Today 86% of the world population is considered, statistics-wise, literate, meaning that they are able to read and write; however, complex texts such as institutional and public service communications still remain unclear and inaccessible to many people.
In Spain, the cooperative Instituto de Lectura Fácil (or “Institute for Easy Reading”) has identified in the complex and obscure language public administration and other institutions use to address citizens a major problem: communication often fails because of cognitive barriers.
Cognitive barriers are, in many cases, the most decisive and frequent type of discrimination. Many people do not understand the information that surrounds them, be it in digital, urban or natural environments, transports, or other forms of written information.
Seeking to eliminate these barriers, the cooperative proposes different tools to promote cognitive accessibility, such as elaborate projects of “Easy Reading”, “Clear Language” and “Accessible and Comprehensible Signaling” (read more). These three tools aim at providing access to information for all, and in particular for those who have reading comprehension difficulties and mobility difficulties: information is thus made very clear, easy to understand and easy to identify.
In order to promote these tools, the cooperative establishes strategic alliances with a large number of actors, such as public administrations, social partners, as well as local governments. In particular, together with the University Pablo de Olavide of Seville, the cooperative organizes trainings to public administration officials and business professionals with the main goal of coaching them to organize information, spaces and resources in such a way as to ensure that they are understood by all people and are respectful of human diversity.
An inclusive approach to make life easier for all
Founded in Andalusia in 2014 as a second degree cooperative (cooperative composed of cooperative), the Instituto de Lectura Facil is constituted by three worker cooperatives: Cuarto Sector, Ediciones Rodio and Exeo. The cooperative form allows them to manage very important projects and compete with large companies despite their limited size and financial resources.
Today, the cooperative gathers 18 specialized social entities/members (both cooperative and not cooperative ones). Because of this structure, they can be more competitive and can better satisfy the needs and expectations of a wide public. The members actively participate in several projects carried out by the cooperative according to the competences they hold, as well as, in research and dissemination activities. This collaboration enhances the productivity of each member and the Institute as a whole; in fact, in recent years, the cooperative saw its turnover multiply.
As for its internal decision making process, the cooperative relies on a governing council that deliberates on day-to-day activities and a biannual members’ general assembly that takes strategic decisions.
“We are proud of our identity”, says Jorge Perez Garcia, President of the cooperative. “We make life easier for thousands of people who fill out a tax form, read a court ruling or access a legal texts”.
The Institute currently employs five full-time workers, but the people employed by the members are much more: the three founding cooperatives have a stable staff of approximately 20 worker members. However, the activity of the institute is project-based. Each project requires on-site interventions and gives work to a large number of varied profiles, such as text adapters, cognitive validators, technical validators, illustrators, layout designers, printers, etc. These workers are employed according to the technical profile needed for the activity and follow their project from conception to completion.
Cognitive validators, on the other hand, have permanent roles in the cooperative. Cognitive validators are people with intellectual disabilities or with other reading difficulties, such as elderly people, people with a low degree of education or those who do not speak the language. They are involved in the process of adaptation and validation of the texts into the “Easy Reading” method and contribute with their ideas to eliminate cognitive barriers. Their involvement guarantees that the work is carried out with an inclusive approach, paying particular attention to the needs of vulnerable people.
The Instituto de Lectura Facil is affiliated to the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (COCETA), which promotes and represents interests of worker cooperatives in Spain. COCETA is member of CECOP since 1989.