With the explosion of information technologies available today, there is a high demand for educational materials to be provided beyond the conventional printed text. Knowledge and proficiency in using the internet, digital file sharing, and other technologies has led students to access information in various ways. Rather than offering educational materials in print only, providing alternative format materials allows all persons, inclusive of those with disabilities, to access the information they need. There are over 3 million people who are diagnosed with a print disability and cannot access print the standard way (IELA, 2011); therefore, it is good practice to offer alternative formats, such as electronic, Braille, audio and large print versions educational materials.
Alternative vs. Accessible formats
Everyone’s needs are different. Educators and academic organizations should not only strive to provide alternative formats for their students, but also assess if the alternative format provided are accessible for each student. The key is to understand the needs of each student who cannot access standard print, and try to find an alternative format that meet their requirements. This will help students acquire the same information as their peers and support their educational growth.
Why provide alternative formats?
Equality: Everyone has a right to access public information. When persons with a disability are unable to gain access to a document due to the inflexible format it is provided in, they are being denied their right to access. It also complies with AODA’s Accessible Information and Communications requirements which mandate that educational and training resources and materials are made accessible.
For more information on alternative formats, click on the questions below:
Who uses alternative formats? - describes the benefits of using these in the educational context.
What are alternative formats? - provides information on various types of alternative formats, including Braille, large print, e-text, and audio files
How to create alternative formats? - presents the process of creating various types of alternative formats
Who are the alternative format providers? - offers informational resources on alternative format providers
What does it mean to be conversion ready? - contains information on the importance of conversion ready documents.
IELA (2011). Library and Archives Canada. Initiative for Equitable Library Access.
Alternative formats relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Regulation
1. Alternative formats refers to the ways in which information is communicated other than through standard text, including Electronic Text, Audio, Captioning and Braille. Learning about who uses alternative formats and how these are used, assists educators with using inclusive approaches to teach, communicate and share information.
2. People interact, learn and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
3. The AODA legislates that educational institutions and its employees know how to produce accessible or conversion ready versions of textbooks and printed material. Educators, teachers and staff are to learn about accessible course delivery and instruction and be knowledgeable at interacting and communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternate formats.