Three strategies for simplifying educational digital content

In the field of accessibility to information, research typically shows a strong bias towards sensory (vision and hearing) and physical differences, neglecting the cognitive dimension. Developers of digital content are often teachers in the educational setting where there students with learning differences.

We consider three broad strategies as possible solutions to adapt the text:

  • Text Circumvention: This solution consists of replacing the text by using alternative formats (such as an audio version). We think that alternative formats should be used with precaution and moderation. In fact, only students who practice reading will improve their skills to become better readers. When students don’t read and rely exclusively on alternative formats, they actually lose their reading abilities. We must also keep in mind that in an inclusive approach, and to maintain equity, it is important to provide the student with the same content in the same format to the maximum extent possible with regards to the concerned student’ abilities.
  • Text Supplementation: This solution does not replace the text, but helps to make it clear through the use of organizational materials with visual/spatial features, graphic and non-graphic aids, semantic-feature analyses, and concept diagrams. This solution is extensively used in education and is fairly effective in the case of moderate struggling readers.
  • Text simplification: This solution consists of creating a simpler content or identifying complexity factors within content and modifying them in order to make the text more manageable for students. Read our guidelines for text simplification.