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Accessible Alt. Textbook Formats

Published textbooks that are only available for purchase in a printed text format are inherently inaccessible to the 22 million Americans with disabilities that impact their vision and/or ability to read print. For this reason, Federal laws define print-based publishing and other restrictive communication modes to be discriminatory and illegal. Textbook publishers are legally required to provide (or provide by proxy) an alternative format that is accessible to its customers with disabilities.

For many students, purchasing their textbooks in a digital format, or as an e-book, is the most convenient and flexible choice because it allows them the freedom to access their textbooks immediately and independently. They can enlarge the text, change the color contrast, or listen through an assistive reading device or other accessible technology (such as, Read & Write Gold's PDF text-to-speech feature), without having to wait upon the assistance of others.

Options for Obtaining Accessible Textbooks

Marymount students are encouraged to purchase the most accessible version of their textbooks that is available to them, from the outset. Many textbooks can be found using the Accessible Technologies resource list that Marymount has compiled for students to utilize; see sections 6 and 7, for "Digital Book (E-Text) Resources" and "E-Readers / Text-to-Speech Programs".

(1) Purchase the most accessible format of your book:

Some textbooks will come with a free e-book that the purchaser can access online or from a device. This practice is becoming increasingly popular, as publishers seek to avoid federal sanctions and products become more universally-designed.
  • Look for free e-book access on the book's wrapper or in the product description.
  • When shopping for textbooks online, students who need or would prefer access to a digital copy should opt to buy the e-book version--instead of the printed hardcopy, whenever possible.
    • Many times, the hardcopy not only pricier, it is less convenient for the student and offers fewer options for converting the text into a more accessible format (such as, audio or Braille)

(2) Search for accessible versions of your already purchased book online:

There are several resources that people with print disabilities can tap into, in order to gain access to books in an alternate format. Not only does the Library of Congress have a free service, but various non-profit organizations have been building libraries of audio, Braille, and PDF books for years.

Also, some publishers who do not offer an e-book option at purchase will only provide an accessible version to the customer, after the customer has furnished proof-of-purchase of the printed hardcopy.

See Sections 6, for "Digital Book (E-Text) Resources" in Marymount's Accessible Technology Resource list.

(3) Request an accessible version of your already purchased book from Marymount:

Approved SAS students who need accessible versions of their already purchased textbooks may request them in another format through SAS, using the Alternative Textbook Format Request Form. It may take up 2-4 weeks to receive the file, so students should submit their request(s) as early as possible.

Students must submit an individual form for each textbook to, indicating their preferred digital format (i.e., PDF, audio). If audio is preferred, but not available, the student will be given access to a PDF of the textbook, to use in conjunction with Marymount's copy of the Read and Write (R&W) Gold software (free to all current MU students, faculty, and staff). Read & Write Gold and that reads PDFs, websites, and other digital text.

Before receiving the alternate textbook file, students will need to sign-off on their Faculty Contact Sheet (the official letter of accommodations from SAS) that they have already purchased their required textbooks from the bookstore or an online retail store.

Alternative textbook files are provided to qualified students with disabilities, for the purpose of making printed text accessible to that student. Files cannot and should not be shared with other students.

Read more about Federal laws, mandates, and standards for accessible materials and modes of communication for people with disabilities:
Laws on Accessible Communications