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For July 2011:

Manuals in Alternate Formats

When I started my working career in a mainstream workplace, manuals in alternate formats were a luxury. That is, they were only available in printed format or hard copy and the event of electronic formats was just starting to make its presence known. Today, things are much better when it comes to the availability of manuals in alternate formats but there is still much work to be done.

What do I mean by having manuals in alternate formats? Manuals that can be read by blind and sight impaired persons in Braille, large print, and the following types of electronic formats: Plain text format, rich text format, Microsoft Word, and HTML. In many instances, it may not be possible to produce and provide Braille texts on a timely basis but there are things that can be done to speed up this process such as planning ahead whenever possible.

Nothing could be more detrimental to a blind and sight impaired employee than not having vital manuals that they can read independently. As a matter of fact, this is one huge difference between a productive employee and one who is not. Provide your blind and sight impaired employees with manuals in alternate formats and you greatly erase the need for sighted employees to provide assistance. Provide them with intranets that are accessible. Do not provide them with manuals in PDF formats.

As of now, PDF formats are still extremely difficult and challenging for blind and sight impaired persons to read. Why?

  1. The PDF content needs to be properly tagged. That is, the content developer needs to tag their PDF document properly in order that it can be read by screen readers.
  2. The right combination of technology needs to be in place; versions of screen reader software that can work in conjunction with the appropriate version of Adobe.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your free lance writer and roving reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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