Accessibility Guide: Alternate Format

There are occasions where an individual will request an "alternate format" as an alternative to the materials being provided. Ideally, these would be requested in advance.

"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." - WebAim

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 disability might find unusable.

Alternative formats may include

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

Electronic format is a diskette, CD, or e-mail with 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 format. You must be cautious to be sure that the document being provided electronically is accessible for the intended user. 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 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 usually not an acceptable alternative if electronic versions are available as it can cause blurring or graininess to occur.

Audio is another common alternative to written documents. This could be a recording of a person or computer program reading the materials and explaining any graphics. 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 Word Documents page

Related Accessibility Guide pages


Images and Graphs

Power Point

Word Documents


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