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This checklist is an abbreviated form of the more detailed "Manager's Guide to Multiple Format Production" and its accompanying appendix of resources.
Produced through the Assistive Devices Industry Office of Industry Canada for the Government of Canada. Financial support from the Treasury Board Employment Equity Positive Measures Program Intervention Fund.
All Canadians have the right to public information in a format they can access. This right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other federal legislation.
The Government of Canada Communications Policy requires that public information be made available in multiple formats (formats other than traditional publishing) for access by people with disabilities.
Making publications available so they can be accessed by as many people as possible not only conforms with laws and policies, it's also good customer service.
Today's aging population, explosion in information technologies and increasingly diverse society have left the printed page as only one of many ways to deliver information.
Different Methods of Publishing
This checklist examines some of the more commonly used formats and communications methods used in today's society.
Accessible Web Sites: Some people who are blind or have low vision use "screen reading" software that can convert written text on websites into other formats they can access, such as audio or Braille. However, the screen reading technology cannot interpret graphics or text that appears in graphical form. For this reason, websites need to be made accessible by ensuring that all visual and multi-media components are available in text.
A number of measures to make federal websites accessible are mandatory under the Government of Canada's Common Look and Feel Policy.
Audio: Publications produced on cassette tape are appropriate when the print version cannot be accessed. A professional narrator reads the text navigated by users through tone indexing that marks new sections.
Braille: Braille is a reading system of raised dots. Named after its inventor, Louis Braille, the system's basic "braille cell" consists of six dots grouped in two vertical columns of three dots each. There is English Braille and French Braille. Grade 1 Braille is the most basic representation of letters, numbers and punctuation while Grade 2 combines approximately 300 contractions and is the most commonly used.
Computer Diskettes and other portable electronic storage methods: For people who cannot be sent publications in electronic format via email or over the Web, diskettes may be a solution. There are a range of storage formats including CDs, DVDs and ZIP disks.
Described Video: Described video, also known as audio description, has all relevant action scenes and on-screen text (such as credits) in a video, TV program, web-based multimedia or movie described and read by a narrator. Described video can be "open" or "closed". When "open," the descriptive audio can be heard by all viewers. When "closed," viewers must turn on the TV set Second Audio Program (S.A.P., also known as the second audio channel for stereo broadcasting) for access.
E-Text: E-text, or electronic text, refers to publications in which all graphical components, including relevant photographs, charts and illustrations, are fully explained in text and stored electronically for distribution by email, web page or diskette.
Large Print: Large print publications use a set of guidelines that improve readability beyond standard design and formatting. This includes a larger point size for characters - 16 points is recommended - plus the use of non-serif fonts, increased spacing and improved contrast. The aging trend means that more people than ever before have low vision and require large print. For this reason, it may be practical to have the original publication produced in large print.
Multi-Media: Multi-media productions developed using Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) (and other similar programming languages) can feature multiple content layers. These may include alternate language audio tracks, text for open captioning and described video tracks, expanding the options for accessing the information.
On-Screen Text: On-screen text converts the spoken word and other audio contained in videos, TV programs, web-based multi-media and movies to text. The text can be in the form of subtitles used to communicate the spoken word in a different language or in the form of captioning for people unable to access audio. Closed captioning is seen with a decoder while Open captioning is visible without a decoder.
SignWriting: "SignWriting" is a writing system using visual symbols to represent the handshapes, movements and facial expressions of American Sign Language, Langue des Signes Québecoise and other signed languages. SignWriting is currently used mainly to teach signs and signed language grammar to beginning signers. It is also increasingly used as an alternative to standard text in teaching grade school students whose command of sign language is greater than that of printed English or French.
How to Prepare for Multiple Formats
Use Plain Language: Keeping your text as clear and as easy to read as possible is not only beneficial for clients with learning disabilities and low literacy skills, it improves comprehension for all clients and will make adaptation to other formats easier.
Produce a Full-Text Template: At the same time a published product is developed, all of the graphical and multi-media elements should be fully explained in text by the original authors. This file is known as the "full-text template" from which multiple formats can be produced in an accurate and seamless way. The template is a multiple format in itself, representing e-text that can be used for distribution.
Find Suppliers: Consult your institution's procurement office for multiple format suppliers. You will find a listing of suppliers through the online Canadian Company Capabilities Database maintained by Industry Canada:
Adjust Budgets: Use a cost-effective approach that includes multiple formats according to demand. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to combine two formats into one. For example, a print product could be produced as large print. Remember to always budget for extra copies needed for the Depository Services Program.
Produce upon Request: Using the full-text template, produce multiple formats upon request. You have an obligation to provide publications in a format clients can access.
Inform everyone in the publishing process: Share this guide with everyone involved in the development and distribution of publications including front office people, authors and editors, graphic designers, webmasters, project managers, communications people and order desks. Inform both staff and outside contractors.
How to Price, Promote and Accept Multiple Format Requests:
All formats priced the same: All formats of an information product must have the same price. Similarly, if the conventional product is free, so too must be all of its multiple format equivalents.
Promote availability: There are a number of ways you can promote the availability of multiple formats. Use varied media including radio and the web; register with 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232); advertise with radio reading services; and include a message on all products, such as "This publication is available upon request in accessible formats." The message can be produced in Braille and large print.
Accepting requests: Multiple format requests should be accepted at all the same order points as conventional products, including product catalogues, toll-free numbers and websites. Ask clients what format they require for access. In some cases, a full-text electronic version can be emailed if the client has email access. Avoid referring all clients to the web as a one-stop solution because, as popular as the web has become, not all clients have web access or the ability to properly navigate the web. Also, be prepared to accept requests that come in via a multiple format.
Have webmasters follow the Common Look and Feel (CLF) Policy. See the CLF website at: www.cio-dpi.gc.ca/clf-upe/
Promote the availability of all publications in multiple formats.
Familiarize all order desks with multiple formats and prepare them for requests. Inform them that there is an obligation to provide information in a format clients can access.
Create a full-text template for all publications as publications are first developed.
Have a full-text template produced for all existing publications that are promoted and considered popular.
Provide full-text templates to multiple format suppliers to produce formats as they are requested. The templates are also a multiple format in themselves and can be sent to clients via email or diskette as appropriate.
Follow your institution's procedures for securing appropriate suppliers. Use the Canadian Company Capabilities Database of Industry Canada.
Obtain ISBN numbers for each multiple format and file copies for legal deposit. Contact the Depository Services Program.
For more details, consult the "Manager's Guide to Multiple Format Production" and its accompanying appendix of references.