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Provide alternative formats

It’s important to remember that not everyone uses digital content in the same way. We all have preferences for the way we browse online, save our files, write our emails or view social media. Allowing flexibility and control to rest with the user is at the heart of providing alternative formats.

Remember that not everyone is using the latest version of the software that you might be using in your work, or they may not own proprietary software like Microsoft Office.

Some people use assistive technology, such as screen readers, mobile apps and magnifying software to help them access digital content. There are vast differences in the way these kinds of tools operate and we can’t be sure that every product we produce will be used the same way with each tool. For this reason, alternative formats are essential.

Similarly, some people with sensory disability require alternative formats that meet their needs. For example, some people require Braille versions of text, audio files that read content aloud, or text descriptions of audio content.

And some people with a range of disabilities, learning needs and cognitive conditions such as dyslexia require content in a simple, clear format like plain English or Easy Read. Alternative fonts and large text sizes can be incredibly helpful in some situations.

DCJ supports the use of text-to-speech software such as ReadSpeaker or BrowseAloud.

Alternative types of content should be provided wherever possible or, as a last resort, upon request.

Read more about choosing appropriate formats from the UK’s Digital Service Standard.


Videos that are published on our intranet and public-facing websites must be captioned, and where appropriate audio descriptions and Auslan should be used. When preparing your script it will need to be written in Plain English.

Captions are the text version of speech and other audible content that appears on videos, and are used to communicate with people who are Deaf or hearing impaired. People also view content with captions in noisy environments and when teaching or training others who are learning English.

Audio description is an audible narration of visual representations such as television programs, films and live performances. During gaps of dialogue it describes visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes to the viewer. Audio description is useful to people who are blind or who have low vision and people who have print, learning and/or physical disabilities.

Auslan is the Australian sign language and it is the primary or preferred language for many people in the Australian Deaf community. When producing videos for emergency communication, such as bushfires or floods, an Auslan interpreter must be present on screen for the entire duration of the video. For other videos, where possible, we recommend including an Auslan interpreter.

Auslan interpreters can be booked through the following organisations:


If your document is up to four pages long, please don’t publish it as a PDF. Please publish it as a web page instead. Documents over four pages can be published as an accessible PDF with an accompanying alternative format, such as HTML or an accessible Word document. An alternative format is required because:

  • Not all versions of all screen readers read out PDFs consistently.
  • PDF does not currently have accessibility support on mobile devices.

No scanned PDFs are allowed on DCJ websites unless an alternative is provided.

The best starting point for an accessible document is the template. If a template is accessible, the process of ensuring that the final document is accessible becomes easier. A range of DCJ templates are available from Ministerial and Communication Services (MACS).

Please see making sure PDFs are accessible for more information about the requirements for an accessible PDF.

There is also a helpful range of ‘How to Guides’ on producing accessible Word documents and other files on the DCJ Intranet (for internal use).

Languages other than English

Alternative formats can also include content in languages other than English. We explain the criteria for providing language translation support here.

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Last updated: 28 Oct 2020