We have two existing guides that help coordinators and students decide on their preferred format, but they seem to reflect all the formats we could produce rather than the more practical reality of what we normally produce.
The existing guides focus on the disability and/or the format. While the guides provide information on the available formats and who it might apply to, I’m unsure as to whether they actually help people decide on the format.
Based on the current guide, a number of people will ask for DAISY format because they see that it “can be produced in human voice”. Anyone who uses audiobooks and the like will know that if sped up, human voices tend to be garbled, while synthetic voices are still understandable (to a certain point obviously). Other people (including coordinators) don’t seem to know the difference between PDF and electronic text or how our production varies between the two.
- PDF: standard scan with smart OCR (e.g. multiple columns, recognizes boxes), looks like original material
- E-text (RTF): text-only, but good for reading on small screens and human edited to correct any OCR issues
- Digital Audio (MP3): audio only, produced from PDF or e-text depending on the material
- DAISY: specialized audiobook format, only produced for complex texts for clients with DAISY readers
- Large Print: while possible, requires publisher permission, so we recommend PDF or e-text instead
Draft Revised Guide
When I talk to students on the phone to figure out what might be the best format, I don’t ask them what kind of disability they have, I ask them what they need. Typical questions I ask:
- Do you need to listen? Or listen and read at the same time?
- What is the most important aspect of having an accessible version of your text?
- Do you have any text-to-speech software?
- What device(s) would you use the files on?
After quite a few conversations, I thought maybe we should revise our “What Format Do You Need” guide to follow the same line of thinking. Here is a draft version:
I think we should still keep the original ones, especially the detailed guide as it provides a lot of information on the different formats, but possibly renaming them to reflect that they provide information on the formats rather than necessarily helping to decide on the required format.