Welcome to the revised Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service - A Universal Design Approach. This Toolkit replaces the 2017 version to align with changes in related legislation and terminology - see the 'Learn More' box, below, for further information.

The guidance in this Toolkit can be used to inform the design and procurement of customer communications in the Public Service, and as a support to those working in contact with the public. It will also be useful to other organisations. The Toolkit is based on a Universal Design approach, promoted by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) at the National Disability Authority (NDA).

Universal Design is about creating an environment that can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

(In part synopsis from the Disability Act 2005)

This revision was undertaken alongside the work of actions under Our Public Service 2020, (OPS2020), the Government reform framework for development and innovation. This Toolkit links to the works of actions two and three, which refer to improving services for our customers and making services more accessible to all, and operate under the pillar Delivering for Our Public. You can find more information on these and other actions under OPS2020 at

In this toolkit you will find sections on the design of Written, Spoken & Signed, and Digital Communication. It is intended that this toolkit be used in the Public Service for planning, training and informing staff and contractors. The Toolkit sections contain selected design guidance, examples, tips, checklists and links to learn more. Parts from relevant sections can be used separately and can be made available at service locations. The last section has Question Sets to help check your customer service communication.

Development and procurement of communication designs should be guided by an awareness of the following sequence about how people interact with information:

1.Access (approach and perceive)

2.Understand (comprehend and decide)

3.Use (act or react)

Also, it is important to consider that the context of the physical and social environment affects how they interact with information.

Communication should always be provided in more than one format.

This toolkit complements the Plain English Style Guide for the Public Service developed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in partnership with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA). Plain English is a way of presenting information that helps someone understand it the first time they read or hear it. Increasingly, 'plain language' is being promoted as an alternative to 'plain English'.

Plain English Mark

The Plain English Mark (above) is a respected quality mark awarded for documents and web text that meet international plain English guidelines. NALA sees this Toolkit as an exemplar of plain English in language, structure and design, and an excellent resource for those working in the public sector. The Toolkit earned the award for 'Best Use of Plain English by an Organisation' at the NALA Plain English Awards in 2019.

Learn more

Visit the website for the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) provides plain English Guidelines.

Universal Design in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities covers goods, products, facilities, technologies and services to ensure full, equal and unrestricted access for all, including persons with disabilities and current and potential users.

The European Accessibility Act specifies accessibility requirements for certain products and services.

Directive (EU) 2016/2102 places obligations on public bodies to ensure that their websites and mobile apps are fully accessible. The directive is due to be adopted into Irish legislation.

The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 was signed into law on 24 December 2017. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is now an official language of Ireland. Under the Act, public bodies will be required to prepare and implement ISL action plans, and to provide free ISL interpretation to people using or seeking access to statutory entitlements and services.