[Athen] Alt format process?

Block, Maria blockm3 at wpunj.edu
Fri Feb 14 09:29:04 PST 2020

I do this as well and specify that the software the student uses is Kurzweil and it is not compatible with Vital Source – that seems to help because I have had them come back with Vital Source is accessible

Maria Block
Accessibility Specialist
Accessibility Resource Center
William Paterson University
Speert Hall 134
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, NJ 07470
[cid:image004.png at 01D0737D.28122B50]

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Robert Spangler
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2020 12:10 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Alt format process?

When a publisher tells me that they only provide a book through something like VitalSource (I think this is just Pearson?) I ask them for the PDF anyway, as they will usually provide it. This takes a while, however, so I get in touch with the student in the meantime. I let them know what the issue is and offer them the option of using the VitalSource version or waiting for the PDF. I've had a couple students take the VitalSource version, in which case I email the publisher with the student's receipt (to prove that they already purchased the hardcopy) and the publisher sends me a code. I send the code to the student and invite them to come in if they require any assistance using VitalSource.

Ultimately, I want a PDF, but I can't expect students to wait the two plus weeks it takes for the publisher to gather up the files and send them to me, which is why I offer the other options. Plus, our students will deal with a range of file types throughout their lives anyway, so asking them to use a different program or file type is not unreasonable. The main goal is to get the text to them, in a format that is accessible, in a timely fashion.


On Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 11:27 AM Russell Solowoniuk <solowoniukr at macewan.ca<mailto:solowoniukr at macewan.ca>> wrote:
Hi everyone,

Hope the winter term is going well. Happy Friday and happy Valentine’s Day!
We would like to get some feedback from all of you regarding your alternate format process.
We are noticing that some of our students with disabilities are looking at other options for their textbooks in alternate format, for example, VitalSource or the PDF supplied with their textbook. Also, some publishers are suggesting that certain textbooks we are requesting are available through VitalSource. In addition, many publishers are working with Bookshare to provide files, and will no longer provide PDFs.
Our alternate format team consists of two people, me and a colleague. Currently our process is to contact publishers to request a PDF of their textbooks. Most of our students use Read and Write to read these PDF files. For blind students we usually convert the PDF files to Word files and they use a screen reader to read these files. If the publisher isn’t able to provide us with PDFs, we will have the student bring in their hard copy of the textbook. We will take the hard copy to Print Services to have the binding cut off, and will then scan the book with our high-speed scanner. We then take the book back to Print Services to have it coil bound.
With the changing landscape of digital textbooks, we are examining our process to determine if it’s still the ideal process or if it needs to change. To that end, we would like to find out what process other institutions are using.
Do you contact publishers for PDFs? What technology do your students use to read their textbooks? Read and Write, Kurzweil, VitalSource, or some other reader? If other, could you elaborate on which reader and how well it works? Is your process working well?
Do faculty in your institutions use Open Educational Resources (OER)? If so, do you work with faculty to help them choose accessible resources? If a student comes to you with Open Educational Resources that are not accessible, do you remediate them to make them accessible? If so, do you bill this as a service?

We would appreciate hearing what alt format processes others are using to help guide us in modifying our own process.

Thanks for any and all ideas.

Best regards,


Russell Solowoniuk
AT Educational Assistant, Services to Students with Disabilities
MacEwan University
7-198 D4, 10700-104 Ave.
Edmonton, AB T5J 4S2
E: solowoniukr at macewan.ca<mailto:solowoniukr at macewan.ca>
T: 780-497-5826
F: 780-497-4018
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Robert Spangler
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