D4RL: Aphasia Friendly Design

After my mentor meeting and group critique it was said that I should do some research into aphasia and aphasia friendly design. The stroke association has been a really reliable and in-depth source for this project. So what is aphasia? “Aphasia is a language and communication disorder. It affects more than 350,000 people in the UK. Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to understand speech, speak, read, write and use numbers.” Roughly a third of people who have a stroke will experience aphasia. Some can overcome the effects and can adapt the brain but it is tough and requires the right skills and resources. Aphasia does not affect intelligence as people with aphasia still think in the same way but are unable to communicate their thoughts easily. There are three main types of aphasia: Broca’s, Wernicke’s and Anomic. “Broca’s aphasia or expressive aphasia is when people find it very difficult to find and say the right words, although they probably know exactly what they want to say. People with Broca’s aphasia may only be able to say single words or very short sentences, although it’s usually possible for other people to understand what they mean. This can be very frustrating. Wernicke’s aphasia or receptive aphasia is when someone is able to speak well and use long sentences, but what they say may not make sense. They may not know that what they’re saying is wrong, so may get frustrated when people don’t understand them. Lastly Anomic Aphasia is an inability to supply the words for the very things the person wants to talk about, particularly the significant nouns and verbs. Their speech might be full of vague expressions of frustration.”

Now I have a better grasp of the effects of aphasia I wanted to look into ways I can make the information accessible for them. I found this very in-depth guide funded by the Stroke Association. It’s designed to be used by people who work with people with aphasia. This is important information because patients need information about life after a stroke, new information is not usually accessible to people with aphasia. Making this information accessible is a challenge and its why the Stroke Association has make guidelines to help others. Here are the five steps they give for making an accessible design. Step 1 have a short message. I need to make sure I have a clear message, start by writing my information out. Are there several messages? Separate them out and make a list and then put them in a logical order. Example below. 

Step 2 make the sentence simple. I should really think about my sentence, it should be short and to the point. Aim for about five words in a sentence. 

Step 3 use everyday words. I need to choose my words carefully and only use simple meaning words. 

Step 4 create a space for the message. I will need lots of white space around the message, a postcard sized print out would be good. I should try making a box around the message to isolate it from other information. I will need to stick to sans serif fonts and use a larger type size, preferably between 14 and 18 pt. Highlight important information but do not underline. Using different colour to separate things like headers should be used. I should use relevant, clear pictures to show the information that is being told. 

Step 5 is to have a consistent design outcome, continuity is key.  This means use few colours and typefaces. Repetition helps people with aphasia so repeat important words or phrases.  

What I have gathered from this research is that I need to pick my wording carefully and not over complicate things. This will also go for the design however pictures should be a must. 

After I found an interesting case study which set out to investigate the “readability levels of written health materials given to people with Aphasia. A total of 114 written health documents were collected from 18 people living with aphasia. This study found that written health materials obtained from people with aphasia were written at an average grade nine readability level and contained low‐frequency words, low‐imageability words, and complex sentences.” Grade 9 being year 10 in the UK. I found this quite helpful actually, it allowed me to put into context how aphasia really affects the mind. 

I feel now that I have a good understanding of the effects and how I can help people with aphasia understand information better. So now I wanted to look at some already existing aphasia friendly designs. I found this website called Aphasia and Technology which had a section full of links to accessible posters, leaflets and pdf’s for learning about technology.  Below are two examples of them. One being an NHS free wifi poster and the other being a leaflet on Communication, Disability and Technology. Both as you can see by the stamp of approval are aphasia friendly but are pretty awful to look at from a design perspective. They both have the relevant information but it’s not done in a very visually pleasing way. They do separate the information with colour, typeface point and lines which is good. However the typeface on the leaflet is so small that its hard to read. The writing is in small paragraphs and from my understanding earlier this is hard to process and read if you suffer from aphasia. There is too much information for the size of the leaflet, I think it could be done better for sure. It does include pictures though which is helpful. 

Another website I visited is part of the Aphasia Leicester group which at first glance looks very aphasia friendly. It’s stark white with little extra information. They have there blue squares each with a link to a new section and there is an easy to see back button which stay put on each page. It’s very easy to navigate and I can see why it would be accessible to aphasia effected people. I think its a much better example than the ones above. By using a site you can spread the information out as theres unlimited pages on the web. Whereas with a leaflet its very limiting. It’s making me think whether a leaflet would be right for the project after all, especially considering how much information we have to include. Another website I visited is part of the Aphasia Leicester group which at first glance looks very aphasia friendly. It’s stark white with little extra information. They have there blue squares each with a link to a new section and there is an easy to see back button which stay put on each page. It’s very easy to navigate and I can see why it would be accessible to aphasia effected people. I think its a much better example than the ones above. By using a site you can spread the information out as theres unlimited pages on the web. Whereas with a leaflet its very limiting. It’s making me think whether a leaflet would be right for the project after all, especially considering how much information we have to include. 

Also on this website is a section with accessible resources for effected stroke patients. There is an example of a leaflet explaining what aphasia is and is much nicer to look at as well. The information is split up by colour, typeface size and pictures which makes it much easier to understand. The overall typeface size is quite large and spaced out and is not all bunched together like the other leaflet I looked at. It’s a much better example of what I should be working towards I think. 

Overall I feel I have a much better understanding of how aphasia works and how I can adapt my work to be accessible. Im feeling much more excited about continuing this project. I think now I will start putting down some initial ideas. 


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