Here’s an attorney’s story of how he developed visual contracts that everyone can read -- including people that are illiterate!
Suppose you’re the farmer with workers ready to harvest the crop, but before you can start work, you must provide your workers with contracts.
But there’s a problem. You know that most of your workers cannot really read legal contracts. Do you just ask them to sign the contracts regardless? Do you explain the contract to them before they sign it and hope that they will remember all the details?
What if you had a contract that consisted of drawings that explained your workers’ roles and expectations on the job? By reviewing each drawing in sequence or as an array, your workers would be able to easily follow the progression from starting work in the field (picking) to product completion (product bagged or packaged for shipment). The visual contract would also explain to them how to ask for leave, when they will be paid and how much, etc.
You know that all your workers will be able to understand this new contract, even if some don't know how to read! Your workers will have everything they need and the information at their disposal to have a good understanding of your employment relationship.
Comic contracts are legally binding illustrated contracts written in pictures for people who cannot read.
How comic contracts started and why?
Contracts are documents written by lawyers for lawyers. They are dense, complex and hard to understand for someone who is literate and educated, and nearly impossible to understand for someone with low literacy skills. After realizing the unsatisfactory options when contracting with people with low levels of literacy, I started my journey in 2013 to develop contracts that everyone can understand, exploring the power of using comics in contracts.
In 2016, together with Jincom EHS1, a communications company that specializes in illustrating health and safety guidelines, we developed the world’s first comic contract (shown below). We define comic contracts as legally binding contracts, in which:
- Parties are represented by characters
- Terms of the agreement are captured in comics
- Parties sign the comic as their contract
In October 2016, IACCM awarded the idea as its Visionary Change – Innovation Award. Since then we have developed 12 different contracts and more than 2500 people have signed our contracts.
Together with Jincom, we formed Creative Contracts (Pty) Ltd to develop, research and advocate better ways for low-literate people to independently understand their contracts.
Our purpose is to create contracts everyone can understand, and specifically to help vulnerable people understand the contracts they are expected to sign.
For more information about Creative Contracts and the work we do, please have a look at www.creative-contracts.com and other related articles2.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert de Rooy is an independent commercial attorney based in Cape Town, South Africa. He wants to do something about the vulnerability of people when they sign contracts, and especially people that are poor and illiterate. From this, the idea of using comics as contracts was born.