Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building Vibrant, Diverse, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!



How to make materials Accessible to your Blind Friends

By Mike Thompson, 23 March, 2022

Braille, Audio, Large Print, Electronic - Icons and imagesThe Importance of providing Accessible Materials

Any time you are holding meetings or conferences it often involves handing out various printed materials to the attendees.  This may involve anything from a simple agenda or copies of something for the group to have as reference materials. It might even be something the group will be studying together in depth.

It is important to include Blind people who will be attending by providing an Accessible copy of these materials as well.

Here is an example of a case where as a part of a Cluster Feast held in Colorado, friends were invited to submit a video of themselves sharing a reading.  Yolanda chose the Prayer for the Western States which she is reading from Braille.

If you think carefully for a moment, Yolanda could not have shared this reading if all she had was an Audio version of the Prayer. Braille is "Literacy" for Blind People!  It is the way Blind people are able to read and write.

Because she has this Prayer Book in Braille, she was able to participate!

How to ask about preferred accessible format

It is Important to ask your Blind friends what Accessible format they prefer.  However, the time , place and way you ask is also important!  If your goal is "... a just relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions of society that will uplift all and will not designate anyone as “other”. " ... Then please don't create a situation of "Otherness" by choosing the time to ask in the context of a public meeting.  This is a conversation that should be handled in confidence between you and your Blind Friend so that arrangements can be made with respect.  If you know that you will have Blind Friends attending your meeting, you should approach them and ask what accessible format they prefer regarding all of the materials that will be used ahead of time.

Depending on the type of materials and what they will be used for, some Blind people may prefer to have an Accessible copy in Braille.  Others may prefer an electronic copy such as a Word Doc or PDF. Others may prefer a Large Print Format.  Still others may want an audio version. The important thing is to be sure to ask what Accessible format they prefer.  

It is important to note that the choice of Accessible format always belongs to your Blind friend who will be the one who needs to use it.  Not the person who is having the materials transcribed.

Keep in mind their choice may change for the next event or a different type of materials depending on the circumstances.  They may even want the materials in more than one format.  Work together with your Blind friends.  They will help you figure out what will work best for them in each situation. This might be new for you, but they have been doing this their whole life.

You can easily provide the materials in the Accessible format of choice each and every time.

The process is fairly simple.  If you have an electronic copy of these materials such as a Word Document or an accessible PDF Document, you can work out with your Blind friend how to get them a direct copy.  That is, if they want their Accessible copy in electronic format.  

How will you know if the files are accessible?  You can take time to learn about accessible documents by visiting web sites like this one!  You can also ask your Blind friend.  But please be sure to do this ahead of time so that you don't get to a meeting only to find out that it is not going to work out!

However, if your Blind friends prefer to have their Accessible copy in Braille, Audio or Large Print Format;  Then no problem.

You can do this pretty simply.  It is possible to send (either by email or USPS mail) a copy of the materials to a Professional Certified Transcriber.  They will arrange a turn-around time and a price for the job.  Then, they will ship the Accessible copy back to the address you specify.  This can be done using Free Matter for the Blind so that there is no charge for shipping.  The transcriber will usually ask about which Braille format should be used and other questions about binding.  These choices will affect the cost.  

It is also possible to produce a transcribed copy in the form of a .brf (Braille Ready Format) file which can be used on a refreshible Braille Display.  This file can be emailed back.

All of this matters, depending whether or not the materials will be a one-time-only use or something that will be used for reference over a long period of time.  You will need to get this information from the Blind person who will be using these materials.  They are the only one who will know what works best for them.

Braille formats might include:

  • Uncontracted braille, Grade 1, or Alphabetic Braille is the most basic form of braille. It uses all 26 letters of the alphabet and is often used by children or individuals who are first learning to read and write in braille. With uncontracted braille words are spelled out letter by letter. This form of braille takes up a lot of space and documents written in uncontracted braille will be very lengthy.
  • Contracted braille, Unified English Braille (UEB) code or Literary Braille is a more complex form that is typically learned after learning uncontracted braille. UEB serves as a single braille code for literacy and technical information in English-speaking countries. It is the most commonly used form of braille. UEB braille is a system of “short cuts” where one letter might represent an entire word. There are letter combinations, or contractions, that represent whole words without spelling out each letter in the word. This method reduces the overall number of cells needed and the volume of pages required to print books and other written content. UEB braille takes up less space and improves an individual’s speed in both reading and writing. This is the form of braille you would see in public places.

The transcriber will also be able to produce Large Print Format and/or Audio as well.

Options, including turn-around time vary from one transcriber to the next.  

Be sure to Plan Ahead for the time it will take to have materials transcribed to keep your costs down.

That's pretty much all there is to making materials Accessible.

The important thing is to do it!  Not having accessible materials certainly is a barrier! The goal is to remove the barriers to building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities! 

Large maintained list of Professional Transcribers

it is extremely important that you use a professional who is qualified to do the transcriptions and who will follow all of the Accessibility Standards to produce quality materials.

This is why we are providing a large Professional list of Qualified Transcribers who can handle any size job, large or small.  Just pick someone you want to work with from the list below:

Braille Transcription, Audio and Large Print Resources

 The Baha'i Service for the Blind offers the following resources:

  • Materials In Braille
  • Audio Books and Talks
  • Large Print Materials
  • A Lending Library
  • The American Bahá'í -- Audio Edition

Final Thoughts:

In a world where materials are often handed out at meetings and conferences, it is important to ensure that blind people are not excluded. Providing accessible formats of materials such as braille, audio, large print or electronic copies is crucial to ensure everyone can participate fully. It is essential to ask your blind friends which accessible format they prefer, but this conversation should be held in private, respectfully and confidentially. The choice of format always belongs to the blind person who will use it, and it may change from event to event or depending on tmany factors. 

The process of providing accessible materials is straightforward, and if you have an electronic copy, you can work with your blind friend to get them a direct copy. If your friend prefers a different format such as braille, audio or large print, you can send the materials to a professional certified transcriber who will arrange a turnaround time and price. However, it is essential to consider which braille format will be used and other binding options, as they may affect the cost and usefulness of the materials. By providing accessible formats of materials, you can ensure that your Blind friends can participate fully.

Learn more about Braille and it's history. Also see: Safeguarding the legacy, investing the inheritance - A tribute to the transformative impact of Louis Braille's invention on the lives of Blind People


Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building a Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Community!

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