How to make information easy to use for people with disabilities.
The basic requirement is to let the public and your employees know that you will make written information and other forms of communication accessible, upon request. You could include a note on your website or promotional materials, create a sign or post a notice on a bulletin board.
If a person with a disability asks for accessible information or requires communication supports, work with them to figure out how to meet their needs.
You don’t have to have accessible formats on hand, but you need to provide the information in a timely manner.
You cannot charge more for accessible formats than you do for other formats.
In some cases you don’t need to make information accessible if:
- it is not possible technically to convert a document to an accessible format (you must explain why and provide a short summary of it instead)
- the information comes from another organization
- you don’t control the information
- the information is found on products or product labels
How to Comply
The requirements apply to 4 types of information:
1. Emergency and Public Safety Information
- emergency plans and procedures (e.g., tour boat instructions on how to use a lifejacket)
- maps, warning signs and evacuation routes (e.g., a map pointing out emergency exits)
- information about alarms or other emergency alerts (e.g., procedure that explains what to do if you hear a hotel fire alarm)
- Maria works for a small, family-run motel. The fire escape procedures are posted on the back of every door. When a guest with vision loss asks for this information, Maria talks to the guest about his needs, and walks him through the evacuation procedure.
- A property management company gives all new tenants a guide to its emergency procedures. It’s large, complex and full of legal language. Kamela has a learning disability and tells her landlord that she doesn’t understand it. The property manager meets with Kamela and explains the procedures in clear language to make them easier to understand.
- Ravi works at a wilderness tour company that takes people on hikes. His job is to review emergency procedures such as what to do if you get lost. Serena has an anxiety disorder and gets anxious in group learning situations. She tells Ravi, who offers to go over the procedures with her personally.
- Before customers start to play, Stan’s paintball and laser tag company shows a short video on what to do if someone gets hurt. A customer with hearing loss asks for an accessible format, so Stan gives her a transcript of what’s said in the video.
2. Feedback Processes for Employees and the Public
Instead of providing only one method for feedback (e.g., hand-written letters) be ready to receive feedback in other ways (e.g. over the telephone, by email, questionnaires or comment cards).
- When Jerry bought a new computer, the store clerk asked him if someone could call him for a survey in a couple weeks. Jerry is Deaf and prefers communicating by email, so the clerk sent him an email with a link to their online survey.
- Shauna works in the office of a large grocery store. Every six months, the store’s human resources department asks employees to complete a survey about their work experiences. However, Shauna prefers communicating verbally because she is blind. To accommodate Shauna’s needs, a human resources worker calls Shauna to ask her the questions on the survey.
3. Employee Information
You must provide accessible workplace information when an employee with a disability asks for it. This includes:
- any information that employees need to perform their jobs
- general information that is available to all employees at work (e.g., company newsletters, bulletins about company policies and health and safety information)
- information about emergency procedures
To find out what you need to do, talk to your employees with disabilities and ask them what would help make information accessible to them. The format you choose must meet the needs of the employee.
For example: Suzy has low vision and does not use Braille. Instead, she uses a screen reader for text, so her employer sends her the monthly staff newsletter in a structured Word file that works with her reader.
4. Other Public Information
This includes all print documents and information provided to the public on web sites and handheld devices.
- Rabiha runs a small family restaurant. A blind customer calls to make a reservation and asks for a braille menu. Rabiha doesn’t have braille menus, but the customer says he also uses a screen reader. Rabiha mentions that the menu is available online in a format that a screen reader can access. He says that will work just fine (see aMenu, Accessible Restaurant Menus.
- Safa runs a company that makes cardboard boxes. One of Safa’s customers is Deaf. Instead of calling to place an order and confirm delivery details, Safa gives the customer her cell phone number so he can text the information to her instead.
Types of Accessible Formats
- HTML and Microsoft Word
- accessible audio formats
- large print
- text transcripts of visual and audio information
Types of Communication Supports
- reading the written information aloud to the person directly
- exchanging hand-written notes (or providing a note taker or communication assistant)
- captioning or audio description
- assistive listening systems
- augmentative and alternative communication methods and strategies (e.g., the use of letter, word or
- picture boards, and devices that speak out)
- sign language interpretation and intervenor services
- repeating, clarifying or restating information
Tools to Make Information Accessible
Other tools to improve the accessibility of information include:
- American Sign Language (ASL): Uses hand shapes, positions, facial expressions and body movements to convey meaning to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Braille: Is a tactile system of raised dots representing letters or a combination of letters. It is used by people who are blind or deafblind and is produced using braille transcription software.
- Captioning: Uses subtitles to convey the words spoken in a video. They usually appear on the bottom of the screen.
- Digital Accessible Information Systems (DAISY): Is an audio format for people who have trouble with
- print — including limited vision and learning disabilities like dyslexia. DAISY digital talking books are like audiobooks, but include navigation features to help readers skip forward or back through the material.
- Screen reader software: Use a speech-synthesizer to read text from a computer screen or convert it to braille. The information must be formatted properly (in a structured electronic file) for the screen reader to recognize it.
- Structured electronic files: Includes information about how elements of the document are formatted (e.g., titles, section headings). They can be created using “styles” in most standard word processing programs. Documents created as structured electronic files are easier to convert to accessible formats (including braille, DAISY and web pages) and allow screen readers to navigate the information effectively.