Alternative Formats

History of alternative formats

Until 1989, the main way for people to access information was on the printed page requiring them to be able to

  • hold a document or book,
  • see the writing, and
  • read and understand the content.

Before then, there had only been 3 major developments in making information more accessible to people who could not access information in this way. These catered solely for people with visual impairment.

  • In 1824, Louis Braille invented braille.Louis Braille was born in 1809 and became blind at the age of three. He was first introduced to the idea of raised dots in 1821. It was being used in the army and was called night writing. By 1824 aged just 15, Louis Braille had found 63 ways of using just six dots to enable blind people to read.
  • In 1935 the first talking books were produced on 12 inch records.
  • In 1974, The Calibre Cassette Library was established.A home loan service of recorded books onto cassette and played on an ordinary domestic cassette player.
    These services were restricted mainly to leisure reading.

In the 1990s, computer technology began to change the way in which information was produced and accessed. Nowadays most information is generated electronically and can be accessed in a variety of different ways and in various formats. To some extent the printed page is now an alternative format.

This on-going technical revolution is playing a major role in making information more accessible to people with a wide range of impairments.

Nowadays they can

  • listen to information on a wide range of digital equipment – computer, MP3 players, mobile phones, ereaders.
  • change the layout and format of documents to suit their needs
  • share information online (although there are still certain accessibility issues)
  • download many textbooks from the Internet.

The availability of electronic devices and software Braille software allows users to produce their own braille copy from a well-structured electronic document. Voice Recognition Software and Screen-reading Software allows users to access and create documents.for creating and accessing information independently has decreased the demand for costly alternative formats.