A Case for Braille: Contracts for Suppliers, Customers and Employees

Consider a possible scenario:

You’re interviewing for a position in your company and across the boardroom table from you sits an immensely-qualified candidate, who is vision impaired.

As you near the close of the interview, you’re pondering what on earth you’re going to do about paperwork.

Ten years ago, you hired a temp who was extremely efficient at drafting really professional-looking office documents. All your stationery, invoices, contracts … were her creation. Any time you’ve needed to make a change over the past ten years, you simply used white-out and created a new “original.”

But the candidate obviously can’t read our contract.

You reflect that the office printer is a 3 in 1, so you’ll just scan it! Brilliant! It ticks the boxes for accessibility and you’ve arrived in the 21st Century! After all, don’t the new new Equality laws say something about having to provide alternate-format documents on demand?

Do you have questions for me, about logistics, for example–how I would manage other aspects of working here? your candidate asks.

No, we mustn’t let the paperwork become a barrier! We can’t very well have someone read her the contract of employment. It violates confidentiality and puts another employee in a conflict situation. Even if the payroll person were prepared to read it, shouldn’t the new employee have access to her own information, to read and reread the terms and feel comfortable with them, as any new hire would?

So, thinking fast, you lean forward to get a better look at the laptop thing she’s got on her lap and, plucking up your courage, you ask:

Is that a laptop? Could you read print materials with that?

The million-pound question!

Yes, in theory, she could; but possibly not with quite the results you hope.

For one thing, the usual 3 in 1 printer will only scan a picture of the text on a page, not the text itself. Braille “laptops” rely on the binary characters used to create plain text files in order to display printed text. Thus, graphics of any kind baffle such laptops, however exactly the graphics mirror the text they represent.

Could it read a PDF? Perhaps, she answers, but there are so many kinds of PDF documents and the formatting once made accessible is almost never what was intended. * So it may be that some columns are read down and other across. The form number is where the date should be and the totals are interspersed between lines of the company address.

No, the best way to avoid stressful guess-work in a transition situation is to simply commission a qualified Braille translation company, specialised in Braille production, to produce the contract in Braille.

At Valleys WordWorks, we ensure that the bespoke Braille we produce comes as close to meeting your client’s needs as possible. If the employee or supplier is a Braille reader, we will use a braille code to match his/her facility. If you know that your client is a new or less experienced reader, the skill level might necessitate a more simplified Braille code.

In any case, we’re happy to discuss the details of your project with you and applaud your efforts to make these simple, common-sense adaptations in your company.

* As an alternative to Braille production, there are companies which specialise in making accessible PDFs. These can be found online and produce excellent work, as well. We would recommend Accessibil-IT as a software alternative to hard-copy Braille, should you choose that.

Please get in touch for more information about how we can make your contracts and employee documents accessible.