Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsABI JAMES: Multiple formats is when we mean the same information presented in different forms. That could be in a text document, it could be in an audio form, it could be in a video form. And even when we talk about text documents, that might mean something that could be adapted to look different or be presented in a different application, such as comparing a Word document, which is editable to an e-book format, where it has been laid out by a publisher.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsEA DRAFFAN: Do we have to do something to that Word document to make it into another format, and make it, perhaps, easy to use by anybody who's using technology?

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsABI JAMES: Well Word documents are the most accessible form for many individuals with disabilities or additional needs. And that's because they can be really well structured. And we can put a lot of information into that text on the screen that tells people what it actually means. When we see a printed document, we can interpret the headings by the colour, the font-- whether it's bold or underlined-- to have a meaning with it.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 secondsThe advantage of using digital documents is that we can get that meaning in a more computerised way, which can then be interpreted by assistive technologies to the user, so they can understand that an item on the screen is a heading, not by looking at it-- by being told from the structure of the document.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsEA DRAFFAN: Are there any issues that arise when we swap between different types of documents?

Skip to 1 minute and 35 secondsABI JAMES: So there can be issues. But it always depends on where you start from. And we talk about born-digital documents. Born-digital is really important because that means the information is already a computer text that can be accessible to everyone and converted into different formats. But it's what you do with that digital text afterwards that can, then, lead to a barrier. Often we can look at PDF files, for example, or scanned-in documents. And they might look accessible, but actually, really, they're just that image of text. That text isn't selectable. It can't be copied to other applications.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 secondsAnd while we often talk about accessibility in terms of those using assistive technologies, it can also be a barrier to students who just want to do simple study activities, like making notes from documents or highlighting text or sending it to their friends to share and collaborate on. So often, being an image-based format is the worst point to start from.

Multiple formats

In this video you hear E.A. asking Abi about her views on the development of multiple formats as a way of providing access to digitised documents that suit individual preferences based on the idea of ‘born accessible’ and inclusive design.

Chrissie Butler in an EdTalk about Universal design for learning also talks about the way multiple formats can support learners who “perceive information in a different way”.

The terms ‘Inclusive design’, ‘Universal design’ and ‘Design for all’ come from different beginnings, but in terms of learning and teaching, where the aim is to include the whole student population, the outcomes are similar. (University of Cambridge ‘What is inclusive design’?)

The Microsoft design team have created some activity cards linked to digital inclusive design.

Can you give an example of how one of these activities could be used to illustrate the principle of inclusive design for learning and teaching?


© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments

University of Southampton