Accessibility Hub

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What are Alternate Formats?

These are formats that present printed or electronic documents in different formats in order to ensure everyone has equal access to the information which is required under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). Persons with disabilities often use adaptive/assistive technology that require an alternate/accessible format so the technology can access the information in a specific manner for the user. This can include people who:

  • are blind or have low vision
  • have an intellectual or other cognitive disability
  • cannot hold publications or turn pages because of a physical disability
  • have difficulties accessing information on the Internet, or
  • have difficulties watching or hearing video presentations.

It is best to plan ahead and to prepare your information in an an accessible manner. The Accessibility Hub has developed many "How-to" guides to assist you in this process. For example, if a MS Word document is planned, formatted, and structured correctly in the beginning, it will ensure the file is not only accessible but can also be converted into a variety of different alternate formats (e.g. PDF or braille) while retaining its accessibility features (sometimes referred to as conversion ready).It is important for Faculty to determine early what course material they will be using in the upcoming academic year. Students registered with the Disability Services Office (DSO) may require these course materials in alternate format prepared by Library Services for Students with Disabilities located in the Adaptive Technology Centre (ATC) in Stauffer Library. Processes such as this may take time, either weeks or months, so proper planning and preparation can reduce the response time to individual requests.

Types of Accessible Formats

Braille: A tactile system of cells and dots.

Closed Captioning: 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.

Described Video:  With described video (also known as descriptive audio) all relevant action scenes and on-screen text (such as credits) in video, TV programming, Web-based multi-media or movies is described and read by a narrator.

Digital Audio: Can be in MP3 format, with human voice, no navigational features or Daisy which stands for Digital Accessible Information System. The DAISY/NISO Standard is the Digital Talking Book (DTB) specification for accessible digital textbooks. This format includes ability to find and go to specific chapters and pages.

ePUB: ePUB is an electronic book format that has become the industry standard, allowing eBooks that use this format to be read on a wide variety of e-Readers.

E-Text: Electronic Text is a general term for any document that is read in digital form, but especially a document that is mainly text. The most common four file types of electronic formats used in the education setting are: Microsoft Word, Portable Document Format (PDF), PowerPoint, and Excel Spreadsheets.

Large Print: Print enlargement on paper, minimum 18 point font size.

Adaptive Technology

“Adaptive Technology refers to any item, piece of equipment, or product system, modified or customized, that is used to increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities to achieve greater independence.”
(29 U.S.C. Sec 22202)

Queen's students registered with the Disability Services Office (DSO) are given access to The Adaptive Technology Centre (ATC). The ATC contains technology and services that enable students with disabilities to study, research, and access library and course materials.The following is a list of some adaptive available to students:

Text-to-Speech: Software that allows students to scan their texts into the computer, which converts the text into a digital format and uses a speech synthesizer to read it aloud.  (e.g. Kurzweil 3000, Read&Write)

Voice-to-Text: Software that allows users to speak into a microphone while the computer transcribes their voice into a digital format. (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking)

Screen Readers: Software that reads the computer screen aloud to students, replacing the graphical user interface with auditory interface.  (e.g. JAWS, VoiceOver)

Mind-Mapping: Software that assists students in the brain-storming process and thought organization which assists the writing process. (e.g. Inspiration)

Screen Magnifiers: Software that allows students to magnify the size of documents and other software applications that appears on the screen. (e.g. ZoomText, VisoVoice)

CCTV: Closed captioned television systems enlarge print texts using a camera and standard computer monitor. (e.g. OPTELEC Clearview)

Writing Tools: Software that assist students with word prediction, grammar, and spelling errors in documents. (e.g. Ginger)

Digital Recorders and Smartpens: tools to assist with note-taking in lectures. (e.g. Livescribe Smartpen)

Tactile Image Enhancer: This assists persons who are blind or with low vision. Images are printed on special paper and run through a thermal enhancer. This causes the paper to rise in the areas where the ink is located, thus creating a raised form of the image on the paper.

Refreshable Braille Displays: are electronic devices used to read text tactually that is typically displayed visually on a computer monitor. The refreshable braille display is connected to the computer by a serial or USB cable and produces braille output (with small plastic or metal pins that move up and down to display the braille characters) for the reader.

Adaptive Technology truly "opens the door" to life for people with disabilities. Moreover, it helps to compensate for the effects of disability such as loss of speech, paralysis, and visual impairment, cognitive problems, in an active and positive manner. It places the focus not on what is lost but on what is possible...what is constructive...what can be done!"
(Buning, 2008)