Easy Government invites people with disabilities to redesign legal and administrative texts (i.e., laws, subsidy formulares) using an easy-to-read approach based on pictograms, simple words, short paragraphs, and the creation of new products that are simpler and clearer for all audiences (i.e., seniors, immigrants, people with low reading comprehension, children). With the lenses focused on diversity and inclusion we seek to address complex issues faced by these population groups.
Citizen participation and political engagement are essential to creating an open society. In Aragon, we seek to involve as many citizens as we can, but we are aware of the many barriers that people with disabilities and their families have to access to public services and to integrate in the society, making it difficult for them to participate in the society. In addition, the language used by the public administration to communicate with citizens is often too technical and not adapted to the needs of different groups.
This generates a type of participation that standardizes society while excluding certain societal groups such as the elderly, foreigners and people with disabilities. Data from the Third Sector Platform indicate that roughly 300,000 people in Aragon, almost 25% of the total population of the region, have some kind of disability and are in a situation of social vulnerability. From that number, 105,710 people have a recognized degree of disability, which is equivalent to 8 percent of the total population of Aragon.
Easy Government arises to address these needs. This is a project based on accessibility to information, in particular information related to administrative texts, plans, laws or forms. More specifically, it consists of rewriting complex texts using the easy reading methodology, which were tested in workshops with people with functional disabilities and neurodivergent. Thus, texts are adapted, both in plain language and in the format in which they are presented. The aim is to facilitate the understanding of public-relevant documents to a wider sector of the population that, otherwise, may have difficulties and access barriers.
The texts to be adapted are selected according to criteria of subject matter, level of relevance and interest or need. Once this is completed, workshops are held with the participation of facilitators and people with functional diversity who work hand in hand to improve these texts, which are then published online and open for further improvements.
One of the most important moments are when people with disabilities met face-to-face in a series of workshops to draw the "Comprehensive Action Plan for People with Disabilities in Aragon 2021-2024". This plan aims to respond to their needs and those of their families in order to improve and advance in the care and inclusion of people with disabilities in the territory. In other words, it seeks the implementation of actions to incorporate a perspective of disability in all public action and advances towards an independent life and an inclusive society. Fifty people with disabilities participated in 4 workshops, where a total of 326 ideas related to the areas of governance and participation, equal opportunities, accessibility, education, employment, health, social services and legal protection were collected. More than half of them were accepted and are now part of the Action Plan.
We plan continuing working to actively involve these groups with the administration in common projects, promoting their empowerment and the generation of shared languages and spaces of trust. We plan to continue holding workshops to adapt more documents to easy reading, as well as working with individual documents that recognize a person's disability (at the moment there are 30 adapted documents). As Anabel Beltrán (Head of the Transparency Service of the Government of Aragon) pointed out "the Easy Government project is the most exciting of all those I have participated in my long professional career, because it forces us to look at the public (and life) with different lenses". The project combines participation, clear communication, easy reading and very, very useful for potential users.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
With Easy Government, people with functional diversity, such as intellectual disabilities or mental health illnesses, have been able to integrate for the first time in participation workshops that address laws and other public policies and services. In addition, this project goes far beyond the validation of texts with easy-to-read methodology; it generates safe spaces of participation and empowerment for these people where they can express their visions, concerns and expectations.
A phrase that sums up the emotion of the project was heard from one of the young participants at the end of one of the workshops: "this had never happened to me before, I had never felt like the protagonist".
Collaborations & Partnerships
Social organizations such as Kairós, Plena Inclusión, ADISPAZ, ATADI, Valentia and CERMI have played an important role as facilitators and validators who verified that the adaptation of the texts to easy reading was appropriate. Public entities such as the Aragonese Women's Institute and the Equality Units of the Government of Aragon also collaborated.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The whole population are beneficiaries and stakeholders. The documents generated facilitated too access to information for a large part of the population that feels distanced from the techno-legal language of administrative texts. Participants with disabilities feel protagonists and useful, abandoning their secondary or assisted role and becoming solution-makers.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Almost 10 workshops have been held in which more than 100 people with disabilities have participated. The contributions they have made to evaluated policies may positively affect more than 100,000 people with disabilities living in Aragon, as well as their environment, family members, caregivers, and also migrants. In addition to the action plans and laws, 30 disability recognition laws and classic books have also been adapted too for easy reading. Finally, the fourth most visited page of the Transparency Portal during 2020 was 'Easy Government', and was one of the documents with the highest number of downloads in 2020.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge faced was the pandemic, as face-to-face workshops were all cancelled. To get around the problem, the collaborating social organizations, together with disabled people, began to work on adapting videoconferencing tools to their needs and to use these technologies to produce easy-to-read information materials on Covid-19 (which ended up being the most viewed and downloaded during the hardest months of the pandemic).
Conditions for Success
The LAAAB headquarters is a central and comfortable space for the workshops to happen. Moreover, the support of committed social organizations and the financial resources for transportation were key. In addition, a fundamental aspect of this project was to have a motivated team that believe in its potential and are highly aware of their needs.
Easy Government has a multiplier effect internally and externally. On the one hand, other departments of the Government of Aragon are beginning to adapt their texts and forms to easy reading. On the other hand, more Autonomous Communities have also started to work on it, such as Castilla y León. But the project is perfectly replicable in any type of organization anywhere in the world.
Easy Government is a project that turns down prejudices and myths. Because people with different abilities are not only willing to actively participate in the decisions that affect their daily lives, they also act with large doses of empathy, a sense of justice and respect. Therefore, incorporating their sensitivity and visions into government projects can not only transform their reality, but will help to build a better and fairer reality for all citizens.
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
15 November 2022