About Us

Student health 101

Alternative Media


Already familiar with Alternative Media? Use these instructions to submit your requests online:

Alternative Format Requests (PDF with screenshots)

DRC Alternative Format Requests (Video)


What is Alternative Media and how can it be used?

All required or supplemental academic text for a course needs to be accessible to users with a wide range of abilities. Alternative Media includes print and technology-based solutions that are designed and/or converted to meet the needs of a variety of users.

In order to qualify for alternative media services through the Disability Resource Center (DRC), students must have a verified need. Some examples of qualifying disabilities are: visual, learning, ADHD, quadriplegia, and impaired hand dexterity.

Alternative media can be used in a number of ways to help students succeed. For example, once the text material has been converted into electronic form, students can choose to listen to the material or listen and follow along with automatic word/sentence highlighting features (supports visually tracking).

If you are not currently a DRC student but are interested in learning more, please call our office at 805-756-1395 to set up an appointment with an access specialist.

How do I request service?

  1. If you are not yet registered for services with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), request services.
  2. If you have been approved for alternative media services, log into the Student Accommodations Portal and enter your accommodation requests for the quarter. Refer to the DRC Online Portal webpage for additional instructions on how to submit accommodation requests.
  3. Next, submit a work order for each textbook/document you need converted. For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, watch the DRC Alternative Format Requests video or refer to the instructional PDF.
  4. Please be sure to respond to any messages you receive from the DRC's Alternative Media department.

Important Notes:

  • You must own a physical copy of the textbook and/or course material in order to be in compliance with the Copyright Law of the United States. If our team is unable to procure an electronic version of your textbook, you may be asked to drop your book off for us to scan and convert.
  • When you submit an Alternative Media request, you are affirming that all Alternative Media materials will be handled appropriately. Any materials provided to you by the DRC may not be copied, shared, or distributed in any manner that violates copyright law.
  • To ensure a quick turn-around, submit your requests as soon as you register for classes (preferably before the new quarter begins). Our team prioritizes work orders based on when they come in.
  • If you have any questions or need assistance with submitting your alternative format requests, please don't hesitate to reach out, we'd be happy to help!

How long will it take?

We'll do our best to provide you with accessible material as soon as possible, however some items may take a little longer to convert. You can expedite this process by placing Alternative Media requests right after you've registered for classes as we prioritize work orders based on when we receive them. Here are some general guidelines we follow:

  • For textbooks and/or other required course material, we will make sure the standard production time is no longer than 3 weeks from the date of the student's AIM ("Student Accommodations" portal) request (note that when the campus is closed, we will not be working on requests).
  • Syllabi and handouts (up to 30 pages) can usually be delivered to students within 4 days.
  • Exams will be available on the day the student is scheduled to test at the DRC; however, intricate and/or complex formats such as Braille, math/science graphics, or a human voice recording of the exam will require advance coordination between the student, faculty and our team.

Do I need to own a copy of the textbook?

Yes. If you do not, you are subject to the Copyright Law of the United States.

Can I share the accessible material with my friends?

No. Under the Copyright Law of the United States, accessible materials provided to an eligible student can only be used for that student's educational purposes. They cannot be copied, shared, or distributed to others.

What's the difference between an "Accessible PDF" and a "PDF for Listening?"

You have the ability to set your format preference in the Student Accommodations portal. The two options available are Accessible PDF and PDF for Listening.

Both of these formats can be used with a text-to-speech (TTS) program of your choice; however the PDF for Listening version is edited so that headers and footers on each page are not read aloud by the program. In addition, charts and tables, images, practice problems, and other similar material are not typically formatted to be read by a TTS program, just the main chapter content.

*Please be aware that PDF for Listening files take our team longer to convert.

PDF for Listening Notes:

  • PDF for Listening files are optimized for conversion to MP3 via SensusAccess.
  • You can use the Screenshot Reader feature of Read&Write to read aloud sections of the PDF (e.g. captions) that are tagged as images.
  • Here are some video tutorials that go over how to use the Screenshot Reader feature: Video tutorial for Mac; Video tutorial for PC

Are there options for me to convert my own material?

Our university has partnered with SensusAccess to provide an option for students, faculty, and staff to convert files into alternative formats such as MP3. If you would like training on SensusAccess, please contact our Assistive Technology Specialist John Lee at jlee245@calpoly.edu.

There are two approaches users can take to converting Alternative Media materials into MP3s. For both conversion options, we recommend you request PDF for Listening as your Alternative Formats Preference in your DRC portal user account. 

Option 1 (optimal for short works and single chapters): 

  1. Download PDF file from the folder that Alternative Media shared with you on your OneDrive. 
  2. Visit SensusAccess to convert the file. 
  3. Under Source, choose Text. 
  4. Open your PDF file and select all of the text by pressing Control + A (Command + A for Mac). Then copy all of the text by pressing Control + C (Command + C for Mac). 
  5. Paste the copied text into the conversion window of SensusAccess by pressing Control +V (Command + V for Mac). 
  6. Click the Upload button, and select format as MP3 audio. SensusAccess will prompt you to select your desired reading speed and language/voice. 
  7. Enter your Cal Poly email address. 
  8. SensusAccess will email you a link to the MP3 when it is completed. You can download the MP3 or listen to it in your browser. 

Option 2 (optimal for bulk conversions): 

  1. Download PDF files from the folder that Alternative Media shared with you on your OneDrive. 
  2. Visit SensusAccess to convert the files. Use the following steps to complete the form. 
  3. Under Source, choose File. 
  4. Select the desired PDF files from your computer and upload them to SensusAccess. This may take a few minutes if you are uploading several files. 
  5. Select Accessibility Conversion. 
  6. Select doc or docx file formats. 
  7. Enter your Cal Poly email address and click Submit. Once the conversions are complete, SensusAccess will email them to you. 
  8. Save the Word (doc/docx) files to your computer and return to SensusAccess to convert the Word (doc/docx) files to MP3. 
  9. Upload the Word (doc/docx) files and select MP3 audio as your target format. SensusAccess will prompt you to select your desired reading speed and language/voice. 
  10. Enter your Cal Poly email address. 
  11. SensusAccess will email you a link to the MP3s when they are completed. You can download the MP3 or listen to it in your browser. 

DRC responsibilities

After receiving an Alternative Media request through the Student Accommodations Portal, our team will:

  • Search for an electronic version of the textbook from the publisher.
  • If the publisher is not able to provide one, we will ask you to bring in your textbook for us to scan.
  • Notify you by e-mail when your alternative media is ready.



You may contact the Alternative Media Coordinators, Keisha Cannon and Becca Carlson, at altmedia@calpoly.edu with any questions or concerns. (top)


Related Content


Location: Bldg 124 (Student Services, across from Spanos Stadium)
Phone: 805-756-1395
Fax: 805-756-5451
Email: drc@calpoly.edu

Give Today

A group of young people looking very excited

Give Today

Strategic Plan

Get the Student Affairs Strategic Plan

Get the plan here