Make it Accessible
What is an accessible book?
Accessible digital resources have:
- 'Structure' - such as a table of contents, for example so that pupils can click and immediately go to a particular chapter or heading rather than scrolling through the whole document;
- 'styles' rather than manually formatted text, so that the fonts and text sizes can be more easily changed;
- A defined 'reading order' so that text-to-speech and screen reader programs will read out the text in the correct order;
- Tables defined using table tools rather than tabs and spaces - this means that blind people using screen readers can understand them more easily;
- Text descriptions for images, so that blind people can hear the description spoken out;
- Text transcripts of embedded sound files, so that deaf people can read them.
Accessible, alternative format books come in many different types of digital formats such as PDF, DOC (Microsoft Word), RTF ('Rich Text Format'), Clicker 5, Daisy, Plain Text, HTML (i.e. web). Some formats are more accessible than others (see the Using Books section of this site and Section 10 in the Books for All Report but a key point is that it is much easier to make the document accessible when you create it than try and add accessibility afterwards.
You can use a wide variety of word processors, desktop publishing tools and multimedia authoring packages to create accessible books. Common examples are:
- Microsoft Word;
- OpenOffice Writer (a free Microsoft Office-style suite which can open and save documents in Word format and also PDF);
- Desktop Publishing Programs (DTP) e.g. Microsoft Publisher, Adobe PageMaker & InDesign, Quark Express
- Microsoft Powerpoint / Keynote / OpenOffice Impress
- Clicker 5
- SwitchIt! Maker
Most authors and creators have Microsoft Word or Publisher which are good tools for making accessible books. If you don't have Word, then the free OpenOffice suite is also good.
The word processors and DTP programs are perhaps best suited to creating accessible copies of books with a fair amount of text, such as textbooks, reading books etc. Books created with a word processor can usually be re-purposed into a number of different print, digital and audio formats.
These programs are less suited to making books for early readers: programs like Powerpoint, Clicker 5 and SwitchIt! Maker are more often used to create books with recorded narration where the reader can click or hit a switch to turn the pages.
TextEase is a particularly useful program for creating interactive resources, such as maths worksheets.
It is not practical to provide tutorials on using all of these packages here. Instead, given that Microsoft Word is so common and that it can be used to create books in so many accessible formats, we offer advice on making books used Word.