scrabble tiles spelling plain language

HDI Collaborates with UC Davis MIND Institute

Even dense and difficult information can be written so that everyone can read it.  That’s why the MIND Institute at UC Davis reached out to HDI, to teach them more about plain language.  

“They came to us on the recommendation of Association of University Centers on Disability because they recognized they did not have the training on how to work on plain language,” Patti Singleton, Division Director for Professional Learning, said. “They are a lot of researchers. They have a more clinical focus at their center than HDI does.”  

This means that they are more used to writing in a clinical setting, which can be difficult for an outside audience to read. Plain language would make the material they create more accessible to outside audiences – with an additional benefit to their institute specifically.  

Currently, Singleton and her team, which include Liz Weintraub from the Association of University Centers on Disability and Bev Harp from HDI, has met with the MIND Institute three times to teach them about why plain language is important and how to actually implement it.  

Singleton has been surprised and thrilled at how much they’ve embraced the lessons they’ve learned.  “I was really happy that they decided as a group to take on their website,” she said. “They have taken different parts of the public-facing website to try and translate into plain language.”  

Harp noted that opportunities like this offer an interesting way to both open the doors to more people, but discussions in how to apply plain language to academic writing are interesting in themselves.  

“Information is power and that information is conveyed through language. When we use unnecessarily complex language, we exclude people, usually those who already lack social capital,” she said. “As someone who requires precision in language and enjoys academic writing, I am especially interested in working with academics and others who must negotiate that tension between need for precision and need for accessibility. As advocates for people with disabilities, accessibility is our priority, but I believe that we can also help scholars in other fields to identify and reduce barriers.” 

Reviews from students of the class have also been glowing. Singleton shared just a few of the things they had to say.  “It was incredibly helpful to get the guidance and have more resources to add to my tool box,” one student said. “Also appreciated being able to work through examples!” 

One more session is planned for June, where Singleton hopes to discuss sustainability – in other words, how to ensure a culture of plain language usage continues as they go on.  “It was very active participation,” Singleton said. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity to work with this group.”  

This article represents the opinions of the author and interviewee, not that of the University of Kentucky. 


Increase Accessibility with Plain Language

Opportunities to make life more inclusive are everywhere – even something as simple as the language we use can have huge implications for accessibility.

One of the most powerful tools in creating accessible writing is plain language. And thanks to a recent request from the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD), HDI was able to do some very visible work in promoting plain language.

“We have, in the past, contacted with AUCD to do various plain language initiatives,” Patti Singleton, Division Director for Professional Learning, said. “They had a definition of what equity and inclusion was, and why it was important. However, the statement used language that was hard to understand.”

AUCD felt it needed to be more inclusive in how it defined inclusivity – and they chose HDI to help them fix it.

“AUCD came to us and said ‘This is what we currently have, would you like to revise it and write it into plain language,’” she said. “We said of course.”

Singleton gathered a team that included ISAW Principal Investigator Bev Harp, Medical Outreach Director Stephanie Meredith, DEI Director Dr. Nicholas Wright and HDI Staff Member Chelsea Bocard. She also worked with Liz Weintraub, who is the Senior Advocacy Specialist at AUCD and a longtime advocate for plain language.

Plain Language is a universal design strategy that seeks to make sure anyone can understand the language used in documents. There is even a law in place mandating that federal organizations use plain language when communicating with the public.

“We really want to make sure that all information we provide is written clearly, concisely and is well-organized,” Singleton said. “It really comes down to using common words…that everyone would be able to understand.”

It also means keeping away from jargon or acronyms that may be unfamiliar to outside sources, and ensuring that information is well organized and easy to understand. It can be vital to people with certain disabilities to make sure information is clearly conveyed.

“Research shows that people with intellectual disabilities often face discrimination and bias when trying to reach their goals in life. However, it can be hard to recognize what’s happening in the moment. I had that experience one time when my son with Down Syndrome was refused service at an urgent care facility,”  Meredith said. “That way they can advocate to be treated fairly and to get any support they might need.”

This, Wright said, is a subtle but important part of diversity and inclusion.

“Many people view diversity in the apparent view, but I believe in focusing on diversity more holistically,” he said. “Diversity is having individuals of various experiences, perspectives, identities, and abilities. Diversity involves having identities represented, but inclusion involves engaging these diverse identities and ensuring these individuals are fully included. Having our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in plain language is equity in action, and focuses on access by removing barriers.”

Plain language isn’t just important for accommodating people with disabilities, it can help everyone. Singleton noted that she always prefers plain language documents simply because as a mom who works full-time, she’s busy. Plain language is easier and less time-consuming to read.

And as a longtime partner for AUCD, Singleton thinks it’s great to both help out and to see an organization that is above HDI is embracing a cause that HDI has championed. “They value the work we do,” she said. “They see us as a leader. I love that they continue to rely on us for that information.”  

This article represents the opinions of the author and interviewee, not that of the University of Kentucky. 

Jacob Mason Tina Jackson Story video still with Jacob and Tina during the interview with the caption: "Who are you and why do you want to share your story?"

HDI Launches Storytelling Website

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute Digital Storytelling Initiative highlights the stories and lived experiences of people with disabilities. By recording and collecting stories, the contributions of people with disabilities and their families are amplified to help shape the narrative of how disability impacts society. These stories can be found at HDI Voices, a website that currently includes stories about employment, health, and COVID-19.

The work continues! Do you have a story to tell? HDI staff Patti Logsdon, Adam Potter, and Patti Singleton want to work with you. You can share your story or work with others to record their story in writing, on audio (podcast), or video. If you are interested in adding to the HDI story collection, fill out the form at  or contact Patti Logsdon at or 859 218-1338.

Visit and share with others who want to improve their work with people with disabilities and their families. This project was made by possible by a HDI Fund for Excellence proposal.

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Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Access and Confidence

Over the next year, the UK Human Development Institute will work with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and several partners as part of a CDC Cooperative Agreement, Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Access and Confidence among People with Disabilities. This project aims to support the work of AUCD in facilitating COVID-19 vaccine conversations among network members, identifying barriers to vaccine accessibility, increasing vaccine confidence, sharing credible COVID-19 vaccination information, responding to misinformation, translating information into accessible formats, and sharing success stories and lessons learned. HDI will ensure the accessibility of a variety of resources that will be shared across the network. Patti Singleton, Division Director, will be the Principal Investigator of this effort, and will draw upon the expertise of many staff who are involved in universal design, accessibility, digital storytelling and information services work.

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HDI to pilot Professional Certification in Universal Design

A University of Kentucky (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI) Fund for Excellence award has been given to Christina Espinosa Bard and Patti Singleton to offer a professional certification to equip people to use the principles of Universal Design (UD) in the workplace. This will expand HDI’s current undergraduate certificate program available to UK students from any field of study.

HDI is a national leader in embedding UD practices in learning by examining goals, materials, methods, and assessment for usability factors. These practices will be used to develop and pilot a six-hour certificate program that will include case studies and activities to support practical application of UD principles in the workplace.

To increase capacity and raise awareness about UD principles, UK employees will be provided an opportunity to complete the certificate at no cost to them. This project supports HDI’s mission of promoting the inclusion and contributions of people with disabilities through information sharing, leadership, and advocacy. 

Contact or for more information.