Alternative Formats

Alternative formats are print materials presented in a way other than a traditional paper book, or multimedia materials that are adapted to be accessible for students with various disabilities. Often, students will request PDF versions of their textbooks to access digitally. Students who use screen readers will often require textbooks and supplemental course materials (PowerPoints, handouts, assignments, articles, etc.) from the Disability Resource Center in an alternative, electronic format. The DRC is here to help faculty and students navigate this process!


Information for Faculty

Most students who use alternative formats work directly with the DRC to get their materials, and you may not be aware of students in your course who receive this accommodation. However, if any blind students register for your course, someone from the DRC will reach out to you so that we can work together to make sure your course material is fully accessible.

What are my responsibilities as a faculty member?

Students who are blind require fully accessible versions of their course materials. This means that in addition to ensuring that the text is accessible, the DRC must:

  • describe images, graphs, diagrams, etc. and convert them into tactile graphics as needed;
  • replace any mathematical equations with accessible alternatives;
  • adjust reading order on nonlinear materials;
  • add headings and true numbered or bulleted lists as needed; and
  • convert music into an alternative, accessible format.

Students who are blind may receive their materials in accessible Microsoft Word versions, braille versions, HTML versions, or other formats that work best for the student. The great news is that the DRC will take care of the conversion process! We will make your course materials as accessible as possible for students who are blind. In order for us to do this, however, we will need the materials from you in advance.

At least two weeks before the start of the term:

  1. If you are planning to assign a textbook, please share the ISBN and a textbook reading schedule with the DRC by emailing
  2. Please share a list of any videos, external software programs, or websites you will be assigning or using as part of the course curriculum by emailing

Over the course of the term:

  1. Please share all supplemental reading materials (PowerPoints, handouts, assignments, articles, videos, etc.) with the DRC on the Wednesday the week before your planned distribution, posting, or show date.
  2. Please note: You should not share exams or quizzes that are meant to be taken in a proctored environment. Any course materials the DRC receives from you will be treated as something meant to be assigned or distributed directly to students. See below for more information about exams and quizzes.
  3. The Alternative Formats team will be in touch with you about formatting and distribution for confidential exams and quizzes.

How Can I be Proactive About Making my Course Content Accessible?

Faculty can refer to Portland State University's Accessibility website and the Office of Academic Innovation's Create Accessible Course Materials webpage for information regarding how to create accessible course materials.

Information for Students

If you have alternative formats as an accommodation, the DRC will work with you to convert your print materials into a digital format that works for you. Before you make your request, you will need to sign the online Alternative Formats Agreement. This acknowledges that students who receive accessible, electronic copies of textbooks and course materials (syllabi, handouts, online resources, etc.) through the DRC are not permitted to share, distribute, or copy the materials or to otherwise violate federal copyright law. Any such violation would also constitute a breach of the PSU Student Code of Conduct.

How do I request alternative formats?

  1. Submit service requests at the beginning of every term through DRC Online for every class that you are taking. Make sure to check the box labeled e-text. For information regarding how to submit service requests through DRC Online, please refer to the tutorial Entering Your Service Request.
  2. Submit your e-text requests by signing into DRC Online and selecting “Alternative Formats” from the “My Accommodations” menu on the left side of the screen. Make sure the current term is selected, then under “Requesting Alternative Formats” you will click “select” next to the books you would like to request for E-text. If your book is not listed, or you have additional readings, please submit a custom request in the  “Additional Books or Reading Materials” section, which appears below the textbook list.
  3. Submit your proof of purchase or rental by emailing an electronic copy to In order to comply with federal copyright law, students must submit legal proof of purchase or rental for every textbook or course packet requested in an alternative format.

You can also email if you have any questions about the process, or if you would like help requesting your textbooks. Please note that you will need to make requests for your specific textbooks in order for the DRC to begin processing them for you. The earlier you can make the request, the better!

Alternative Format Agreement

Each term, when you log in to DRC Online, you will be asked to e-sign the Alternative Format Agreement. We suggest you read this agreement carefully and keep the information provided in mind.

When will I receive my alternative formats?

Once the Alternative Formats team receives your requests for accessible reading materials through DRC Online and legal proof of purchase or rental, we will submit a request to the publisher for an accessible, digital version of your reading materials. If the publisher has not made an accessible, electronic version available within seven (7) business days, we will request that you submit a hard copy of your textbook to be cut, scanned, and converted. Once we get files from the publisher or hard copy materials from you, we can usually get the digital copy of the book to you within 3 business days.  Fully accessible text for screen reader users (text that contains accessible equations, descriptions for images, graphs, diagrams, etc.) may take longer to convert. Our team will work with you and your instructors to edit and distribute course materials over the course of the term. The DRC contacts instructors directly in these situations. 

How do I access my alternative formats? 

The Alternative Formats team will deliver digital versions of your textbooks through your PSU Google Drive. If you are a screen reader user, we recommend that you install the Personal Backup and Sync desktop application for Google Drive. This is the most accessible way to access Google Drive and the only user-friendly way to access Google Drive using a screen reader. You can reach out to us at if you have questions about getting this set up!

Can I listen to my textbooks?  

Yes! The Disability Resource Center’s Adaptive Technology team can provide recommendations and training for several different text-to-speech software programs and applications that will allow you to listen to your digital books. In addition to reading your digital books out loud, some of these software programs and applications allow you to:

  • Run optical character recognition (OCR) on inaccessible image PDFs so that the text becomes accessible.
  • Create audiobooks from your digital readings.
  • Highlight and annotate your digital readings using built-in note-taking and word processing tools.

For more information regarding text-to-speech software programs and applications, please refer to the Disability Resource Center’s Adaptive Technology web page. You can also attend our Adaptive Technology for Reading & Writing Workshop to learn about our most recommended text-to-speech software and apps. You can find more information about the workshop and our workshop schedule on the DRC Workshop web page, or you can watch a recorded version of this workshop on our Adaptive Technology for Reading & Writing web page. You can also read our Kurzweil Guide to learn about how to navigate the most popular text-to-speech tool that is available through the DRC.

For recommendations and one-on-one training, please email us at  

How else can I access digital formats of my textbooks?

The PSU Library has a lot of course materials available in digital formats, and county libraries have large collections of books and materials you can check out. There are also ways to purchase digital books, or access free material from online resources. You can learn more about options for accessing digital materials and choose what works best for you. Of course, the DRC will be happy to work with you to get alternate formats through our office, but you might want to check out other resources as well!

If you have questions about the information on this page, please contact the Alternative Formats Coordinator.

Phone: 503-725-4153

Check our home page for our hours and contact information.