How to create alternative formats

Providing alternative format materials allows all persons, inclusive of all abilities, to access the information they need. There are over 3 million Canadians who are diagnosed with a print disability and cannot access print the standard way (CELA, 2017); therefore, it is good practice to offer alternative formats, such as electronic, Braille, audio, and large print versions of educational materials.

Alternative Formats can be created a number of ways. In most cases, the original print version of the text is scanned and then converted into one or more file formats. Once converted to an electronic text (e-text), it can then be read aloud on the computer, translated to Braille, or converted to an audio file.

How to create e-text from printed text

To create an electronic text from paper based text, use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software programs and apps (turns a picture of text into actual text) and scanner are required. If you are scanning larger volumes of paper, consider using an automatic document feeder or a high-speed scanner. For shorter materials, using a mobile device or tablet to capture the text is a viable alternative. It is important to note that OCR software is never 100% accurate and proofreading and editing is recommended.

For more information on the various electronic formats such as Word document, Portable Document Formats (PDFs), PowerPoint and Excel Spreadsheet, visit our page on E-text for general guidelines when creating these formats and how to make these documents accessible.

How to create braille

Braille can be produced through a Braille machine such as a Perkins Brailler or by using a Braille embosser. Using the Braille embosser requires the use of Braille translation software which will take your original document and converts it into Braille code before sending it to the embosser for printing. 

When needing to provide a document in Braille, consider the following:

  • Are there pictures and tables included in the text? There are limits to what can be converted to Braille. The pictures, tables and other visual elements of a print document will require descriptive text before the Braille production.
  • Do you require Grade 1 (uncontracted) or Grade 2 (contracted), Braille? Not all Braille readers know and use contracted Braille
  • It is unlikely for schools to own a Braille embosser and that is why most Braille production is outsourced. To learn about who can provide you with Braille, visit our page on Who Are the Alternative Format Providers?
  • If you are considering purchasing a Braille embosser with the translation software, it is important to determine what the demands are for creating text in Braille format. Braille embossers and the software are quite expensive.  Conversion of a text file to Braille also requires time (and skill) in order to ensure accuracy. You need to become somewhat proficient in using the equipment, Braille transcribing, and Braille proofing and editing.

How to create an audio or DAISY file

Creating Audio files

There are two ways to produce audio files:

  1. Human Read Audio: Using your own voice which will require a computer with a sound card and a good quality microphone; or
  2. Computer Generated Audio: Using specialized software that converts e-text files to audio files. A synthesized voice is used instead of human voice. The cost of this software is relatively inexpensive. 

Take into account the following considerations before deciding how you would like to create the audio file:

Human Read Audio Considerations:

  • Includes inflection that only a real person can provide
  • Human readers can accurately describe tables, charts, and figures
  • Math and chemistry formulas are read for easy comprehension
  • Can be time intensive to produce

Computer Generated Audio:

  • Audio files can be produced with both male and female voices in most languages
  • Rate and pitch of speech can be set to the listeners’ preference
  • Able to navigate by chapter
  • While synthesized voices have improved quite significantly, it can be distracting to the listener
  • Typically doesn’t speak math and chemistry formulas well
  • For best results, computer-generated audio must be produced from e-text that is very clean, i.e., content that is divided into discrete pages.

Creating DAISY audio files

DAISY audio files are created by using a DAISY authoring tool. Examples of authoring tools can be found on the DAISY Consortium’s website. The cost of this software will vary in price.

Consider the following if deciding on whether to create a DAISY file:

  • Able to navigate by page, section, sentence, heading or chapter
  • Easily read by screen readers
  • Text can be selected
  • Can be enlarged on screen for those with low vision
  • Require less computer space than traditional audiobooks
  • Can be tagged using alternative text descriptions
  • Requires some computer skills

How to create large print

Large print is created using word processing software or app and printer. Visit our page on Large Print for considerations when creating large print formats. When creating a large print document for someone, it is good practice to ask what size of font they prefer. It is also important not to use a photocopier’s zoom feature to create large print documents. Photocopying can result in poor print quality and can cut off text making the document harder to read.

How it relates to the AODA legislation

How to Create Alternative Formats relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Standards, specifically some of the following sections in the Information and Communication Standards:

In the Ontario public education system, the Alternate Education Resources of Ontario service of the Provincial Schools Branch provides alternate formats like DAISY files to help schools support their students.

Additional resources for training educators can be found on AccessForward’s website under Training Modules and Additional Training Resources, for example Training on Accessible Course Delivery and Instruction.

AODA Significance

  1. Learning about how to create alternative formats assists educators with using inclusive approaches to teach, communicate and share information. Alternative formats refers to information that is communicated in a manner other than standard text, including Electronic Text, Audio, Captioning, and Braille. 
  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.

Additional Resources

To learn how this section relates to the core principles of the AODA Customer Service regulation, visit the AODA page on SNOW.

To learn of ways to innovate, develop, and design for accessibility, visit OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) website and the IDRC’s floe project website.