Advancing Inclusivity in Public Education

Content and UX Writing
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Skills & Software
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Content Areas
Education, Public Resources, Accessibility & Inclusivity
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UX Design, Content & UX Writing, Graphic Design, UX Research
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Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Acrobat


The Milwaukee Public School's Head Start program grappled with low completion rates and accessibility hurdles in its enrollment process. Formal language and vague directions were barriers to families with low literacy levels and to non-native English speakers, compromising the program's outreach to its intended audience.


A overhaul of the most problematic form. This redesign focused on enhancing language, tone, and question clarity. Personas, crafted from interviews with Head Start families and the resulting findings of this research, directed these changes.


Following the revisions, both user feedback and form completion rates showed improvement. The updated form now better serves the needs of families with low literacy levels and those who are non-native English speakers, boosting the program's overall efficacy and reach.


What are the biggest obstacles to completing the enrollment process for the MPS Head Start program? After interviews with hundreds of families and dozens of employees, these were the key findings.

Language matters

MPS' enrollment forms are hard to understand due to their formal, academic language. People prefer forms that speak to them conversationally, not like a dissertation.

Tone matters

The enrollment process asks questions that make some families feel judged. Being judged causes people to instinctively lean away from engaging with the process.

Instructions matter

Families report not understanding how to complete some forms due to vague instructions and opaque questions.

These findings led to determining the objectives and scope of this project.


Target form with most complaints, Family Strength and Needs Assessment

• More conversational language and sentence length

Empathetic writing tone

• Improve or add instructions

Content and UX updates

What changed about the way the form speaks to families? And how did it change the way it instructed them?

Section from old version of MPS enrollment form.

Two sections that benefited a great deal are the health care and mental health questions, seen above. In this original version, they're formal, lack empathy, and don't include clear instructions.

Updated version of questions 3 and 4 from Head Start enrollment form

The updated form simplifies language, adds empathy to the writing1, and adds a question for the reader to answer.

1 e.g. "We do not have access to medical or dental care." vs. "We don't have access to medical or dental care right now." This shift to the problem being temporary gives more space for the reader to have ownership over the issue, instead of an issue bearing down on them.

Microcopy Examples

What changed about the way the form approaches microcopy?

Inclusive language

"Male Role Model"

This updated phrasing addressed a common issue on MPS enrollment forms, the use of non-inclusive  language, especially in section headers and instructions. The phrase "Male/Father Figure" was updated to "Male Role Model", which both simplifies the phrase and improves its inclusivity.

Introductory instructions

"At Head Start, we're here for your whole family, not just the child you're enrolling. Please let us know more about your family so we can understand how to best support you!"

This updated passage improves upon the original, which was clunky and formal. The original passage read "We support your whole family, not just your enrolled child. Please help us to get to know your family better and ways we can support your needs and interests."

This passage is the first thing the reader sees after filling out their name at the top of the form. The revised version is more conversational, friendlier, and more inclusive.


Finding out what works and what doesn't.


Participants: Head Start families and employees

Testing environment: Conducted in-person testing sessions to emulate environment of real-world use

Tasks performed: Readers asked to go through form and respond to interview questions about their experience

Success metrics: Qualitative feedback


Positive feedback

• Ease of understanding: Readers found that it was much easier to comprehend

• Instructions: Readers reported better understanding how to complete the form than with the previous version

Areas for improvement

Fewer questions: Some people requested fewer questions to shorten the form

• Volunteering section concern: A few readers expressed a want for a wider array of choices for the volunteering section1

1 E.g. "I don't have time to volunteer, but I am interested in doing it. That's not an option here."

Iteration, Refinement, and Next Steps

How has it been changed in response to feedback? And what comes next?

Improved answers


The tested form included the answer "I'm not interested in volunteering." This was revised to "I'm not interested in volunteering, or do not have time."

Next steps

Expanding impact

Translate into Milwaukee's commonly spoken languages like Spanish, Karen, French, et. al.

Other Head Start enrollment forms

In order to continue improving enrollment completion rates and decrease reader frustration, the same approach taken for the Family Strengths and Needs Assessment needs to be taken for the rest of the enrollment paperwork.

Conclusion & Reflection

What were the key takeaways? And what did I learn from the process?

Key takeaways

Improved accessibility: Created content that resonates with Head Start families, making it easier for them to understand and engage

Responsiveness to feedback: Continuously adapted the content based on user feedback to ensure alignment with the target demographic's needs and concerns

Empathetic content design: Gained a deeper appreciation for the power of language in connecting with users and recognizing the responsibility of content design


This process was an exploration of how language can connect or disconnect us from essential services. This project wasn't just about honing my content and UX writing skills; it was a humbling realization of the impact of my words on others' access to education. It deepened my appreciation for the responsibility we have as content designers to build bridges with our words instead of walls.