Providing content in alternate formats
Understand the situations when you must provide content in alternate formats, and the ones when you might want to consider it, and then learn how to get alternate formats produced.
Members of the public have the right to request government information in an alternate format that’s accessible to them and all New Zealand government organisations must, except in extreme cases, honour these requests.
Create an accessibility page on your website
Not all visitors to a website know that they can request content in an accessible alternate format, if a suitable format has not already been provided.
We recommend that websites clearly indicate this option to users. One way to do this would be through an “Accessibility” page, linked to from the home page, that explains what options visitors have if they experience any accessibility issues on the site.
We are in the process of developing an accessibility statement for digital.govt.nz.
Make alternate formats easy to find
Whether or not you provide a separate “Accessibility” page, it’s good practice to provide alternate formats in a way that makes them easy to find for people who need them.
For example, place links to alternate formats at the top of a web page, as opposed to the bottom of the page where they might easily be missed.
Also, if the information provided in an alternate format links to other content that’s necessary for understanding that information or for completing an online task, the content these links take people to will also need to be provided in an alternate format.
For example, if there’s a link to more information about a certain topic or to a form that needs to be filled in, then this should be available in alternate format.
When you must proactively provide alternate formats
For content involving high-stakes information or services, or where the target audience is disabled people, you must proactively provide alternate formats up front.
If it’s high-stakes information and services
Always provide content in alternate formats if it contains high-stakes information or services. Think about how seriously it may impact people if they cannot access the information along with everyone else at the time it’s published.
High-stakes information and services are generally concerned with:
- emergency preparedness and response
- health and safety
- critical citizenship rights, entitlements and services.
This could include information related to:
- civil emergencies and responses
- general health, specific health advice, health and safety in employment
- entitlement or access to benefits, housing, education
- consumer or other community protections
- passports or visas
- rights in criminal and civil proceedings
- central government elections or referenda
- tax obligations and rebates.
See how high-stakes information about COVID-19 is provided in alternate formats:
If disabled people are the target audience, or the information impacts them
Always provide content in alternate formats when the information is aimed specifically at disabled people or has a significant impact on disabled people and/or their families and/or whānau.
See how information in this Cabinet Paper that has a significant impact on disabled people and/or their families and/or their whānau is provided in alternate formats. Although technically Cabinet are the target audience, the disabled community is heavily invested and interested in this:
When you might consider providing alternate formats
Where content does not contain high-stakes information or services, or is not aimed specifically at disabled people, you’ll need to consider providing alternate formats on a case-by-case basis.
For example, someone might need hard copies of lengthy documents in large print or braille to use in a court case.
In some circumstances, when providing Easy Read or New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) formats, it may be appropriate to provide a summary of the content in those formats.
If you’re unsure about what’s suitable in each case, talk with the Accessibility team at the Ministry of Social Development.
See content that’s provided in alternate formats because, while it’s not specifically for disabled people, it includes disabled people in topics concerning youth, and equal access to employment:
Alternate formats for web content
Content that’s available on the web and that meets the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard can already be converted by a disabled person into the following alternate formats using various types of software or assistive technologies:
- audio — provided by text-to-speech software of various types
- braille — provided by a refreshable braille display with screen reader software
- large print — web pages can be displayed or printed out in large print by the user.
For this reason, in a web context, the only alternate formats in which content might need to be provided proactively are:
- NZSL translation (web video)
- Easy Read (printable web page with optional downloadable PDF).
Remember, even if your website is fully accessible, some people will lack the technology, skills or confidence to use it. As such, it’s important to make sure visitors to your site know that they can always request content in an alternate format.
Alternate formats for printed content
Some people have difficulty reading printed material and need content to be provided in other accessible formats.
This also helps people who are digitally excluded, and do not have ready access to online content.
When you offer a printed version of your content, you must consider whether you’ll also need to provide the following alternate formats of those paper hard copies:
- audio (on portable medium—for example, CD or USB drive)
- braille (printed or typed)
- Easy Read print document
- large print document
- NZSL (video on portable medium—for example, CD or USB drive).
Producing alternate formats
Advice and costing for alternate formats
The Accessibility team at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) advises on and coordinates the production of content in alternate formats.
The first step is to obtain advice on which alternate formats you need to produce. The Accessibility team will work with you to commission, gather estimates for, and produce the alternate formats.
Get in touch early
Creating alternate formats can be time consuming and requires specialised skills for which there are limited resources, so it’s important to factor this into your planning and publication schedule.
For additional instructions about the process for producing alternate formats, visit: Accessibility and alternate formats – all-of-government process – Ministry of Social Development.