Creating Accessible Documents and Alternate Formats

Mohawk College shall, upon request, provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities and in consultation with the person making the request. This request is to be fulfilled in a timely manner that takes into account the person's accessibility needs and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.

In addition to physical and attitudinal barriers, people with disabilities can encounter barriers as a result of the format in which information is presented. The Information and Communication Standards (AODA, 2005) require colleges to communicate with people in ways that respect each individual's disability.

The following information will support staff in meeting accommodation requests and creating accessible documents and alternate formats.

What is an Accessible Document and Alternate Format?

An accessible document is usable by all students, regardless of their ability. Characteristics of accessible documents include, but are not limited to:

  • Larger (12pt), sans serif font and maintains high contrast
  • Use of built-in styles and templates
  • Emphasizing text in bold and not depending on italics, underlining and colour to differentiate text
  • Using alternate text when images are used
  • Being easily convertible to another format, such as Braille or an e-reader

An alternate format refers to transmitting information in a manner that is different from regular print format. Some alternate formats can be used by everyone, while others are designed to address the needs of a specific user.

Accessible Formats of Course Materials

To convert material into an accessible format for a student who has a Confidential Academic Accommodation Plan (CAAP), please contact alstechnician [at]

Creating Accessible Digital Office Documents


Microsoft Word



Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools for creating slide show presentations. It is often used to organize thoughts for a meeting or lesson, to present key points in a live presentation, and even to create handouts. This article outlines how to make PowerPoint files more accessible on the web (opens new window).

External Resources

  • Accessibility and Usability at Penn State (opens new window) - Accessibility resource site put together by Penn State University
  • The Virtual Accessible Campus (opens new window) - This ACCESS-ed website is another excellent resource on creating accessible multimedia. ACCESS-ed was a model demonstration project hosted by the R2D2 Center of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to promote universal design in higher education as the primary method of ensuring that students with disabilities receive access to the full scope of higher education campuses.

Types of Alternate Formats

Audio Format

Audio format is an accessible format for people who are blind or have low vision, and for people who have an intellectual or learning disability and who are unable to read print. Some software programs, like Wave to Text, can convert text files to audio that can then be listened to on an MP3.


Braille is an accessible format for people who are blind or deafblind. Braille uses a tactile system of raised dots representing letters or a combination of letters of the alphabet. Braille can be produced using Braille transcription software, or through organizations listed in the next section.

Descriptive Video Service (DVS)

DVS is an accessible format for people who are blind or have low vision. DVS provides descriptive narration of key visual elements – such as the action, characters, locations, costumes and sets – in television programs, films, home videos and other visual media, without interfering with dialogue or sound effects.

Electronic Text

Electronic text is an accessible format for people who are blind, have low vision or have learning disabilities. Used with screen reading software that enables people to hear a spoken translation of the text that appears on the computer screen. The most common types of electronic text are based on Word documents and PDFs.

Captioning (for Movies and Visual Media)

Captioning is an accessible format for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. Captioning makes television programs, films and other visual media with sound accessible by translating the audio portion of a video presentation using subtitles, or captions, that generally appear on the bottom of the screen.

  • Closed captions can be seen only on a television screen equipped with a device called a "closed-caption decoder."
  • Open captions are "burned on" a video and appear whenever the video is shown.

DAISY (Digital Accessible Information Systems)

DAISY is a digital reading format that can combine audio, text and graphic information in one product, making it accessible to a wide range of people who have challenges using printed media. It is the audio format used by many post-secondary students who have challenges using printed media. The international DAISY Consortium (opens new window) promotes standards in this area.

Large Print

Large print is an accessible format for people who have low vision. Large print materials should use a font size of 16 to 20 points or larger, depending on the font style. Large print formats can be created in-house by using a larger font size for Microsoft Word documents, or photocopying an original document using magnification greater than 100%. Alternatively, material can be outsourced to some of the organizations listed in the next section.

Teletypewriter (TTY)

TTY is an accessible format for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, or who have speech disabilities. Although many people who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing now use e-mail and pagers to send and receive information, TTY is still widely used.

  • More cell phones are now compatible with TTY and hearing aids. Usage will increase as these become less expensive and easier to use.
  • The confidential Bell Canada Relay Service (BCRS) lets TTY users and hearing people communicate by phone with the help of specially trained BCRS operators. The

TTY user types their conversation to the operator, who then reads the typed conversation to the other party. The operator then types the other party's spoken words back to the TTY user.


Windowing is an accessible format for people who are Deaf. Windowing uses a sign language interpreter in a corner, or "window," of the screen to translate the spoken word in a video presentation or broadcast into sign language. Windowing may include open or closed captioning.

Organizations Providing Alternate Format Services outside of Mohawk College

The information in this section is provided solely for information purposes about the types of alternate format services available in the marketplace; it should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the organizations listed.

Accessibili-T (opens new window)

Braille Jymico (opens new window)

Eliquo Training & Development Inc. (opens new window)

Periodical Audio Library (PAL) (opens new window)

Point-Par-Point (opens new window)

Tbase Communications (opens new window)

W. Ross Macdonald School for the Visually Impaired and Deafblind (opens new window)
The Alternate Format Material Resource Services Library at this Brantford, ON school can provide Braille transcription services and large print formats.