Small changes to public documentation could have a huge impact on so many lives

29 January 2019

Labour Party Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has launched the Public Sector (Plain Language) Bill 2019 which will require all government departments and public bodies to revert to plain and accessible language in their documentation.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“We need to ensure public documents are accessible to everyone. Often those with greater literacy challenges are the ones who need public services the most. There is absolutely no need to have extra exclusionary boundaries by means of complicated language in official government forms, documents or publications.

“With 17.9% of the Irish adult population functionally illiterate, it is clear that we must work harder to make all public services accessible.

“Literacy is an equality issue. It greatly limits the capacity of an individual to participate fully in Irish society. We must strive for the total eradication of illiteracy. While working to that end, we can also tackle the reasons why many feel isolated from the mechanisms of official Ireland.

“My experiences as a teacher in the North Inner City convinced me that the challenge of defeating childhood illiteracy lay outside the walls of the classroom.

“The recognition of Ireland’s literacy problem is important, and our ambition to defeat it must be heightened. We must strive for the total eradication of illiteracy in Irish society and to demand all state agencies to play their part.

“The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) have been advocating for such a change for many years and I was delighted to have their input into this Bill and have them join us today to speak about how small changes to public documentation could have a fundamental impact on so many people’s lives.

“The failure of Irish society, and policy makers in the Irish educational sphere to properly acknowledge and address our literacy crisis, until recently is a matter of great shame and passing common sense legislation like this would be a small step in helping those who need it.”

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