jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2009

The standard rules of the united nations on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities(SRUN). A pictorial website for non-readers


Malbran, Maria del Carmen
Senior Researcher on Cognitive Psychology
Council Member of the International Association for the
Scientific Study of Intellectual Disability (IASSID)

Villar, Claudia Mariela
Junior Researcher on Cognitive Psychology and Computing in Education
National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET)
National University of La Plata

Abstract: The project presents a pictorial version of the SRUN designed for non-readers.
A pilot study was carried out with five rules referring to individual rights: education, employment, family life, recreation and religion. They were illustrated by means of three to six pictures chosen by their potential to represent the content.
Samples included 50 youth and adults with intellectual disability coming from Argentina, Cuba and Ecuador; 50 persons who usually interact with them and 29 groups of 4-5 regular and special teachers coming from the Southern Argentina (Patagonia). A website of the pictorial version is being developed.
Key words: Human Rights-SRUN-Alternative/Intercultural communication-Disability-Virtual Environment


The development of alternative communication systems has generated great interest since the beginnings of the eighties. One kind of these systems uses pictorial aids. Pictures are part of the everyday experience in social contexts. They are seen in places such as highways, stations, restaurants, hospitals, etc. Pictures are a way of presenting information in a quick and easy manner. Complex ideas, objects and actions may be represented by pictures.The use of pictures are very frequent in many cultural environments. Many of them are known internationally and may overcome language and other cultural barriers. Access to information through pictures may lead to empower people who do not read. This access fosters independence and autonomy. Independence involves participation. Participation assumes communication. Communication abilities may improve whatever the age or the intellectual status of the person.
Experience shows that people even with severe learning disabilities are able to associate meaning with simple drawings.The nature of the underlying ideas, its degree of abstraction and complexity determines the selection of pictures.A pictorial based system aimed to replace written words requires little training whatever the age or reading competence of the person.
Moreover, pictures give cues for meaning when they complement a text and thus increase its comprehension. Detheridge (1998) pointed out that many people who do not read can both understand and use the concepts together with the symbols related to them. This project presents a pictorial version of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (UN Resolution 48/96). A print and online version is being developed.

SRUN: Selected rules

This project has been designed for non-readers. Rules that refer to people’s individual rights have been chosen (13 out of 22). These rules are as follows: Awareness – raising; Medical care; Rehabilitation; Support services; Accessibility; Education; Employment; Income maintenance and social security ;Family life and personal integrity; Culture; Recreation and sports; Religion and Organizations of persons with disabilities. A pilot study has carried out with five of the thirteen rules: with education, employment, family life and personal integrity, recreation and sports and religion. They correspond to “Preconditions for equal participation”(Rules 1 to 4), “Target areas for equal participation” (Rules 5 to 12) and “Implementation measures” (Rule 18). Selected aspects of these rules were illustrated by means of three to six pictures. The selection was made on the basis of their potential to represent the main ideas underlying the rule. It has to be pointed out that there is already an easy to read version of these SRUN (FUB 1998). It is undoubtedly easier and more accessible than the original version, but it still requires reading. The pictorial version (printed or online) can be used together with the easy to read version. Both the easy to read version and this pictorial version share the idea that the first step to exercising the rights is knowing the rights.

Content analysis of the five selected rules. Main points
Each of the UN rules is accompanied by some statements.
This sets out:*what the rule is about (rights); *duties and responsibilities of States and other agencies (normative); *where the rule should be put into practice (inclusive, open contexts) and *how the rule should be put into practice (places, programs strategies).
The pictures trying to represent the meaning of the rule from the individual standpoint.
The rule “Education”, can be considered an organizer concept. The importance of education and training is mentioned in all five rules . Education is conceived in a broad sense, as a responsibility of the State, the community, the school, the organization of persons with disabilities and the family.

Selection criteria for the pictures

The basic criteria for selecting and designing the pictures were as follows:
-relevance to the content, trying to depict the action/object/belief involved in the text of the rule;
-cultural fairness, avoiding explicit reference to genre, age, ethnic group and social class. It is expected that this “neutrality” might reduce associations or representations that can interfere with the meaning. An effort has been made to look for conventional pictures, that is, common to different social contexts;
-simplicity, perceptual clarity and distinctiveness. Simplicity refers to the number of elements. Perceptual clarity means evident, clear, obvious, easy to abstract from the background. Distinctiveness means meaningfulness;
-adequacy to the target audience, youth and adults, avoiding childish or schoolish presentation.
Trying to accomplish the above mentioned criteria, the pictures present human figures in few lines, in black and white, without clothes and whenever possible, without reference to sex. Genre was included only in the rules Family life and Recreation (dance).
Facial expressions were omitted . The activities represent common or usual situations to varied cultural environments .

Validity controls

The validation controls were aimed at to inquiry the power of the selected pictures as a means of communicating the idea or message in a simple, quickly and direct way. Considering the audience, people with limited or absent literacy competences, the point was to select drawings easily recognized and remembered in a concrete way to reduce the role of abstraction and the need of systematic learning.
Validation essentially refers to the control of meaning. This is important for the target audience and for the self advocates, volunteers and support persons.
One important issue is to determine the extent the version can be considered pictorial , replacing the written words.

An pilot study has been made to obtain data about the cultural-ecological, content and face validity of the pictures.
Cultural-ecological validity refers to cultural fairness, the extent that pictures might be considered as “cultural – free”.
Content validity is conceived in terms of the extent the pictures reflect what the rule is about . The main points contained in each of the selected rules were taken as a reference for validating the pictorial stimuli.
Face validity was judged as a contribution to cultural and content validity. There was no explicit reference to emotional states, feelings or other individual characteristics except in the rule related to family. Activities were not restricted to a particular kind of work or skill.

Data collection

Interviews and questionnaires were used to ask the meaning of the pictures. The questions were: What do these pictures represent?; What are their meanings?; What comes to your mind when you look at these pictures?; Seeing these pictures, what do you remember?; What right is being depicted in these icons/symbols?*; Is there any picture that better represent the rule? Which one?*; Are you willing to make any suggestion?*
*Only for teachers (group III)
Group I.- 50 youth and adults with intellectual disability from Argentina, Cuba and Ecuador;
Group II.- 50 persons that interact with people with intellectual disabilities (relatives, professionals, ONG leaders, service personnel);
Group III.- 29 groups (4 /5 members) of regular and special Argentine teachers.
Nobody had prior information about the UN Rules and this knowledge was not provided before the interviews. In this sense all of them were “non readers”.

Data analysis

Answers were analyzed trying to determine common tendencies and to precise the extent icons represent the right they illustrate. Comparisons intra and inter-group were considered.

Comparative analysis
Group I

Except in the case of religion, strong relation pictures – rules were found. This fact can be attributed to the conventional character of the pictures. As the samples come from Catholic communities, the cross is the symbol for religion. The other pictures were less known or even unknown. This rule may demand a higher level of abstraction.
The answers did not show significant differences among readers and non readers. This is a finding in favour of considering pictures as a substitute of words .
Global answers, or grouping pictures under the same label, are less frequent than descriptions. To mention picture by picture in the same plate or to mention just actions are the common cases. When grouping responses appear, they are referred to actions . Both descriptive and global responses were usually related to the implied rule. This tendency should be considered in the support programs using this pictorial version.

Group II

Opinions were individually reported. The group was diverse including parents, special teachers, professionals, ONG leaders and service personnel (drivers, cooks, and maintenance workers). Careful attention was paid to each of the pictures adding examples and suggestions to complement them. They stressed the need to be informed and to allow the disabled people to develop their own potential. An interest of the activities to make this aim feasible is another common remark.

Group III

The answers were oriented to choose “the best” picture and to preserve openness, flexibility, absence of discrimination, accessibility and independence. The interpretation of the pictures exceeded the rule itself, by adding complementary ideas or remarks.

Pictorial Website

A Website of the SRUN Pictorial Version is being developed for the 5 above mentioned rules.

Characterization of the Website

The theory and practice of the accessible Web design was considered, that is, the Web pages can be navigated by everyone, regardless of location, experience and type of available computer technology. According to Tim Berners-Lee, the Worldwide Web creator and Director of the W3C Consortium, "The power of the Web is its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."
This virtual environment requires for non-reader a mediating instance. The tutor facilitates the understanding of each rule.
Instructions and strategies for the mediator are also developing.
The prototype of the Website, has the following characteristics:

-Minimalist using a small number of elements (screens; buttons; drawings, text);
-Intercultural, the pictograms are common to different cultural contexts;
-Multimedia, visual images plus voice and labels;
-Simplicity, black pictures with a few lines;
-Neutral, whenever possible pictograms avoid explicit reference to sex, age, ethnicity or social class;
-Accessible design, providing auditory and visual redundant information;
-Easy navigation, simple and consistent instructions. A navigation icon with home/back/forward functions is provided.
-Linguistically wide, it can be translated into other languages;
-Technologically accessible, requires only a standard equipment.
The prototype Website consists of a main page containing the icons of all the 5 rules (see figure 1) and 5 pages for each rule.
Several pictures were used to illustrate each rule. A voice reads the title and give a brief explanation of the rule.
The website versatility and accessibility through a multimedia redundancy according to the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) principles was pursued.


An important clue to design the training program is the high frequency of answers in terms of actions registered in the target audience.
The low frequency of grouping responses in the sample of intellectually disabled people, suggests that facilitators and support persons have to emphasize the underlying idea , norm or meaning of the rules.
One or several icons for each rule? It seems very difficult to find one picture that may represent the rule in a reliable and complete way. According to the content, the rules may be placed on a continuum from the more concrete or tangible to the more abstract. This analysis was not made yet.
In spite of the samples being different, there were coincidences between the assigned meanings.
The preliminary results show that it is possible to transmit an idea or a message about individual rights using pictures as a means.


Each plate will include at the bottom right corner a representation of an inclusive setting relating to the rule: e.g. a classroom, a workshop, a family at a meal table, people in a stadium, a gathering around a preacher.
For rule Family life, pictures about sexual relationships and abusing were not included. The risk of abuse is difficult to depict as it has many sides. Moreover, it is subjected to cultural bias. An appropriate way of representation was not found yet.
Another future action will be the searching, selecting and adapting pictures for the remaining eight rules according to the selected criteria and validity controls.
Field work will use similar samples.


Cromby,J.J. 1996. The potentials of virtual environment in the education and training of people with learning disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, volume 40, part six, pp. 489-501. December
Detheridge, T. and Detheridge, M. 1998. Literacy through Symbols. Improving access for children and adults. London: David Fulton Publishers
Disability Clip Art.1999. Madgraphics. Rockville, MMD.
Jenkinson,J. 1999. Factors Affecting Decision-Making by Young Adults With Intellectual Disabilities. American Journal on Mental Retardation, Vol.104,Nº 4, 320-329
Lancioni, G.E. el al. 1999. Evaluation of a computer-aided system providing pictorial task instructions and prompts to people with severe intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Volume 43, Part I, pp. 61-66.
Mactavish,J.B. et al.2000. “I can speak for myself”: involving individuals with intellectual disabilities as research participants. Mental Retardation. Volume 38,Nro. 3.
Mayer Johnson, R.1998. The Picture Communication Symbols Guide (PCS). Mayer-Johnson Co.
The Standard Rules of the United Nations.: An Easy-to-Read Version. 1998. The Swedish National Society for Persons with Mental Handicap (FUB).
United Nations. 1994 . The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
Widgit Software. Writing with Symbols

Creative Commons License
The standard rules of the united nations on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities (SRUN). A pictorial website for non-readers by María del Carmen Malbrán y Claudia Mariela Villar is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-No comercial-Sin obras derivadas 2.5 Argentina License.
Based on a work at mariamalbran.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://creativecommons.org/.

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario