Accessible reading

Creating accessible information

If you need a document converted to an accessible format, including braille, large and giant print, audio, EasyRead, or as a hybrid disc containing a number of formats the RNIB has a transcription service that you may use.

The UK Association for Accessible Formats provides guidance and standards for the production of accessible documents and content Standards – UK Association for Accessible formats (

If you want to host a session showing people how to use accessible technology or want to make sure that your events are fully accessible to blind and visually impaired people, RNIB have produced a guide to help you plan a successful event.

Reading groups

Anyone should be able to join or set up a reading group whether blind, partially sighted or sighted. Here a few helpful tips courtesy of Reading Groups for Everyone and RNIB:


  • Location is key. If the venue is difficult to access or find it may mean a blind or partially sighted person cannot attend.
  • Do any members have another disability such as being hearing impaired or a wheelchair user?
  • Consider if there will be any carers or guide dogs which could affect space
  • Set the room in predictable fashion to make it easier for a blind and partially sighted person to locate their seat.
  • With regards to refreshments many blind and partially sighted people are diabetic, consider what you provide. Also be aware that guide dogs will also need refreshments and toilet facilities!


When meeting a blind and partially sighted person, introduce yourself, offer to shake hands and inform them if moving away. Don’t leave someone talking to an empty space!

Good practice is for everyone to introduce themselves at the start so people can get to know the names either side of them. Try and always use a person’s name so everyone can get used to their voices.

When leading a group do not sit with your back to a window as it is harder for members of the group who are partially sighted to see your face.

Reading format

The choice of book is a big consideration as only seven per cent of books are fully accessible to blind and partially sighted people. Don’t be deterred, it just means more planning with your book choices.

Check availability in alternative formats such as audio, braille and giant print. RNIB’s National Library Service and Calibre Audio Library are great places to start. Please take into consideration that accessible format books can take longer to read.

Note: Both RNIB and Calibre can provide multiple copies of books in audio format.

Telephone book clubs

RNIB also provide Telephone Book Clubs for people with sight loss. These are especially good for customers with limited mobility.

Support for book groups

Calibre Audio Library provides a service for visually impaired book groups, supplying multiple copies of the same title so the group can listen to the same book at the same time. There is a small yearly subscription for this service.

For more information call 01296 432339, visit or e mail [email protected]

Library ebooks

These are some ideas on how to help blind and partially sighted people use your eBook library service.

Know the benefits

Library ebook services are a great opportunity for blind and partially sighted people, but as with any new technology there are some hurdles to leap over first.

EBooks can be read using an eBook reader (like the Kindle) or using an eBook app on computers, mobile phones or tablets (like iBooks on the iPad). Depending on the device or app being used you can:

  • Enlarge the print size
  • Zoom in on a particular passage or phrase
  • Change the colour of the screen, so that print is either black on a white background or white on a black background
  • Use text-to-speech to have the book read aloud.

A bit more detail is available in the RNIB factsheet: The benefits of eBooks and on the RNIB eBooks and digital website

Running ebook sessions

We recommend working closely with customers who are new to ebooks so that you can share experiences and work together to solve problems. This might take the form of:

  • One-to-one help
  • Group advice sessions
  • Online help and factsheets

There are many ways to run advice sessions. You might want to consider the following formats:

  • Device taster sessions – gather eBook readers, apps and software to demonstrate the technology and let your users get hands on experience.
  • Download sessions – demonstrate using your eBook service with assistive technology. If you have the facilities, you can run this as a teaching session.
  • Consultation sessions – invite users to bring their own devices in so you can help them with problems.
  • Combined sessions – either combine the above three ideas or make sure that there is an accessibility element to any other events or outreach work you do, even if the work isn’t primarily aimed at blind and partially sighted people; spread the word of accessible eBooks as widely as possible

It’s a good idea to do a dry run with staff members first to iron out any problems. Set a challenge to use your eBook service with screen reading technology and the screen turned off – this is a great way to learn about how the technology works in real life. Some sessions might require the use of access technology such as screen readers or magnifiers, see our advice on using computers.

You might want to consider inviting your supplier or other experts to get involved with the sessions. The following organisations can provide support for people with sight loss with technology:

  • RNIB Technology Support Squad

RNIB’s Technology Support Squad is a free national service that can help blind and partially sighted people set up and use technology: computers, eBook readers and access technology. Contact: RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]

  • AbilityNet
    AbilityNet provide a free helpline which offers expert advice and information about how disabled people can use computers and the internet. Contact: 0800 269 545

Things to be aware of:

  • Talking about eBooks can get complicated really quickly so try not to get bogged down in the details.
  • Follow our tips on good customer service and guiding someone with sight loss.
  • Try to maintain a light tone, keeping things as simple as possible, even if this is easier said than done! Sharing the discovery of new technologies can be fun.
  • Getting to grips with ebooks can be a slow process at first but reassure users that things are much easier once you get going.
  • Improvisation, adaptation and learning new things are part of the initial challenge but the effort is worth it.

Useful factsheets and websites (These links are PDFs to be added to the site)

  • Getting started with eBooks (Word)
  • Using Overdrive with assistive technology (Word)
  • Getting to grips with Adobe Digital Editions (Word)

Inter library loans

The simplest way to ‘borrow’ material on behalf of your customers is to contact the RNIB National Library Service to check their holdings and arrange for the loan of the material direct. This service if free to members.

As with all inter library loan requests you should provide as much information as you can including title, author, format (audio or large print) and include that the customer is a blind or partially sighted person. It they are already a member of RNIB or another charitable provider please provide the customer’s name.

Articles for the blind scheme

Alternative format material (including large print and audio) may be sent via the Royal Mail free of charge, using the Articles for the Blind (AFB) service. To comply with Royal Mail regulations the customer’s name and ‘Articles for the Blind’ must be on the parcel.