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Who uses symbols

Symbols can help anyone who has a difficulty with text

Children and adults with a learning impairment or a communication challenge, for example Autism, Down Syndrome or Dyslexia

Some people with severe learning difficulties will never be able to read and write; others will have some capability but find decoding text very difficult. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million people in the UK alone with a learning disability (1). 10% of the population have dyslexia, 4% of them severely so (2). These numbers are growing.

EALPeople for whom English is an additional language

Over 200 languages are currently spoken in UK homes (3) and in 2010, 16% of children in maintained primary schools did not have English as their first language (4). Symbols enable non-native speakers to communicate and understand English text.

children beginning to readChildren beginning to read or who struggle with text

Symbols can help children to access text when they are beginning to read by reinforcing the meaning of the written word. This can enable progress in many aspects of the curriculum and prevents children from being held back by their reading ability. It also significantly improves behaviour, motivation and learning.

Children and adults with severe physical difficulties physical difficulties

Where people’s physical abilities are restricted or they cannot speak, symbols can be used to help them to communicate their needs and wants, enabling them to make choices. Symbols empower them to be able to share their thoughts and ideas in ways that others can more easily understand.

People in emergency situations emergency situations

If someone has had an accident and is unable to speak, because of their injury or because they cannot speak the local language, symbols can be used as two-way communication to explain and understand the situation.

Disadvantaged peopleDisadvantaged people

Many people fall out of the education system before they have achieved functional literacy levels, making it difficult for them to understand the text used in everyday living. It is estimated that 16% of the UK adult population have literacy levels below those expected of an 11-year-old (5). Symbols can reinforce the meaning of text and increase their confidence.

VisitorsVisitors to foreign countries

Symbols are used as a means of communication to help tourists and other visitors to navigate their way around a country and its attractions.

foreign languagePeople learning a foreign language

Symbols can aid in the learning of a foreign language by offering additional support for the understanding of vocabulary and grammar.


1. Source: http://www.mencap.org.uk
2. Source: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-us.html
3. Source: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/resources/practical_resources_info/1067_english_as_an_additional_language
4. Source: ‘Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics’ January 2010 - Department for Education
5. Source: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/about/faqs/filter/about%20literacy%20in%20the%20uk#q284

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