23 June 2022
Forms and surveys in alternative formats – how to make them accessible
If you have a form or survey, and you’re getting it transcribed into alternative formats such as Braille, Audio, Easy Read or British Sign Language video – that’s great. But have you thought about how people who read the Braille document, or listen to the audio, are going to respond? They can’t just fill in your form like people using the standard print version, and some target groups might find your form particularly confusing and complicated.
At A2i, we get quite a lot of queries about forms and surveys in alternative formats, and how these work for people with a visual impairment. So we hope this blog answers some of your questions:
When A2i transcribes your form or survey into alternative formats we have to look at how the end user will be able to respond. Sometimes this is clear from the document, other times we may need to discuss this further with our client.
When completing a standard print form/survey you would follow the instructions given on how to return our answers. This might be marking your answers on the original copy and passing it back to the person that gave it to you, or completing the form online for example.
However, for a visually impaired person this creates barriers. To remove these barriers we need to find out from you some alternative ways the visually impaired person can respond and adapt the end transcription accordingly.
How A2i help
Depending upon the alternative format you are ordering, there are a few different ways documents can be adapted to remove barriers. To help us decide how to bring the greatest accessibility to your form or survey we complete the following process:
- We will check to see if you have a sentence in your standard print document that tells people how to respond? This is normally a sentence near the beginning telling the user to complete the form and return it to a postal address or complete the form online, for example.
- A2i adapt this sentence to make it work for the alternative format
- We may suggest that you add or offer a variety of different methods for the end user to respond such as:
- Completing the form online, with details of the web address or hyperlink then included
- Emailing a dedicated person with their responses
- Phoning a dedicated person who can note their responses
We can then accurately transcribe the form/survey into your required format.
Form and survey style options for different types of alternative formats
Each alternative format has a slightly different style for the end user and you should think about which format would work best for you, how you want your end users to send their answers to your survey questions, and your target audience. We can help you with these decisions when you request your quotation.
- Large Print forms: we will reformat your form or survey, adjusting the layout and the size of the space for answers so visually impaired users can complete the Large Print form and hand back or return by post.
- Accessible and editable PDF forms: we will reformat your form or survey, adjusting the layout and settings so visually impaired users can complete the form electronically on your website or save and complete it on their computer and then return it by email.
- Braille forms: we will detail the methods by which your reader can respond see point 3 above. We would then replicate the text of the form and indicate points where there are multiple choices or spaces for answers.
- Audio forms: we will detail the methods by which the end user can respond see point 3 above. We would then read out the text of the form and indicate points where there are multiple choices or spaces for answers.
- Easy Read forms: we will re-write and reformat your form or survey, using a logical structure and clear jargon-free language. We redesign the form and include images to help convey important concepts. We can also make your forms accessible and editable for online use.
- BSL forms: people with hearing loss often have a lower reading ability and therefore benefit forms as a BSL video. Viewers can either watch the video whilst completing the form by following the BSL signer’s instructions, or they can use the BSL video to understand the form and ask a friend to help complete the written document.
Why don’t we produce an identical form or survey, but in Braille?
This is a common query. We don’t produce an identical Braille form or survey because it isn’t possible for visually impaired readers to add their responses into an embossed Braille document. Let’s consider 2 possible options:
- Asking the end user to write in their response – they would need enough sight to be able to write the answers down
- Asking the end user to add their answers in Braille – they would need a way to add Braille to the original document, in the right place.
Both these options would require an unknown amount of space and make the Braille document very bulky. But the biggest stumbling block is that you would then need to be able to read Braille to know which question they are answering and to read the answer if they add their answer in Braille text. All very complicated!!
We know that many people with visual impairments use equipment that aids accessibility such as screen readers and Braille keyboards etc, so once they have read the information in the survey they can easily get the responses back to you via email or phone. Another option, if the responses aren’t private or confidential, is for them to ask a friend/family member to complete the standard print form while the end user “reads” the questions in their preferred format.
So that’s why we encourage you to amend or include a guide sentence informing the user that we are replicating the text information and offering them various ways to get the information back to you.
Forms or surveys in public places
Some forms/surveys are designed to be left in a public place and handed to staff on duty but this limits visually impaired people’s ability to respond so it’s sensible to offer copies in alternative formats, and various methods to respond, so everyone can be involved.
You may want to publish your consultation or survey on your website or make application forms available online and we can help you do this in an the most helpful accessible way. Providing forms and surveys in Easy Read and as British Sign Language (BSL) videos can make your website even more inclusive and ensure you get responses from a good cross section of people.
We can even include a copy of the standard print version along with the alternative format version and pop in your freepost envelope if that’s how you would like the end user to respond.