Following are some key design considerations to enhance communication with members of the public and those with hearing impairments. While this guidance is focused on face-to-face, telephone and video communication, it equally applies to speeches, conversations and presentations. Parts of this guidance should also be considered in the design of audio outputs from systems such as machine voice recordings and public announcements.
Use Plain English
Always use the simplest and clearest language possible. Avoid using technical words that may not be used by a member of the public. If you must use technical language, clearly explain what it means.
Think about what you are saying
- Are you answering the persons’ questions?
- Are members of the public familiar with the technical terms your organisation uses?
Speak in a clear voice, clearly pronouncing your words.
Take your time and speak slowly to the person. Tailor what you are saying to meet the person’s needs.
Keep your message simple
State one piece of information at a time. Provide the information in a logical order.
State the purpose of your conversation
At the start of your conversation, state the purpose of it.
Listen and respond to the person
Be aware of the language the person uses and their literacy level. In Ireland 25% of adults have literacy and numeracy difficulties.
Don’t finish a person’s’s sentences
Do not interrupt people while they are speaking. Patiently wait for them to finish.
Open-ended and closed questions
Use open-ended questions to gain more information. Open-ended questions typically provide more informative answers. For example, “What questions do you have?”
Closed questions generally only provide yes or no answers. For example, “Is that your answer?”
If you’re not sure what was said, politely ask the person to repeat the information
Alternatively, summarise the information back to the person to check you have correctly understood the request.
Provide dedicated employees to help
Where possible, and if appropriate, have specifically trained employees to deal with members of the public who require extra time.
Questions and answers can provide a good way of finding out if a person has understood the information.