Veronica With Four Eyes

Common File Types For Vision Impairment and Print Disabilities

It’s easy to get overwhelmed over all of the different file types that are used for accessible materials for people with vision impairment. It’s not uncommon for a student to have to work with several different file types during class, which means it’s important to know what file type is used for what function. Here is a roundup of the most common file types for vision impairment and print disabilities.

Word Document

File extension(s)

  • .doc
  • .docx
  • .dotx (template)

What it’s used for

Word documents are used for creating and reading documents that can be edited or changed by any user. While this is beneficial when it comes to adjusting text sizes, content can also be altered or deleted which can cause problems in situations such as exams.

Example

I receive my classwork in a Word document so I can easily enlarge it and write essay responses

Read more about creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word here.

Rich Text Format

File extension(s)

  • .rtf

What it’s used for

Rich Text Format files are basic text documents that can be opened on any computer and with most word processors. They do not contain complex formatting or font choices.

Example

Many help manuals for assistive technology devices are in Rich Text Format to ensure universal compatibility regardless of what device a user has.

Read more about ten technology skills every college student should have here.

PDF Document

File extension(s)

  • .pdf

What it’s used for

PDF documents can take many different forms, but their main feature is that they cannot have content edited or altered by default. While this can be frustrating for people who need to change font sizes or other document properties, it is great for ensuring document contents are not altered.

Example

My university sends me letters in PDF format, and I also receive my exams in this format as well.

Read more about annotating PDFs with Notability here and converting images and documents to PDF with Microsoft Office Lens here.

PNG Image

File extension(s)

  • .png

What it’s used for

Portable Network Graphic images, also known as PNG images, are high-quality images with a wide range of colors and compression options. They are widely preferred over other image formats because they can be enlarged easily without sacrificing quality.

Example

The graphs on my calculus test are in PNG format so I can open the image in a new tab and zoom in to see details up close.

Read more about the importance of high resolution images and how to create them here.

EPUB Document

File extension(s)

  • .epub

What it’s used for

EPUB documents are for eBooks that can be read across a variety of apps and devices. They were developed to be used for eReaders so that digital books could keep the same organizational structures such as chapters and page numbers as their physical counterparts.

Example

I download books from Bookshare in the EPUB format and read them on my Nook eReader.

Read more about why I use an eReader here.

DAISY

File extension(s)

  • .daisy
    • Text only .daisy
    • Audio only .daisy
    • Text and audio .daisy

Yes, all of these are the same extension, but some .daisy formats are text/audio only. However, most .daisy formats now feature both text and audio.

What it’s used for

DAISY was developed as a hybrid MP3 and XML format for people with print disabilities. Like EPUB, it allows for users to navigate by chapter, section, subsection, and page. DAISY text is often read out loud by text-to-speech software or input into a Braille reading device, while the audio version can be read with a talking book player.

Example

I can download a DAISY file from Bookshare and have a book read out loud to me using the Capti app.

Read more about Bookshare here and read more about the Capti app here.

Braille Formatted File

File extension(s)

  • .brf

What it’s used for

Braille Formatted Files are electronic forms of contracted or uncontracted Braille that can be printed on an embosser or read with a Braille reader or refreshable Braille display. Users can also get accessible books in this format.

Example

My friend found a picture of a turkey that was in the BRF format. When embossed, I could run my hands over the page and feel the shape of the turkey.

Read more about five ways to teach kids about Braille here

HTML Document

File extension(s)

  • .htm
  • .html

What it’s used for

HTML is used to create documents that are meant to be viewed on the internet, or documents that can be opened in a web browser.

Example

My website is based on HTML and has a defined structure, headings, and colors. Users can read different parts of my website by clicking on various links.

Read more about how to simplify reading web pages with technology here.

MP3 Audio

File extension(s)

  • .mp3

What it’s used for

MP3 audio files are one of the most common digital audio formats, especially for music. An MP3 file can be played on almost any device that supports audio playback.

Example

I am reading an audiobook where each chapter is a different MP3 file, and all of the files are saved in one folder.

Read more about using Amazon Alexa to help you read here.

Final thoughts

By learning what file types they prefer, students can learn to self-advocate for how they want to have their materials presented and can prepare for transition into higher education and the workplace by knowing how to use them. Building technology skills early is critical so that students can spend time learning content and not trying to figure out complicated technology. I hope this post is helpful for understanding the differences between file types for vision impairment and print disabilities so that users can easily figure out which works best for them.

 

Common file types for vision impairment and print disabilities. A quick list of the most common file formats, what they are used for, and example use cases



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