Alternate Formats

There are occasions where an individual will request an "alternate format" document. Alternate format is medium and/or methodology that allows people with disabilities to access information in a manner other than how the format was originally delivered. Ideally, this will be requested in advance by the participant as an accommodation

When someone requests materials in an alternative format, it is necessary to discuss with them which format would be best suited to their needs. There are formats that one person with a disability can use, for example large print for a person with a visual impairment, that another person with the same or similar disability might find unusable.

Alternative formats may include

  • Electronic
  • Braille
  • Large Print
  • Audio
  • Transcript
  • Plain Text

Electronic format is an electronic file of your document or presentation so that it can be accessed and read using a screen reader or other assistive technology. Electronic files can be Word, PowerPoint, html or other formats. You must be cautious to be sure that the document being provided electronically is accessible for the intended user. One of the great benefits of electronic format is that the user can adjust it to their individual needs by zooming in on it, using a screen reader to have it read to them or using a refreshable braille display to read it. See the Accessibility Guide web page for the type of material you are considering.

Braille is a "system of making raised dots on paper to form letters and words that are read by the blind with their fingertips." -National Federation for the Blind

Braille documents can be typed using an embosser or printed from an electronic document using a specialized printer. There are commercial companies that provide this service for a fee. Advance notice is usually required, especially on large orders.

Large Print is the reproduction of a document in print larger than would be used by those in the general population with normal vision. Generally, 18-point font in Arial Black should be acceptable if preparing documents ahead of time. If large print is specifically requested, discuss what the individual's preferences are, as this depends on the severity and type of their vision loss. Enlarging using a photocopier is not an acceptable alternative as it can cause blurring or graininess to occur.

Audio is another common alternative to written documents. This could be an audio recording of a person or computer program reading the materials and explaining any graphics. Some users may prefer an electronic version of the document to be able to use a screen reader and navigate the document themselves and have it read to them, while others may prefer a recorded version of the document. There are commercial companies that provide this service.

Transcripts are a written version of audio file, presentation, radio broadcast, or a web cast. These should be verbatim of the audio, as well as descriptions of any important sound effects and the transcript should be in plain text.

Plain Text is a version that is void of any formatting, including bold, italics and images. It can be an important alternative to documents that have pictures or graphs or an inaccessible document format. It's imperative that text descriptions of images are included in the text of the document. If the original document has good "alt text" it can replace the images in the text only version. For more information, see Accessibility Guide Images and Graphics page