Easy read legal documents

I support an easy read group, who have about 10 years’ experience of preparing easy read documents and resources. Our commissions have increased a lot in the last couple of years, and I’ve noticed a shift in what we are being asked for. Increasingly we are getting requests to produce easy read versions of legal documents, like contracts, tenancy agreements, memorandum and articles.

I don’t know how much of this sort of work is going on elsewhere. I haven’t found a lot of examples through googling. My sense is that the legal force might be affected if the language is made less precise and specific (and complex!) or is that just what lawyers would like us to believe?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has had experience of making easy read legal documents - and how they have gone about it - or who has explored this issue more. I think this type of work will be coming up more and more - and should be!

Thanks in advance.

When we last change our articles of association we wanted them in easy read and I did an easy read version. They people drafting the hard to read version advised us that the easy read would not cut it with the Charity Commission or Companies House so we have had to accept having 2 versions - the legal inaccessible version and the easy read version which is not a legal document.

Thanks for this. That’s really useful to know - and a bit depressing. It does seem to limit people’s legal autonomy if the only documents with legal force are ones they can’t access in any way. I think some contracts might be a bit different, and be legally binding as long as both parties have signed them, regardless of the wording. But then I can see that if the terms are looser and less specific it could be used to disadvantage the person involved as well.

I’d love to know if there is any research work around all of this.

There is an organisation called Clarity International who would probably agree with you that the legal profession would like us to believe what is not necessarily true.
I’ve made an easy read guide to a tenancy agreement for Camden Council. Predictably, they did not want to call it a tenancy agreement because of doubts about its legal status but it still serves its intended purpose - to help people with learning disabilities understand the important bits in their tenancy agreement.
I believe that as long as what we say is well written, clear and unambiguous there is no good reason why an easy read document cannot have the same legal status as a jargon-filled, overly long inaccessible version.tenancy guide easy read.pdf (1.3 MB)