Alternate media is defined as instructional materials, textbooks, college publications, and/or library materials in formats accessible and usable by individuals with print disabilities. Examples of accessible formats are: digital talking books (DAISY), MP3 audio, Kurzweil, large print, Braille, tactile graphics, captioning, and e-text. Alternate Media Services will only be provided to students who have a verified disability and whose disability related functional limitations prevent them from reading regular print. Alternate Media is provided through Accessibility Resource Centers for Students.

Types of Alternate Media


Most alternate media formats begin with e-text. E-text is printed material converted into a digital or “electronic” document. Sometimes e-text may be obtained from publishers in the form of a WORD document or PDF file, but when not available, books must be scanned with a high speed scanner to prepare them for alternate media processing. The resulting “image” file is processed by Optical Character Recognition software which looks for shapes and patterns in the scanned electronic image that resemble letters and makes a fairly accurate guess as to what the text should be. Once text is recognized it can be saved to a variety of text based formats such as .txt, .doc, or .rtf. These text based documents can then be accessed by the end user in a myriad of ways. Most commonly they are magnified on a computer screen or read out loud by text-to-speech programs such as Kurzweil, JAWS, ReadPlease, Acrobat Reader, or Text Aloud. Images from printed material may also be included in the digital document with alternate text descriptions to provide accessibility. 


Digital Accessible Information System, or DAISY, is one of the most flexible formats available and is something of a hybrid in the alternate media world. It has all the benefits of a regular audio book, but it is superior when it comes to navigating the content and displaying text which is synchronized with the audio. For example, DAISY books can enable users who are blind to navigate an encyclopedia allowing them to move to logical points in the text such as units, chapters, or even specific pages. An encyclopedia as a regular audio book would be nearly useless because it lacks search and navigation features and requires the listener to fast forward and rewind linearly through the text to locate specific entries. With DAISY the user does not have to be limited to a computer; there are portable players capable of playing DAISY books as well. 

Audio Book

An audio book is a recording of the contents of a book read aloud or recognized by text to speech software and “read” with a synthetic computer voice. Audio books are usually distributed on CDs in digital formats such as MP3 and Windows Media Audio. The term "audio book" is synonymous with "books on tape.” 


The Braille system is a method that is widely used by blind people to read and write. Each Braille character or cell is made up of six dot positions, arranged in a rectangle containing two columns of three dots each. The dots may be raised at any of the six positions thus creating varying patterns of dots to represent characters. The dots are perceived tactilely by moving the fingers across the Braille page. 

Tactile Graphics

Using specialized embossing machines, software, and paper, printed material is represented graphically as raised lines which are discernable by touch.