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Make Information Accessible

Everyone has the right to access public information. If a person cannot access
a public document because of a disability, they are being denied their right
to access.

What Are Alternate Formats?

Alternate formats are simply other ways of publishing information beyond traditional
printing. Some of these formats can be used by everyone while others
are designed to address specific user needs.

Why Do We Need To Provide Information In Other Formats?

Some people cannot read or use regular print because of their disability. This
can include people who are blind, people who have low vision, an intellectual
or other cognitive disability, and some people with physical disabilities who
cannot hold publications or turn pages.

Other people cannot access or have difficulties accessing the Internet. Still
others have difficulties watching or hearing video presentations.

Providing alternate formats will ensure that all clients can access your information.
It’s not only good for your business, it’s required by law. The Ontario
Human Rights Code establishes, in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms, the principle of access by persons with disabilities to
goods, services, facilities and employment.

The Code prohibits not only overt discrimination, but also practices that are
discriminatory in their effect. Under the Code, to refuse a request for information
in an accessible format could be considered a discriminatory practice and could
make you liable for complaint.

Accessibility requirements are a component of good communications planning.
It is important to consider the communication needs of your whole audience when
preparing your materials. Advanced planning and preparation of materials in
multiple formats can greatly reduce the time required to respond to individual
requests. This results in improved customer service, and makes particular sense
when producing print or multimedia materials that are targeted at a population
that is likely to have multiple format needs, such as seniors. Many seniors
favour material in large print, and people with a hearing loss benefit from
captioning on video presentations or video streaming.

Think about all the forms that sending and receiving information can take.
There’s electronic, verbal, audio, or written to name a few. How can you
accessibility in communicating with clients, suppliers and the

Alternate Formats

Here are some of the alternatives available to help make information more accessible:

Large Print

An alternative format for people who have low vision. Large print materials
should be prepared with a font (print) size that is 16 to 20 points or larger.
This can be created in-house by using word processing software, or can be outsourced
to a vendor.

Electronic Text

Used with computer synthetic voice technology (screen reading software) that
enables people who are blind, have low vision (such as seniors) or who have
learning disabilities to hear a spoken translation of what others see on the
monitor. When an electronic form of a document is placed on a CD, it should
be labelled in large, high-contrast print and Braille.


An alternative format for people who are blind or deaf-blind. It is a tactile
system of raised dots representing letters or a combination of letters of
the alphabet. Braille is produced using Braille transcription software.

Audio Format

An alternative format for people with a vision, intellectual or developmental,
or learning disability; and are unable to read print. Labels should be prepared
in large, high-contrast print and Braille.


Captioning translates the audio portion of a video presentation by way of subtitles,
or captions, which usually appear on the bottom of the screen. Captioning
may be closed or open. Closed captions can only be seen on a television screen
that is equipped with a device called a closed caption decoder. Open captions
are “burned on” a video and appear whenever the video is shown. Captioning
makes television programs, films and other visual media with sound accessible
to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.


Windowing enables people who are deaf to read by means of a sign language interpreter
what others hear in a video presentation or broadcast. The interpreter
appears in a corner or “window” in the screen translating spoken word
to sign language. Windowing may include open or closed captioning.

Descriptive Video Service (DVS)

DVS provides descriptive narration of key visual elements – such as the
action, characters, locations, costumes and sets – without interfering
with dialog
or sound effects, making television programs, films, home videos and other visual
media accessible for people with vision disabilities.

Assistive Technologies

People with disabilities may use one or more of the following assistive technologies
in communicating with others or in getting information:

  • speech input and synthesized speech output.
  • screen readers, screen magnifiers, screen projectors.
  • audio recorded information.
  • text telephones.
  • adjustable signal level and tone on audio devices.
  • volume control.
  • hands-free data entry and response selection.
  • intelligent word prediction software.
  • alternative pointing devices, such as mouth sticks.
  • keyboard controllers.
  • book holders and page turners.
  • touchscreens and
  • standardized icons.


Although many people who are deaf or hard of hearing use e-mail and pagers
to give and receive information, TTY (teletypewriter), is still widely used.
Those who use wireless messaging pager systems can send and receive e-mail,
TTY messages, faxes, text-to-speech and speech-to-text messages, and a text
message to any one-way alphanumeric pager. More cellular phones are now compatible
with TTY and hearing aids, and as they become less expensive and easier
to use, their use will be more widespread.

Bell Canada Relay Service (BCRS) lets TTY users and hearing people talk to
one another by phone with the help of specially trained BCRS operators. Users
dictate to the operator the conversation, which is then relayed to the TTY phone.
TTY conversation is then relayed to the regular phone user. This service
is confidential and the only cost is any long-distance charges that would regularly
apply. Local calls using this service are free.

The World Wide Web

Providing easy access to information through accessible websites benefits everyone,

  • people with disabilities.
  • seniors.
  • consumers living in areas that do not have access to high-speed
  • people who have difficulty reading and writing.
  • people who speak English as a Second Language and
  • tourists and people living in multilingual societies.

When you are designing your website, remember that some people use assistive
technology to help them use the Internet.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The W3C is an international organization. One of
its primary goals is to develop standards, protocols and guidelines to ensure
that the benefits of web-based information are accessible to all people, whatever
their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture,
geographical location, or physical or mental ability.

More information on guidelines and suggestions for making websites accessible,
appears on the
W3C website at

Website Testing

Is your website accessible? You can find out by contacting a company that specializes
in creating websites that meet accessibility guidelines. Be careful of companies that claim to be able to make websites accessible but cant. Their own site must be accessible and they should be able to give you links to work they have done that is also accessible. Use the links below to check their work. Remember that these are only tools and only one aspect of testing for web accessibility, you will still need a web accessibility professional with valid experience to analyze and implement the guidelines properly.

Testing Tools

W3C Validator

This tool will allow you to check your web pages for valid code and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) which is needed to pass Priority 2 of the W3C Guidelines 2.0

Reproduced from, edited and formatted for greater accessibility.