Alternate Format

“Alternate Format” is an industry term referring to any alternate approach to presenting print information to a person with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) groups the standard alternate formats (braille, large print, audio narration, oral presentation, electronic file) along with other “aids and services” for other disabilities (sign language interpretation, sighted guide) among many others. Alternate Format is the term used in many settings such as colleges and universities to describe how they will provide such services. A search on the Internet on this term will yield many examples of the policies of those institutions for providing those types of materials.

The ADA Technical Assistance Manual has very specific guidance concerning which alternate format is to be provided. A researcher will need to know which of the titles to review.

» Private Employer – Title I
» Public Agency – Title II
» Public Accommodation – Title III

In Title I and II preference should always be given to the format the user wishes, unless the employer or public agency can justify the stance that providing such is “an undue administrative burden or financial hardship.” Such justification is not an easy matter if the employer or agency has a very large budget.

Public Accommodations has more latitude. They need to consult with the end user, but if such a request seems to be slightly unreasonable, the Public Accommodation can elect to use another means. The classic example is a restaurant electing to provide the patron with a staff person to read the menu rather than providing brailled editions.

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