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Selecting Accessible Formats

Selecting accessible formats is the second step of a decision-making process.

Similar to determining a learner’s need for accessible formats, the process for selecting accessible formats is different between PreK-12 and postsecondary settings.

Selecting Accessible Formats for PreK-12 Learners

Selecting appropriate accessible formats for learners who need them is a team decision-making process for PreK-12 learners. Examples of decision-making teams in K12 include IEP teams, 504 plan teams, and teams related to a school’s multi-tier system of supports (MTSS). Parents and caregivers are also key team members and the learner is an active participant.

Teams can use these checkpoints as a guide for selecting accessible formats.

  1. The team considers the full learning context.
    The team considers multiple factors to understand the full context of how, where, and for what varied purposes the learner uses instructional materials, including:
    • The learner’s skills, needs, and preferences
    • The environments in which the student will be learning
    • The tasks for which accessible formats will be needed
    Visit our FAQ for considering the full learning context.
  2. The learner trials a range of formats.
    Information collected from the first step in the process will inform the nature of the accessible format(s) that the learner needs. Under the guidance of a special education or AT professional, the learner tries a variety of options.Examples include:
    • Tactile formats, such as braille (hard copy and digital) and raised images
    • Large print formats, which are hard copy materials with large text size
    • Audio formats, such as human-narrated audio recordings
    • Accessible digital formats such as
      • Accessible EPUB documents
      • Accessible web-based (HTML5) documents
      • Accessible Word documents
      • PDF/Universal Accessibility (UA)
      • Accessible documents with MathML
    Visit our FAQ for having learners trial a range of formats.
  3. Select the format or combination of formats the learner needs.
    The team considers information collected from the first and second steps. The outcome of this process may result in the need for more than one format. The following questions can guide the consideration process:
    • What formats and specific features are most useful to the learner?
    • Does the usefulness of certain features vary by subject matter?
    • How might different learning environments impact the usefulness of certain formats?
    • The outcome of this process may result in the need for more than one format.
    Visit our FAQ for selecting the format or combination of formats the learner needs.
  4. List the text-based instructional materials used across the curriculum.
    The team gathers information about the text-based instructional materials that the learner needs for access to all subjects across the curriculum. This includes print materials and digital materials with text and images. In addition to the current curriculum, the team collects information about known materials that the student will need in the next six months.
    Visit our FAQ for listing the instructional materials.
  5. Match formats to materials.
    For each text-based instructional material needed by the learner, the team selects the appropriate format.
    Visit our FAQ for matching formats to materials.

Selecting Accessible Formats for Postsecondary Learners

Learners who need accessible formats in postsecondary settings, whether a higher education institution or a career training agency, may have a history of using specific accessible formats. In an interactive and deliberative process, a provider of accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) engages the learner in questions about any past history of using accessible formats. This should include the effectiveness of those formats under varied environments and purposes. In some cases, relevant documentation may be needed to inform the appropriate format(s) to provide to the learner. If a learner doesn’t have a history of using accessible formats, the checkpoints recommended for selecting accessible formats in preK-12 settings can be easily adapted for postsecondary use.

With the appropriate format(s) selected, the next step is to acquire the materials from available sources.

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