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High Tech Center - Alternative Media Unit


Students who cannot access standard print (including students who are blind, have low vision, have mobility impairments that impact the ability to hold texts, or have specific learning disabilities) may need their textbooks and other course materials provided in "alternate" formats. The Alternative Media Production Unit of the High Tech Center provides alternative media services for students with documented print impairments upon referral from Services to Students with Disabilities (SSWD).  Students with print impairments are encouraged to discuss alternative media options with their SSWD Counselor/Specialist.

Some of the alternate formats (e.g. electronic text, digital audio book CDs) require the use of specialized hardware or software in order to access the materials. Please see the High Tech Center web page for information on assistive technology or the handout What is the Difference Between E-text, Digital Audio Books, and Readers? for additional clarification. Students must be trained in the use of this specialized software in order to use the alternate formats. For more information about training please view the High Tech Center web page.


Watch a closed captioned video produced in 2012 to learn more about the process of Alternative Media (electronic text) accommodations in the High Tech Center:

screenshot from e-text video

Types of Alternative Media

What is it?
Where can I get it?
electronic text 
E-text is a data file that can be accessed by a word processor (e.g. an MS Word file is e-text) or text-to-speech software. E-text is also the basis for generating many other forms of Alternative Media.
Students can scan their own print material and convert it to e-text in the High Tech Center Lab. Students can also request e-text from the High Tech Center Alternative Media Production Unit.
Large Print
Printed text that has been enlarged to at least 14 pt font size.
Students can scan their own print material and convert it to e-text in the High Tech Center Lab. They can then increase the font size or use magnification software. Students can also request e-text from the High Tech Center Alternative Media Production Unit.
Tactile written language for blind individuals
Students can scan their own print material and convert it to Braille in the High Tech Center Lab using Braille translation software. Students can also request Braille from the High Tech Center Alternative Media Production Unit.
Tactile Graphics
Simplified graphical images that use raised lines and textures to convey information.
Students can request Tactile Graphics from the High Tech Center Alternative Media Production Unit. Students should consult with faculty to identify important graphics.
Audio Files
Digital or analog sound recording of books. New text-to-speech technology allows conversion of e-text into audio formats, such as MP3 and WAV files.
Students can convert their e-text to audio using text-to-speech software in the High Tech Center Lab. Students can discuss where to get books on tape/CD, digital audio books, reader services, and other audio options with their SSWD Counselor/ Specialist.

Source: Adapted from Sacramento City College Table of Types of Alternative Formats.


For more information on eligibility to receive instructional materials in alternative formats, please contact Services to Students with Disabilities at (916)278-6955. For students who are eligible for alternative media services, please see the Alternative Media Policy in SSWD Policies and Procedures.


Eligibility for Alternative Media services is determined in interaction with the Services to Students with Disabilities (SSWD) Counselors/Specialists, and is based upon the professional documentation provided by the student who has "a print disability that prevents him/her from using standard instructional materials." Students must be referred to the High Tech Center (HTC) from SSWD.

Ordering course materials for the semester in alternative formats from the High Tech Center requires students to submit requests for materials as soon as possible following early registration. Requests will be honored in the order that they are received.  Staff is scheduled to work during the fall/spring semester Monday-Friday from 8:00 - 5:00 and during the summer Monday-Friday from 7:30 – 12 and 12:30- 4:00 (except holidays).  

Please submit your Textbook Summary to:

Using Internet Explorer as the browser:Student Center screen shot

  1. Log in to My SacState:
  2. Click on Student Center (see picture)
  3. Open Other Academic drop down box
  4. Click on Class Schedule
  5. Select term
  6. Click on View Textbook Summary
  7. Scroll down and click on View Printer Friendly Page
  8. Print a copy to submit to the HTC

Textbook receipts will be stamped to indicate that alternative media is being produced for the semester.

Reminder to Students:

If your books are not in stock at the Hornet Bookstore, you can utilize the Prepay Special Order Process where you pay for your books in advance, and the Textbook department will reserve a copy of the book for you.  Students are encouraged to contact the course professors and ask if they can provide the class syllabus and other handouts to facilitate conversions (see sample letter to professor). 


SSWD needs to start conversion of course materials into alternate formats several months in advance of the semester so that students with disabilities can have their materials at the same time they are available to any other student enrolled in the course. Conversion of textbooks and other materials may involve researching, contacting publishers, scanning, optical character recognition, editing, reformatting, and other labor-intensive tasks.  The most critical element to making this time-intensive process work is knowing what textbooks and other materials will be used for the students’ classes. See FS 12/13-56/EX Timely Instructional Materials Policy for Accessibility and Affordability.

Books and Handouts

Books: If you have been informed that you have a student with a disability needing an electronic, Braille or other alternative version of course textbooks in your class, please remember that it can take at least 8 weeks to obtain or produce a copy. Because of the time constraints and resources involved, the Alternative Media Unit needs the book information and exactly what chapters/sections will be covered and the sequence they will be assigned at least 8 weeks before the start of the semester.  Book information needed includes: book title (indicate required or optional), author, publisher, edition, copyright date, and ISBN.

HandoutsIf you have been informed that you have a student with a visual disability enrolled in your course who needs alternative formats, please submit syllabus, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations to the Alternative Media Production Unit of the High Tech Center, Attention: High Tech Center,, at least 3 business days in advance so the materials can be translated into Braille or other alternate format in a timely manner. Please keep in mind that if a student who is blind or has visual impairments comes to class and receives a handout, an overhead or PowerPoint, that student may not have timely access to this information during class (unless the material is also provided in advance or in an alternative way that is accessible to the student).

Exams: To convert a student exam into an alternative format (e.g. Braille, tactile graphics, electronic text) for a student with a print-related impairment, please e-mail to and or deliver the exam to the High Tech Center,, a minimum of 5 business days before the scheduled exam. The High Tech Center Alternative Media Unit is located in the AIRC, Room 2010, Mail Zip 6042. (During peak periods of high demand and during finals and for complex graphics/equations, alternative media conversion may take longer.)

For students taking the exam at the Testing Center, the alternative formatted version will be sealed and delivered to the Testing Center.  If the student is taking the exam elsewhere, the alternative formatted exam will be delivered to your department office.  For more information, please see the Instructions for Provision of Student Exams in Alternate Formats.

Please contact Services to Students with Disabilities at (916)278-6955 for further assistance in accommodating students with disabilities.



Repositories, Disability-Specific:

Repositories, Public Domain:



Braille Formats:

Tools, Free/Lower-Cost:

Tools, Commercial:

Timely Adoption of Textbooks and Instructional Materials:

Resources partially compiled from CSU CAM


For students with disabilities that affect access to print materials, approaching Alternative Media as having your computer read the books for you is likely to result in frustration and disappointment. Students must be prepared to actively participate in the process.

In most cases, students find that making use of alternative media takes more time than traditional reading. In addition, it often takes an entire semester to become comfortable with the use of alternate formats and assistive technology used to read those formats, particularly if students have never used them before. For students who have not had experience using any form of alternate media, a trial experience with one or two book selections is recommended. If students need training regarding the use of assistive technology to access alternative media, they will need to obtain a referral from SSWD for training, and then reapply for alternative media services thereafter. Questions or concerns on services and accommodations should be discussed with the students' SSWD Counselor/Specialist.



The Alternative Media Unit is located in the High Tech Center in the Academic Information Resource Center (AIRC) Room 2010. For more information, please call Karen Lok, High Tech Center Specialist, at (916) 278-7915 or e-mail Please send High Tech Center Alternative Media Unit related comments, suggestions, and problem reports to Melissa Repa.

Mailing Address:

High Tech Center – Alternative Media Unit
California State University, Sacramento
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819-6042


Download reader for Word (.doc) files
Download reader for PDF files

Please inform SSWD at if you encounter any problems accessing the SSWD web site.