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- Key symbols
Guide to good symbol content
What are key symbols?
Key symbols are simply one or two symbols that can be used with or without text to convey a single piece of information. At most, they provide the same amount of information as a short sentence of text. They can help reinforce meaning and give reassurance by acting as reminders for any level of reader.
Where would key symbols be used?
Key symbols are particularly effective when used in signage. Wayfinding signage typically communicates a single ‘sentence’, for example ‘the swimming pool is this way’. Even though this sentence may not actually feature on the sign, key symbols provide the ideal amount of information to support the message on the sign, increasing accessibility.
When using key symbols within an inclusive document, each key symbol will support one piece of information, i.e. a concept within the document’s text, such as the elements of contact information.
When key symbols are used alongside a body of text or whole sentence, the symbols only indicate the subject. Symbol readers can best access these documents when assisted by a non-symbol reader who can help them understand the message indicated by the key symbols.
Key symbols work really well in sequencing and timetabling activities. Key symbols can be particularly effective when used on flashcards displaying a series of events, with one symbol representing each event within the sequence. A child who might not be able to read and understand a complex timetable could use a series of flashcards which each feature a key symbol as a reference to know what they will be doing during the day.
Widgit have produced symbol signage at South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre to make wayfinding accessible to visitors with varying literacy levels.
Key symbols in a document
The use of key symbols is a very useful tool for communicating with people for whom English is not a primary language, or those who do not speak any English.
The A&E Communication Passport was developed to help hospital staff communicate with patients.By using key symbols for each question they need to ask, hospital staff are able to communicate the theme of a question to patients who would have had difficulty in understanding the written text, and therefore gain an understanding of their situation and their needs.
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