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Accessible Formats

Accessible formats, sometimes called alternate formats, are ways of presenting printed, written, or visual material so that people who do not read print can access it. People who do not read print may:

  • Be blind or low vision
  • Have a learning disability that affects reading
  • Have a physical disability and be unable to hold or turn pages

Enhancing the Accessibility of Technology in the Classroom: This downloadable handout will provide you with basic steps, instructions and resources to enhancing the accessibility of technology commonly used in the classroom

View File (word document)

Accessible formats are necessary when the standard text or presentation cannot be read or heard by the user.

Examples of standard text include:

  • Electronic documents without accessibility features used (e.g. Standard PDF)
  • Podcasts that have not been transcribed
  • Videos without captioning
  • Print documents in hardcopy
  • Microform (microfiche, microfilm, microcard) documents

A common myth is that electronic documents are always accessible, however, this is not always the case. For example, a PDF can be:

  • An image file (similar to a JPEG) and therefore completely inaccessible to screen-reader technology;
  • A partially accessible file with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) having been run on it it but missing markup or tags;
  • Or a more fully accessible file with all markups and tags.

Common Accessible Formats

  • Large Print (font size 16 or greater)
  • Braille (printed tactile documents)
  • Audio
    • MP3
    • Daisy (Audio only)
    • Audio description for multimedia
  • Electronic
    • Microsoft Word or other processor files
    • PDF
    • Daisy (audio and text)
    • HTML
    • Close captioned for multimedia

Creating Accessible Documents from Scratch

The Faculty of Science and the AccessMac Program (Equity and Inclusion Office) have collaborated to create an extensive and simplified webinar series that will guide learners through the various accessibility features and formatting techniques for Microsoft and Pressbooks products, and which is based on a set of 7 Core Digital Accessibility Skills that are applicable to any word processing software.

These 7 Core Skills include:

  • Formatting proper Heading Styles
  • Accessible fonts (styles, sizes, etc.)
  • Accessible links and creating descriptive hyperlinks
  • Testing for appropriate colour contrast
  • Writing and applying Alternative Text for visuals
  • Formatting columns and tables
  • Applying captioning to video and audio media

Learn More About How to Adopt These Skills Below:

Accessible Digital Content Training:

To access full text outlines for creating accessible documents and presentations, please access the Faculty of Social Sciences’ training on:

Introduction to Remediating PDFs

One of the most common inaccessible formats, mentioned already, is a standard or untagged PDF. Please access the resources above to develop accessible, text-based formats, which can be exported to accessible PDF following instructions detailed in the above training.

For an introduction on how to convert current, inaccessible PDF formats into more accessible formats, please access the below resources developed by Library Accessibility Services:

If your need for PDF remediation support extends beyond a self-directed Accessibility 101, please consider contacting the AccessMac Program, access@mcmaster.ca, to discuss further options.

Additional Resources