A guide to alternative formats for accessibility
Alternative formats are important to consider in your design process. They will help you engage with as much of your audience as possible. A larger audience will make it more likely that people will ask for an alternative format.
1 in 5 people in the UK are disabled, and sight loss is one of the most common impairments. The need for alternative formats may be bigger than you realise.
You should have a plan for general and specific accessible alternative format requests.
There are 3 main steps to meet most general alternative format requests:
- having your content on a website that meets legal guidelines. This is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
- producing a large-print version of printed materials
- captioning videos
We recommend doing these before people ask for them. They’ll meet access needs but it will also improve the experience for others in your audience.
Alternative formats for specific needs
Specific requests may include a variety of alternative formats. This will depend on a person’s needs and the barriers they face. You might not use specific alternative formats each time as it’s often not practical. Knowing what people may ask for means you can have a plan ready for when they do.
Here are some of the alternative formats you may need to provide:
Large print documents are printed materials for people with visual impairments. Text size is generally 18pt or larger, but this size is often guided by the person.
Easy read is a way of presenting written content for people with learning disabilities. It breaks it down and makes it easier for them to understand.
Translating your content is a way to include people of all nationalities. Whether a regional language like Welsh, or international languages like Polish and Urdu.
There are several alternative formats that will make your videos more accessible.
Captions give deaf audiences and those with hearing loss access to your videos. Transcribing your video gives access to viewers who struggle with moving images.
Audio descriptions mean visually impaired viewers don’t miss anything important. British Sign Language (BSL) versions let deaf customers watch in their first language.
Braille and audio
Braille formats take time to produce so keep this in mind when planning. Braille can be expensive, so look for opportunities when investing. Producing signage could be an example of this. This reduces the cost impact by including it in a larger project, but also uses it for the long-term
Audio formats can also take time to produce but are great for people with visual impairments. They can also include those who struggle with text content.
Alternative paper colours
You can reduce glare by using different paper colours. For instance, by selecting a warm white over a bright white.
Be prepared to make adjustments
You won’t need to produce all materials in all the formats listed above. But if people ask, you have to make adjustments legally. You can plan for any requests by having some budget ready. Also make sure you have suppliers, and you know the costs and production times.
Getting alternative formats right is about possibility and planning. You’re able to make sure that as many people as possible get to see, hear and take in your content.