Accessibility and alternative formats

This information provides an overview of the alternative formats for Command, House of Commons and un-numbered Act Papers. The information is not definitive, but brings together different options that might otherwise be explained in different places.

Standard publishing requirements

All Command and House of Commons Papers must be published as web accessible PDFs and print-ready PDFs on GOV.UK, even when an organisation is exempt from publishing other content on GOV.UK.

The Government Digital Service has set out publishing requirements to ensure these papers are findable on GOV.UK.

All PDFs created for the web should be accessible and meet the requirements for PDF/A.

Print-ready PDFs are published so that interested users (including potential print suppliers) can download them and print off high-quality printed copies.

HTML versions may also be published alongside the PDFs, where HTML content meets ‘official documents’ requirements.

Accessible options

A document’s content and intended audience could prompt a review of additional publishing formats (and languages). For example, is a document likely to generate a request for an alternative format under the Equality Act 2010? For some papers, however, the answer might be to publish specific alternative formats by default.

Examples of alternative formats:

  • Large print version with a font size of 16pt or over (including, where requested, Arial 20pt for House of Commons users, to be printed ready with the main paper)
  • Easy Read version, print and web
  • British Sign Language video
  • Braille version
  • Audio version
  • Open text format (basically a Word document, but able to open in non-Microsoft word processing software)

A web accessible PDF document can also partly meet the need for:

  • Large print on screen (as the pages can be scaled to preference. This, however, does not meet a hard copy large print requirement)
  • Audio (as Adobe Acrobat Reader allows all suitable PDFs to be ‘read out loud’)

Assessing the need for alternative formats

The potential requirement for alternative formats should be discussed when a document is first planned, and quotes and timelines obtained as early as possible.

To discuss the needs of people who work in Parliament, contact the House of Commons Vote Office or the House of Lords Printed Paper Office.

Producing and publishing alternative formats

A range of suppliers produce alternative versions. In addition, the supplier for Command and House of Commons Papers is able to produce the formats listed above and provide guidance.

Easy Read and British Sign Language (BSL) video versions are created from a summary version of the paper. This is usually about 10% of the length of the full paper, with the key bullet points so that a supplier can:

  • rewrite the main content of the paper in a simpler way (Easy Read)
  • create a script for a signer and subtitles to use (BSL version)

If the summary can be agreed two weeks before the detail of the main paper, and at least two weeks before laying, it may be possible to publish Easy Read and BSL versions simultaneously with the main paper.

Braille, audio, print and other formats are usually produced from the fully signed off main paper. In some cases, this may mean these versions are not available on exactly the same day a paper is laid.

With planning it is possible to build in a near concurrent process for large print versions, if the original document is created in Word. This is a viable option if there is a requirement for large print versions to be available at the same time as the main paper is presented to Parliament. Other than that, simultaneous publication with the presented version might not be possible.

For hard copy formats, a process to deal with requests and mailings will also need to be put in place.

Other alternative formats are published on GOV.UK alongside the standard publishing formats.

British Sign Language (BSL) videos may be linked to GOV.UK from your organisation’s YouTube channel. The relevant GOV.UK team will create the online link.

Other formats and ideas

If you would like to share information about alternative formats please contact us at official.publishing@nationalarchives.gov.uk.