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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 following the beginning of the quarter.
  • 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. For more information, visit Kennedy Library's website. If you would like training on SensusAccess, please contact our Assistive Technology Specialist John Lee at jlee245@calpoly.edu.

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 Nick Jeffrey and Keisha Cannon, Alternative Media Coordinators, at altmedia@calpoly.edu with any questions or concerns. (top)


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

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