Understanding accessible formats requires some background knowledge of the barriers many learners with disabilities experience when reading or accessing information in print-based and certain digital-based materials.
Special education and civil rights laws guarantee access to education and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. As a result, states, school districts, universities, and career training agencies are obligated to provide accessible formats to individuals with disabilities who need them.
For laws related to K-12, read our brief on the rights of students with disabilities who need accessible materials.
What actions need to be taken so that learners who need accessible formats receive them in a timely manner? Whether a learner is in PreK-12, higher education, or career training, the process is multi-step:
- Determine the learner’s need: Does the learner have difficulty reading or accessing text-based materials? Common reasons for needing accessible formats include blindness or vision impairment, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities.
- Select the accessible format(s) needed: If a need is determined, what are the accessible format or multiple formats that the learner can use? Examples of accessible formats include braille, large print, tactile graphics, audio, and digital text conforming to accessibility standards.
- Acquire materials in the accessible format(s) needed: A variety of sources of accessible formats exist for learners in PreK-12 through postsecondary environments. They vary in the kinds of accessible formats offered and whether copyright restrictions apply.