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Which Accessible Format Should You Choose?

March 20, 2019

There are many accessible formats which can be produced, including braille, large print, Easy Read, audio files (audiotape, digital audio files, for example MP3 format, CD), DAISY and accessible electronic formats.


For many purchasers, deciding which accessible formats to produce or offer can be difficult.  Everyone wants to be able to provide a good service to people who are print impaired and perhaps in an ideal world every document would be available in any accessible format, but this is impractical for many reasons, not least of which is cost.  The truth is that there are several factors to consider and making good choices will help the end-user, while keeping the overall cost down:

The target audience – if the target group is young people for example, a well-constructed accessible electronic format may be sufficient. As is true for the rest of the population, young visually impaired people are the most likely to be technologically adept!

Length of document – some formats lend themselves better to shorter documents. Braille, for example, takes up four times as much space as standard print and can be very cumbersome for longer documents.Use of the document – is the document intended to be used once or kept for reference? Reference documents need to be more robust than single-use documents and need to be easy to navigate. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) is a good accessible format and technical standard for reference documents.

Location – will the recipient be accessing the information at home or away from home? If documents need to be taken to and accessed at a meeting for example, size and access method are important. Furthermore, if directions to the venue are included, will the format be accessible while on the move

Individual preferences – If you will regularly be producing an accessible format for a specific individual it's worth finding out their preferences.  However, it’s worth noting that this may vary depending on the type of correspondence:  braille for letters or statements and audio/electronic for lengthy reports, for example.

Timescale – If something is time sensitive, hopefully you will have been able to plan your accessible formats to get them out with the standard print, but where this is not possible you will have to consider what can realistically be done within your timescale. 

Remember that you can make “alternative formats available on request” rather than automatically producing them, however this offer of additional formats must be stated clearly in large print on the document, and if you do get requests you have to be prepared to meet your obligations in an effective and timely manner.

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