A screenshot of enable ireland website, what is AT page with the ReadEasy menu open and the Make Readable tool selected.

Language as a barrier – Review of ReadEasy.AI

Those of us concerned with digital accessibility are often more focused on the technical aspects of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). However, while a document or website can be technically accessible the language used can be a barrier to many. Those with cognitive difficulties, forms of neurodiversity, non-native language speakers are among the broad range of people who may have trouble reading and understanding information provided through text. This difficulty is often compounded when we consider the more specialised type of writing often encountered professionally and within education. The Plain English Campaign in the UK has been doing fantastic work highlighting this issue for over 40 years. They offer courses, have awards for the best and worst communication of the year, and give some truly hilarious examples.


Read Easy.ai is a text simplification tool by Dutch digital accessibility and WCAG research and training agency Accessibility Desk. The goal of this tool/service is to transform complex, difficult to read text into simplified, easier to read text, without losing too much important information. It’s this last part where the real challenge lies. For this tool to be considered effective, either the same, similar, or enough, of the information contained in the original complex text needs to be conveyed through the simplified text output. Historically, tools that have claimed to be able to either simplify or condense complex text have proved disappointing. It’s a very difficult task to automate as simplification usually requires deep understanding, or at least it did until quite recently.

In late 2022 ChatGPT, closely followed other Generative AI built on Large Language Models LLM started to accomplish tasks that would seem to be impossible without an understanding of the content being generated. While experts are split on the question of whether these AI are achieving natural language understanding, it must be acknowledged that they are accomplishing the results, by whatever means. ReadEasy.ai uses the OpenAI API for simplification and the tests below indicate that it is the most successful language simplification tool to date.

Before you decide whether this tool is for you, consider what data you will be working with. All text is processed by OpenAI so ReadEasy.ai should be treated in the same way you would treat ChatGPT. This means it certainly shouldn’t be used for any confidential or sensitive data. In their Privacy Policy they state “OpenAI will not use data submitted by customers via their API to train or improve their models, unless you explicitly decide to share your data with Open AI for this purpose.” This is nice to know and may alleviate some concerns, but caution is still advised and ReadEasy should only be used for information you are happy to be made public. Many organisations have an AI policy which will dictate whether corporate documents can be uploaded to an AI platform.

So, how does it work?

Well, it comes in the form of a Microsoft Word or Outlook plugin, which would be useful for those authoring text or using it as a support in work. It is also available as a Chrome (or Edge) Browser plugin. In this form it could be particularly useful as Assistive Technology (AT) for people with cognitive or literacy difficulties. It’s free to use and try out but you are restricted to only 5 requests (of 500 words) per month. A personal account will get you 60 requests a month for €2.99. There is a significant price jump then to €19.99 (for 1000 requests) and the next pricing tier aimed at small businesses. There seems to be a bit of a gap here as 60 requests may not be sufficient for a student or someone doing a lot of online work. A tier between personal and small business would make more sense.  

ReadEasy.AI as Assistive Technology (AT)

ReadEasy.AI offers considerable potential for use as an AT (as will be demonstrated below). As AT it will most probably be used in its Browser extension form. It is compatible with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Once added to the browser the tool can be accessed using the icon at the top right or by selecting text and choosing the required Read Easy option from the right mouse button menu (See screenshots below).

A screenshot of a Microsoft Edge browser with a page open and text selected. There is one arrow pointing to the ReadEasy icon at the top right of the browser and another arrow pointing to the Read Easy option in the right click menu.
ReadEasy.AI Web Browser extension (Microsoft Edge). The tool can be accessed from the icon on the top right of the browser or via the right click menu.

To test ReadEasy as an AT I thought it might be fun to see how it performed making sense of one of the Plain English examples of bad communication. The one selected is from a pension communication. It’s a great example of how different professions have developed their own jargon that’s practically impossible for those on the outside to understand.

Pensions jargon (plainenglish.co.uk)

The trustee company will consider the continuation of a total incapacity pension by testing whether it is more likely than not, on the balance of probabilities, that the member could only do a job for which the member would only be paid less than a small fraction of the member’s pre-absence salary. If so, the member would be within the total incapacity definition.

The above text was selected within the page and “Directly make it readable” was selected from the ReadEasy menu. This changed the text above to:

The company that takes care of someone’s money will think about whether to keep giving money to someone who can’t work because they’re very sick or hurt. They will try to figure out if it’s very likely that the person can only do a job that pays much less than they used to make before they got sick or hurt. If that’s the case, then the person will still be considered unable to work.

While admittedly this is an extreme, the results speak for themselves. It’s easy to see this being a useful tool for anybody with a literacy difficulty. Another nice feature is how it changes the text directly within the web page, making it discrete. Hopefully we will see something similar being incorporated into literacy support applications like Read&Write and ClaroRead.

ReadEasy.AI for content writers

Authors and copywriters would probably use the ReadEasy.AI Microsoft Word extension (if their IT Department allow Office Store Add-ins) . It offers several tools like: Explanation, Difficult Words, Synonyms, Dyslexia (this tool reviews the text for words and sentences or phrases that are difficult to read for someone who has dyslexia). For the most part these tools are already available in Microsoft Word and on other platforms like Rewordify or Hemingway Editor. So, for our test we focused on the “Make Readable” tool (screenshot below).

A screenshot of enable ireland website, what is AT page with the ReadEasy menu open and the Make Readable tool selected.
Make Readable tool in ReadEasy.AI

The aim of this feature is straightforward. You copy up to 500 words of complex text, set the desired reading level and it generates a simplified alternative. Reading levels are given using the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) which is illustrated in the  graphic below. CEFR is primarily concerned with the language abilities of non-native speakers. For our test the reading level was set to A2. A2 is considered Elementary level text in terms of reading difficulty. Details on A2 level found here. Other options offered by ReadEasy.AI are B1 and B2. To give us an objective view of the results we used Microsoft Word Editor Document Insights to give us before and after readability scores based on the Flesch Reading formula (which you can read more about here). It should be noted here that the Flesch Reading Ease score is designed to predict readability for native English language speakers and is based on sentence length and number of syllables in words. It appears that while ReadEasy.AI takes this into account it seems to focus more on the CEFR system which assigns difficulty levels to individual words. For this reason, we have also analyzed before and after texts using the Text Inspector online tool.

Reading levels by CEFR
A1 Beginner, A2 Elementary, B1 Intermediate, B2 Upper Intermediate, C1 Advanced, C2 Mastery
Reading levels using the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)

Test 1: Standard Web Content Example 1

Original Text

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

AT stands for Assistive Technology (this links to the World Health Organization page on AT). Assistive Technology is any technology or service used by a person with a disability to help them complete a task or participate in an activity they would otherwise find difficult.  

Enable Ireland focuses on the delivery of Digital Assistive Technology services as we recognise the huge role technology plays in all our lives. 

These days most mainstream digital technologies have tools built in to make them easier to use. As a result, many people with disabilities can access mainstream technologies and may not require specially designed assistive technologies. In practice most people now use a mix of mainstream and assistive technologies to live more independently. 

People use AT to work and play, to learn and teach, to create and consume. From supporting practical daily living needs, to facilitating creativity or participation in leisure activities. We see technology as being a key element in Enable Ireland’s mission of working in partnership with those who use the services to achieve maximum independence, choice and inclusion in their communities. 

Look at the video below to see what AT means to some Enable Ireland Service Owners.  

Original Text Analysis

  • Flesch Reading Ease (Microsoft Word Editor) – 37
  • Text Inspector results
    • Percentage of academic words – 14.21%
    • Percentage of words at B1 CEFR level – 18.85%

ReadEasy Text

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

Assistive Technology (AT) is a special kind of technology used by people with disabilities to help them do things that might be hard for them. It could be a tool or a service that makes tasks easier or helps them join in activities.

At Enable Ireland, we focus on using digital assistive technology because we know that technology is really important in our lives.

Nowadays, most regular digital devices have features that help people with disabilities use them. So, they don’t always need special technology made just for them.

People use AT for work and play, for learning and teaching, and for creating and enjoying things. It helps them with everyday tasks and lets them do fun things too.

At Enable Ireland, we believe technology can help people be more independent and included in their communities.

You can watch the video below to see how AT helps some of the people we work with.

ReadEasy Text Analysis

  • Flesch Reading Ease (Microsoft Word Editor) – 53.3
  • Text Inspector
    • Percentage of academic words – 9.49%
    • Percentage of words at B1 CEFR level – 7.78%

Test 1: Result

The text analysis results show that the original text could be considered difficult to read. The Flesch Reading Ease score indicates that it is at a level that would require a college education. Processing with ReadEasy.AI has brought it down a whole education grade level. The percentage of both academic and CERF Intermediate level words has also been significantly reduce by ReadEasy.AI. This suggests that it has been simplified even more than the Flesch Reading Ease score indicates. Furthermore, no significant information has been lost in the simplification, it has been successful in retaining the meaning of the original passage.

Test 2: Standard Web Content Example 2

Original Text

What is a Children’s Disability Network Team?

A children’s disability network team (CDNT) provides specialised support and services for children who have a disability and complex health needs associated with their disability.

The CDNT supports a child’s development, wellbeing and participation in family and community life. This works best when everyone works together as a team around your child.

The team members share their knowledge, information and skills with you and your family so you can support your child’s development.

This helps children and young people to develop, learn, and take part in everyday activities. Team members can meet children and families in their home, in school or in our office.

Original Text Analysis

  • Flesch Reading Ease (Microsoft Word Editor) – 47.4
  • Text Inspector
    • Percentage of academic words – 9.17%
    • Percentage of words at B1 CEFR level – 13.64%

ReadEasy Text

What is a Children’s Disability Network Team?

A Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT) is a group of people who help children with disabilities and special health needs. They work together to help the child grow, feel well, and be part of their family and community. The team shares their knowledge and skills with the child’s family to help the child develop and learn. They can meet with the child and their family at home, school, or their office.

screen recording of the process outlined in the accompanying text as test 2.
screen recording of test test 2

ReadEasy Text Analysis

  • Flesch Reading Ease (Microsoft Word Editor) 68.4
  • Text Inspector
    • Percentage of academic words – 7.5%
    • Percentage of words at B1 CEFR level – 6.38%

Test 2: Result

In the second test the Flesch Reading Ease score has been reduced by 2 grades from college level down to Plain English (easily understood by 13 – 15-year-old students). This is exactly the level you want for information aimed at a general audience. As with the first test there is also a significant reduction in both academic and B1 CERF level words. It has also been successful retaining the overall meaning.

Overall Conclusion

ReadEasy.AI would seem to be a very promising tool to support the production of clear accessible text. In the two examples above I have provided the direct result of the “Make Readable” function of ReadEasy.AI to give an accurate account of its capabilities. In most cases however the author will want to tweak the output generated to better capture the original meaning and tone. For this reason, I would see this tool as being most effective in the hands of the original author, rather than a task completed independent of the author by a third party. As with many Generative AI based tools, the results produced by ReadEasy.AI should always be reviewed by a subject matter expert or the original author. Finally, it needs to be pointed out that everything ReadEasy.AI accomplishes could also be achieved by CopilotChatGPTGeminiClaude or any of the growing number of Generative AI tools currently available. The advantage of ReadEasy.AI is that it’s task specific and available when and where you need it, leaving less opportunities to get distracted or sidetracked.

The Good

  • Effective tool to help authors and copywriters speed up the sometimes-difficult task of writing in plain English.
  • Task specific access to generative AI without the need for prompts or navigating to a different app.
  • Discrete literacy support that can be added to frequently used apps to provide help when and where it is needed.

The not so good

  • Pricing tiers could be improved. A mid-level price would suit more users.
  • As with all generative AI results should be checked by the original author of subject matter expert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *