Archive for November, 2010

Alternative or Accessible

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

With such technological progress, why does gaining access to documentation in a readable format require so much change?

Background:

When individuals are experiencing vision loss, there are specific state and sometimes privately sponsored services in which they are eligible to receive. These include Vision Rehabilitation and O&M or orientation and mobility. The first provides a person with training in specific techniques to aid in daily living skills, including rearranging their home, accomplishing everyday tasks like cooking and even methods for on the job organizing. O&M training instructs a person to use a white cane and other techniques to aid in travel.

People seeking these services are usually assigned a counselor who is responsible for determining and administrating the services required. As these are government sponsored services, you can imagine that there is paper work associated with the process. Whether opening a case, scheduling meetings with the various specialist’s or requesting information, some form of correspondence is required.

One thing shared by all clients of the agency is vision loss and therefore the inability to read standard print.

For years, advocates have been asking for all correspondence to be produced and distributed in an accessible format specific to the client – enabling independent access for all. This has become known as the requesting of alternative formats.

Alternative as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Different from the usual or conventional: as a: existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system <an alternative newspaper>

As I mentioned earlier the majority of client’s being served by the blindness agencies share in their inability to access print. It seems to me therefore the “normal” in the system of an agency serving people with vision loss, would be a choice of Braille, large print, accessible digital formats, audio and sometimes text.

There’s no reason that an agency specializing in vision loss should consider this an accommodation or an alternative.

One of the things that make attending a conference hosted by a blindness advocacy organization so great is the access to information in a format easily accessible. For most sitting down in a restaurant and being offered a Braille or large print menu or receiving accessible documents electronically prior to the event are not everyday occurrences.

Blindness agencies, with which I personally have had positive experiences, can greatly benefit from a language modification. Let’s stop talking about alternative formats and replace with accessible.