Alternative formats

What patrons say …

“I tried to get the information from the website … I gave up.”

“I got something in Braille through the post – but don’t read Braille!”

“I’d be lost without my computer now as it gives me constant access to information, friends and family.”

Though many blind and partially sighted people can access information via your printed resources, using vision aids or the assistance of friends and family, others may require information to be provided in an alternative format.

What formats?

All theatres have limited resources. We think it is better to offer a small range of high quality alternative formats rather than do everything, but badly.

The different formats to consider are:

• Large print

• Braille

• Audio

• Electronic (Word, PDF, email)

Large print documents are created following the same guidelines as clear print but increasing the font size. No one size will suit all but large print is usually recognised as something between 16pt – 22pt.

Standard English Braille is available in Grade One and Grade Two.

• Grade One Braille uses one Braille cell to represent each letter that is written with no abbreviations.

• Grade Two Braille uses contractions, which take up less space; so one Braille cell could represent a series of letters word signs or short forms.

The number of Braille readers in the UK is relatively low, around 5% of blind and partially sighted people, and so many theatres no longer produce Braille brochures or programmes. It’s good to know where and how you could get Braille produced locally, just in case, but most visually impaired people would find the choice of audio or electronic format acceptable.


Audio formats are a vital means of access to information for many blind and partially sighted people, and most arts organisations have the basic technology to be able to create audio brochures and flyers in-house, making it very cost-effective. With free audio editing software, such as Audacity, an audio brochure can be recorded directly onto a computer.

Think about your audio copy.

Did you know that it takes 40 minutes to read out a single page from The Guardian? This means that something like an audio brochure can seem very daunting to the listener. Write ‘scannable’ audio copy. This simply involves starting the description of each event with a 10 to 12 word headline that summarises the event. This works even better if this ‘headline’ gives the listener a reason to attend the show: “Bring your favourite 5-year-old to the silliest show in town!” There’s an information sheet to help you create audio marketing materials in the DOWNLOADS section.


Blind and partially sighted people use a range of aids such as screen-reading software and magnification software to access websites and electronic documents.

“Utilising electronic documents the information needs of blind and partially sighted people can be met with relative ease through a little consideration and planning. Most often this means using effective formatting and configuration of existing mainstream formats, the result of which improves document usability for everyone.” – RNIB

Basically, you can make use of your original copy, spend a little time structuring it so it’s logical and clear, and then make it available as a downloadable WORD document.

PDFs are not always readable for someone using screen-reading technology particularly if they are just presenting an image of a document. As it can be difficult to judge the accessibility of a PDF it is always advisable to offer an alternative Word or text version.

What you can do …

• Create an up-to-date version of your brochure in audio and Word and make them available on your website.

• Create your audio brochure using different voices – get different staff members to record relevant sections – and how about a message from the Chief Executive or Artistic Director?

• Have CD copies available at the Box Office and send them out to people on your mailing list.

• Perhaps a local radio station will get involved?

• Download a 40-minute demo version of JAWS – one of the most frequently used screen-reading applications and – and check out how your downloadable brochure works.

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