very different. That’s why you can’t just say: “Make it easy for everyone to understand”. That would then probably still be too difficult for some, and inappropriate for others. And that would not do justice to the diversity of our society at all.

Every person would like to be addressed in the language level that suits him or her, so that there is no over- or under-challenging in terms of content and language. That is why it makes sense to offer several language levels. This way, everyone can choose the language level that suits them best.

Does that sound complicated or like a lot of work to you? Then we have good news for you: With capito digital you can easily, quickly and efficiently text information in different language levels. Find out more here!

Does information also have to be offered barrier-free?

Yes, there is a legal obligation for accessibility.

The basis for these laws is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention emphasises the duty of states to enable people with disabilities to live self-determined lives with equal rights. Inclusion, participation and accessibility are essential focal points of the Convention.

In addition, there are national laws that specifically regulate the rights of persons with disabilities.

Legal situation in Germany

In Germany, accessibility is regulated within the framework of the Disability Equality Act.

The law is intended to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and to enable them to participate in society on an equal footing with others. Among other things, the law stipulates the obligation to provide barrier-free access to buildings, transport, communication and information.

The law has been in force since 2002.

Legal situation in Austria

In Austria, there is the Act on the Equal Treatment of Persons with Disabilities.

The law aims to enable equal participation in life and society and to prevent or eliminate discrimination. Accessibility plays an important role in this: the law defines that all goods, services and information intended for the public must also be offered barrier-free.

The law came into force in 2006.

Legal situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland, there is the Federal Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.

The law aims to facilitate participation in social life and to prevent, reduce or completely eliminate disadvantages. Among other things, the law deals with the accessibility of buildings, transport, employment and services. However, there is no obligation for private companies to provide accessibility. Only discrimination against persons with disabilities is prohibited.

The law came into force in 2004.

You want to offer your information and services barrier-free?

Feel free to contact us! At capito, experts advise you on the topic of accessible information. With capito’s help, you can make your information accessible easily and effortlessly!

How are texts translated into easily understandable language?

The translation into easy-to-understand language follows clearly defined criteria and guidelines. Only by adhering to these criteria are capito’s high quality standards achieved.

An integral part of our work is the review of translated content by the target group. Only if a text meets the formal and content-related points of the capito criteria catalogue and is understood by the target group does the content meet the capito quality standard. After translation by one of the capito offices, the content is also awarded the Seal of Quality for Easy Reading.

The capito method is also the only one in the German-speaking world that is TÜV-certified annually.

1. Consultation with the clients

Together with the client we discuss the project to define the optimal solution for the client and the target group.

Depending on the diversity of the target group, we analyse together with the client which language levels would be useful, how the information can be conveyed to the target groups in a low-threshold and barrier-free way and how it could best be designed for optimal comprehensibility.

2. Translation on the basis of the capito catalogue of criteria

The criteria catalogue specifies exactly which criteria are to be followed when translating into easily understandable language.

Depending on how many language levels are to be offered to the target groups for an optimal and comprehensible address, these criteria are treated in a very differentiated manner.

3. Control by the audit group

In the last step, people from the target group check whether the information is really comprehensible. Only then is the capito quality standard considered to be fulfilled.

What is accessible information?

The term accessibility does not only refer to the comprehensibility of information. Information can also have various barriers beyond that. These include, for example:

Visual barriers

The design of information contributes significantly to accessibility. For example, very small or squiggly fonts are not accessible.

Or can you read this text well?

Auditory barriers

This includes, for example, videos or podcasts without subtitles or transcripts. They are not accessible for people who cannot hear well.

Haptic barriers

With analogue information products, physical barriers can occur. For example, a flyer may be bulky or certain thicknesses of paper may be difficult to turn over.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider! To make your information accessible, you should first take a close look at your target group. What barriers could arise? What do you have to consider if you want to make the information as accessible as possible?

In principle, well-designed information is always also designed to be accessible!

Because everyone benefits equally from accessibility – online as well as offline. No one wants to be plagued with information that is unwieldy, hard to read or difficult to understand.

How does capito support you?

Accessible communication is a complex subject area. There is a lot to consider and take into account – and last but not least, creating easily understandable information is also a matter of practice.

We have developed various services so that as many people as possible can benefit from accessible information. We support you in making your information accessible!

Writing assistance

capito digital helps to write easily understandable information.

Training courses

In the training courses, you learn to write in a way that is easy to understand and to communicate without barriers.

Translations

Let us translate your information into easy-to-understand language.