Call For Papers Clarity 2020

1. Choose a Topic Area


Topic Area 1: Tools and Techniques

We all come to conferences to learn. This topic area aims to provide practical methods, processes, and other tools for professionals in the legal, health, financial, government, design, usability, and other sectors to create better access for clients, customers, and citizens.

Your submission could focus on:

  • Plain language techniques that you’ve applied successfully to communicate better with various populations.
  • Plain language techniques that ensure understanding and also empower audiences by communicating that they are not outsiders.
  • Design strategies that invite participation by all audiences—whatever their characteristics.
  • New – or existing – ways that plain language tools or techniques allow organizations to save time and money that might otherwise be wasted.
  • Demonstration of a new technology that you use to communicate better and more effectively with intended audiences – and to improve access.

Suggestions for possible Tools and Techniques submissions:

  • Access-to-justice strategies that use plain language principles to help judges and court staff communicate more effectively with self-represented litigants.
  • Plain-language content that reduces wait times in medical offices, ensures better surgical outcomes, or improves post-treatment recovery.
  • Techniques for persuasive and understandable expert witness testimony.
  • Novel methods for improving communication for emergency-services, such as disaster relief.
  • Techniques for communicating with homeowners about reverse mortgages, loss mitigation processes, or other home-based issues.
  • The use of graphics in patient-information, financial-investment, or other content that improves user outcomes.
  • Specific tools and techniques that government communicators can use to defuse the inherent distrust that some audiences bring to the table when approaching a government document.

Topic Area 2: Design and User Research

Clear communication in any sector uses plain language principles coupled with best practices from complementary fields, such as cognitive psychology, information design, usability, customer experience, and accessibility. This topic area highlights ways that diverse fields of research help create findable, understandable, usable information for consumers, clients, and citizens.

Your submission could focus on:

  • Techniques and methods rooted in behavioral, social, or cognitive psychology that help to make critical, everyday information work for people in courts, doctors’ offices, financial institutions, public-assistance offices, and others.
  • Testing and evaluation methods that more effectively evaluate participant groups to ensure accurate results, free from testers’ cultural and societal biases, especially about vulnerable populations.
  • Design for people with a broad range of physical and cognitive abilities, as well as education levels and bases of knowledge.
  • Design graphics that help people understand concepts and process and that go beyond words to provide “Aha!” insights.
  • Data visualization techniques that illustrate sophisticated concepts and arguments in ways that are meaningful across language and education levels.
  • Specific methods of testing and evaluation to ensure actionable understanding.

Suggestions for possible Design and User Research submissions:

  • Design changes in court forms that improve access to justice for litigants with dyslexia.
  • Linguistic research that helps plain-language translators produce accurate and nuanced translations for a specific language or cultural community.
  • Graphic elements that improve financial decision-making or improve patient education.
  • Technology that ensures accessibility with modes of communication other than printed documents.
  • An interactive workshop that helps participants experiment with strategies to overcome the obstacles of writing public content for exceptionally diverse audiences.
  • The effect of testing on the design of legal and other critical documents.
  • New testing techniques, such as eye-tracking research, that will help plain-language professionals design better warning signs, waivers, financial disclosure statements, medical consent forms, or other potentially life-altering documents.

Topic Area 3: The Future of Plain Language

The practice of plain language continues to evolve. With broader initiatives, collaborations, and greater understanding of plain language, new questions around ethics, accessibility, and transparency are emerging. This topic area explores ways that we as communicators use plain language to respond to a changing world and to an evolving definition of Access for All.

Your submission could focus on:

  • The use and misuse of plain language by companies that pose a risk to vulnerable audiences.
  • Discussions about accessibility and similar challenges and
    opportunities in plain language projects.
  • The role of plain language with rapidly evolving technology -- such as smart phones, smart cars, virtual assistants -- and their effect on consumer privacy and awareness.
  • The newest Internet and email scams and how plain language can help companies, government, and others protect the public, especially the most vulnerable communities.
  • How plain language principles can help shape the influence of social media.
  • The role of plain language and behavioral economics in developing legal and other types of information.

Suggestions for possible Future of Plain Language submissions:

  • Research showing whether plain language in payday loans,
    multi-level marketing, financial investments, or mortgage
    disclosures, for example, changes consumer behavior.
  • The design, development, and effectiveness of legally binding disclosures.
  • Using plain language to advance political and social-justice
    platforms versus using plain language to manipulate political opinion.
  • The unanticipated consequences we should consider when
    improving accessibility through enhanced technology.
  • A panel discussion of how much information is too much when dealing with online privacy rights and sharing of information with affiliates and others.
  • An interactive legal workshop to help non-legal plain-language professionals understand the nuances in legal language, the significant risks in choosing the wrong language, and strategies for success.
  • Strategies for the appropriate translation of scientific and legal language for the intended audience.
  • Techniques for meeting plain-language regulatory requirements.

Topic Area 4: Systemic and Sustainable

Plain language can improve a paragraph at a time, and it can also transform information, organization, communities, or individuals. But once that happens, sustaining the change becomes a new challenge. This topic area focuses on real-life stories, case studies, and examples that demonstrate the challenges and strategies for both transformation and sustainability.

Your submission could focus on:

  • The before-and-after versions of a document or online information, and explaining the ultimate outcome of those changes.
  • The challenges and practical effects of a specific plain-language project.
  • How a plain-language program or commitment has transformed an organization, especially by removing barriers to transparency, information, and services.
  • Projects that have used plain language to open doors and, as a result, have measurably improved communities.
  • The financial benefits from plain-language projects or programs that increase access.

Suggestions for possible Systemic and Sustainable submissions:

  • Case studies of increased public participation in community-development decisions as the result of plain-language notices.
  • Curated stories about life-changing access to justice, health care, and other critical services through improved communication.
  • Plain-language improvement to notices that have resulted in a statistically significant increase in applications from people eligible for programs and other tools to benefit their lives, for example, housing, food, legal assistance, and medical care.
  • The use of plain language to improve outcomes in specialty courts and specialty representation, for example sobriety courts, innocence projects, and collaborative divorce.
  • Quantified cost savings as a result of improved outcomes when patients better understand and comply with pre- and post-surgery instructions.

2. Choose a Type

Presentation (15 min)

Presentation sessions highlight a practitioner’s ideas and experience. They are opportunities to share the best of what you do and what you have learned in a sharply focused presentation.

Panel (50 min)

Panels can cover the same areas of interest as presentations but allow a single topic to be explored by more than one individual. Good panel topics allow for rich and robust dialogue. You should plan for 3-5 experts as panelists representing different perspectives or aspects to the topic at hand.

Thought Leader (up to 50 min)

Thought-leader talks focus on new, emerging, research-based information that will enhance our various professions. Thought leaders have a depth of insight into user psychology, strengths and weaknesses of current approaches, and innovative thinking about groundbreaking new approaches. This presentation type is competitive and generally limited to those with significant professional experience in plain language or a closely related field.

Pre-Conference Workshop (2 - 4 hour)

Pre-conference workshops allow attendees to extend their knowledge with sessions led by plain-language leaders. These workshops are classroom-style sessions, where instructors teach attendees specific plain language information and skills. Workshops will include presentations of a topic as well as discussions and activities that help attendees share and practice their new skills.

Poster (5 min conversations)

Posters are a way to present research, new ideas, processes, or concepts in an informal, visual, and interactive manner. You might include a before-and-after project. Presenting is very informal: a few people will gather around as you talk them through your poster. Make sure to include what you did, why and how you did it, and what you’ve learned. Remember, your poster should tell your story even if you are not present to explain it.

3. Choose a Participant Level

a. New to the Topic

  • Intended Participant

    Participants may be highly skilled, but new to a specific topic, such as the use of eye-tracking in testing.

  • Detail in Presentation

    Entry-level, few complex details.

b. Somewhat Knowledgeable

  • Intended Participant

    Participants may have worked with the topic, but they do not have a deep knowledge of the topic.

  • Detail in Presentation

    Intermediate, some complex detail.

c. Highly Knowledgeable

  • Intended Participant

    Participants are immersed in the topic and
    knowledgeable about many aspects of it.

  • Detail in Presentation

    Much complex detail, builds on shared knowledge.

4. Your Proposal

Structure your submission as answers to the following questions, so you’ll be able to insert them into the online entry form:

1. What is your presentation about? (200 words)
2. Why is your topic important to our various professions (150 words)
3. What will participants learn by attending your session? (150 words)

5. Complete the Entry Form

The submission window is now closed.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is Clarity2020: Access for All?

The conference is September 30 – October 2 at the historic Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC.

What kind of proposals are we looking for?

We’re looking for thought-provoking, practical, innovative, and engaging proposals to build our Access for All conference program. You can submit your proposal for a presentation, panel, thought-leader talk, workshop, or poster.

Don’t see an exact match for your conference idea? Please submit it anyway. We welcome a diverse collection of submissions.

When are submissions due?

Submit between January 20, 2020 and March 15, 2020 (yes, it’s a leap year!) at 11:59 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time.
If you have questions or issues, email us at We’ll respond as quickly as possible.

What makes a good proposal?

A successful proposal will:

  • showcase a unique approach or solution to one or more of the challenges of clear communication
  • describe how your project increased the accessibility of information to organizations, communities, and individuals
  • clearly link to our theme of Access for All
How do you submit?

1. Begin by thinking about a relevant proposal idea that deals with plain language and access. You may want to focus on an area in which you have been working, or an idea you think merits a larger conversation. Within each topic area, we’ve provided a description and some sample ideas of topics. (But please don’t let our suggestions limit your ideas!) As you think, consider:

a. The topic area where your proposal would best fit
b. The type of presentation you are proposing
c. The knowledge level for your audience (new to the topic, somewhat knowledgable, or highly knowledgeable)

2. Prepare a 500-word proposal structured as follows so you can insert your proposal into the format of the online entry form:

a. Description of your presentation (200 words)
b. Why it is important to our various professions (150 words)
c. What will participants learn as a result of attending your session (150 words)

3. Complete the online entry form by doing the following:

a. Fill in information about you and any others who will present with you
b. Select one of our 4 topic areas
c. Choose your type of session
d. Choose the level of participants’ knowledge you expect
e. Copy and paste each of the 3 parts of your 500-word proposal into the form
f. List 2-3 resources that have informed your presentation
g. Tell us what the audience will find compelling about your topic
h. List 3 specific takeaway points for your topic
i. List 3-5 keywords for your topic
j. Tell us if you agree to the terms of the conference

4. Submit your proposal by March 15, 2020, at 11:59 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

When will we contact you to let you know if your proposal is accepted?

We will contact you as quickly as possible, but no later than May 15, 2020, with our decision, and to let you know about next steps if your proposal was accepted. If Clarity2020 accepts your proposal, you must agree to attend the conference or to inform us immediately that you will not attend.

What is the timeline at a glance?

Items By Date in 2020

Call for Papers Opens January 20

Call for Papers Closes March 15 @ 11:59
pm U.S. EST

Decisions Made No later than May 15

Speaker Agreements Due No later than July 1

Speaker Photos and Bios Due No later than July 31

Final Powerpoints Due August 15

Conference Begins September 30