are Alternative Formats? How Do They Apply to Programs and Services?
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In addition to physical and attitudinal barriers, people
with disabilities also encounter barriers in the format in which
information is presented. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities
Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federally
conducted and assisted programs along with programs of state and
local government are required to make their programs accessible
to people with disabilities as well as provide effective communication.
Effective communication means to communicate with people with disabilities
as effectively as communicating with others. Alternative formats
are auxiliary aids used to effectively communicate printed information
to people who are blind or have low vision or people who have other
functional impairments. Alternative formats include Braille, large
print, audio, and computer disk.
|An alternate brochure used at the Lincoln Home
NHP is formatted with Braille at the top of the page and equivalent
text in the center of the page. A swatch of tapestry used
in the restoration is attached at the bottom of the page giving
visitors the opportunity to feel the fabric.
Individuals with disabilities have varying needs and this
should be considered while providing alternate formats. According
to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Subpart E -
Communications), "the public entity must provide an opportunity
for individuals with disabilities to request the auxiliary aids
and services of their choice. This expressed choice shall be given
primary consideration by the public entity." For example, a facility
may have only provided tour information in audio format. Although
many Braille users can also use audio, Braille may still be the
person's expressed choice because it may be what they typically
use, it needs no additional equipment and it enables a higher degree
of independence. Thus the request for tour information in Braille
should be given primary consideration based on the individual's
|The Braille cell design.
Braille consists of cells that contain a series of raised
dots that can be read with the fingertips. Letters and numbers are
represented by different numbers of raised dots in different possible
areas of a Braille cell. Likewise, common contractions, such as
"tion" or "ing" are represented in Braille.
Large print refers to the
point size for font; however there are many additional considerations.
The Smithsonian Institute recommends a minimum 16-point font for
the best viewing by people with vision loss while maintaining a
small enough point size to include a good amount of information.
The type of font is important as well. Fonts with embellishment
lines and curves at the tops and bottoms of letters are difficult
for a person with low vision to read and therefore should be avoided.
Sans serif fonts are one of several (Bookman Old Style, Arial, News
Goth, etc.) that the Smithsonian Institute considers to be the most
legible. By definition sans serif means "without short lines stemming
from and at an angle to the upper and lower ends of the strokes
of a letter."
The Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design
and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines
(ADAAG A4.30.5), identifies the need for a minimum of seventy percent
contrast between background and text colors. Using an eggshell or
other off-white paper will reduce glare. The Smithsonian Guidelines
also indicate that characters per line should be held to a maximum
of 60 with consistent letter and word spacing, the margins should
be flush-left and staggered right while leading, or the space between
lines of print, should be at least twenty percent greater than the
height of the letters.
|A park visitor receives information
on the wayside exhibit from a portable audio cassette.
People with visual impairments may prefer to have information
available in an electronic format such as a computer disc. The computer
disc may be a preferred alternative format for information designed
for home review. A person with a personal computer that has screen
reader software or enlarged font capability can access the information
on the disc and the information can also be printed out in large
print or by using a Brailler. This format is for use anywhere the
patron has computer access that will allow for the preferred choice
|An interpretive listening station
with telephone handset.
Audio can be offered in a variety of delivery methods
including audiocassettes, audio compact disks, interpretive or informational
listening stations, external speakers or any additional audio technology
as it becomes available. Informational cassettes and compact disks
should be accompanied by a portable player (headphones recommended)
for use at the facility. Interpretive and informational listening
stations offer telephone handsets or head phones for the visitors
to receive audio information without disturbing others. This is
useful for many types of exhibits. External speakers may also be
used for the information to be available to all visitors in a particular
area. The visitor can use audiocassettes and audio compact disks
at the facility and then take them home for future reference. Newsletters,
play bills, selfguided tour brochures and other informational brochures
are ideal for this type of format. Having the material available
in a format that communicates effectively with the visitor will
encourage the visitor to return time and again. An interpretive
listening station with telephone handset. A park visitor receives
information on the wayside exhibit from a portable audio cassette.
To ensure effective communication, consideration to alternate formats
should begin with the initial program planning process.
Facility Managers: What you can do
No matter what type of facility, alternative formats must
be readily accessible to people who request them. The facility manager
and key personnel should develop accessibility policies to ensure
quality service to people with and without disabilities. For example,
performances are scheduled weeks in advance at performing arts venues.
The venue manager or special event coordinator should assess the
need for alternative formats and plan to accommodate the largest
number of people. Assessing this need may be based on the accommodations
or auxiliary aids identified in the past as well as current requests
for alternative formats. Ways to identify and assess these needs
should be part of the facility's policies and procedures.
Facility managers should make every effort to have the
information available in alternative formats at the time of a request.
Information that changes frequently may cause delays in providing
alternative formats for that information. If this is the case, these
delays should be publicized allowing the visitor to give advance
request for the information. For example, if two weeks prior notification
is necessary, this information should be publicized so that a visitor
requiring an alternative format has ample opportunity to request
it in time for the performance.
Additionally, the accessibility of the facility and its
programs should be an integral part of the publications. Include
information on the availability of alternate formats in program
brochures and other marketing materials. People may not know that
the facility is accessible unless it is publicized as such. The
availability of alternate formats is a critical component to ensure
programs and facilities are accessible thus enable a greater number
of people to participate and enjoy the program offerings. People
with disabilities not only visit; they bring their friends and families,
American Council of the Blind
155 15th Street, NW, Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
Toll Free: (800) 424-8666
Phone: (202) 467-5081
American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Toll Free: (800) 232-5463
Phone: (212) 502-7600
American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
Toll Free: (800) 223-1839
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: (410) 659-9314
National Center on Accessibility
2805 East 10th St, Suite 190
Bloomington, IN 47408
Voice (812) 856-4421
TTY (812) 856-4480