Alternative Format and Book Accommodations

Defining the Accommodation


The accommodation for materials/books in an alternative format allows qualifying students, as approved by the Disability & Access Center (DAC), to have their academic books and course materials converted by the Adaptive Technology Center (ATC) into an alternative format that is accessible to the individual. 

As one example, if a student with a documented visual disability is required to buy a textbook for a course that is only available in a physical format and not offered in a digitally/electronically accessible format, they may have their book processed (e.g., cut and scan) by the ATC and converted into a digitally accessible format which works with assistive screen reader software.

Textbooks in an Alternative Format

For students looking to use their accommodation and get academic books in an alternative format, we live in a wonderful time for accessibility where most publishers have made digitally accessible versions of their books (including text-to-speech/audio functions) readily available on VitalSource or Redshelf e-book platforms. Please check the bottom of this page for detailed instructions on getting started with either VitalSource or RedShelf. 

Additionally, note that our campus bookstore offers digital copies of books for purchase directly from the book's publisher when possible. Once you've located your book, the digital version may be selected from the campus bookstore via the drop down menu titled "Select Format" when adding a book to your cart for check-out. Below is a screenshot illustrating an example of a book with a digital version available at the campus bookstore:

A screenshot illustrating the process described in the text above for selecting a digital format of a book.


If you are having trouble locating accessible versions of your academic textbooks on any of these platforms, please contact the Adaptive Technology Center (ADATech@mtsu.edu) with the book's title, edition, and ISBN to help you identify and connect with accessible options and solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. I haven't used this accommodation with MTSU before, what is the typical process for this accommodation?
    1. First and most commonly, we assist with connecting our students to digitally accessible versions of textbooks that are already offered by publishers. This approach empowers students to be able to purchase immediate access to high-quality versions of their textbooks with no extra steps.
    2. Second, if you find a publisher does not appear to have a digitally accessible version of their book on the platfroms described earlier on this page, please let us know so we may reach out to the publisher and work directly with them on a resolution.
    3. Third, in the rare circumstances where a book is not offered digitally and we are unable to work with the publisher directly to remedy the issue, we will request a physical copy of said book from the student. Once the ATC receives a student's physical copy, we will remove it's original spine and process the pages through specialized scanners, which allows us to create a custom digital file.
  2. There is a digital version of the book I need available that meets my accommodation, should I get this copy?
    • Absolutely, most books in today's age do have digitally accessible versions available on reputable platforms (such as VitalSource and Redshelf) that you can and should take advantage of! When a book is already available and offered in a way that meets accommodations, we no longer have the ability to go beyond copyright law and recreate a custom version for students under the need for access. Rather, creating custom digital files for students is a solution we implement only with books that do NOT have an accessible digital version already available.
  3. Will I be charged extra for buying a digital version of a textbook compared to a standard physical copy?
    • Quite the opposite! Generally speaking, the vast majority of accessible digital books are considerably less expensive than their equivalent physical copies.
  4. If I am in need of a book that is not already offered digitally, how long does it take for the ATC to manually process my copy?
    • We ask our clients to please provide 3-5 business days for us to complete manually processing a physical copy. Of course, you are always welcome to check-in with us if you are curious about the current status of a book processing order.

Course Materials in an Alternative Format


If you are looking to have academic/course materials (e.g., course syllabi, class handouts, and etc.) converted into an alternative format, please fill out the form below so we have a detailed record of what material you'd like converted and what you'd like done with it.


Additional Info on Using VitalSource or RedShelf's Accessible E-Book Platforms

VitalSource Instructions:

1. Go to VitalSource and create an account if you don't already have one. Make sure to use your .edu (MTSU) email address.
2. After logging in use the search bar on the page to check VitalSource for your book, "Add to Cart" any books you need, and complete check-out.
3. Next, click/activate "My Bookshelf" in the top right corner.
4. Select the book you want to open from the list of books you own; VitalSource will automatically launch the book where you may begin reading.
Prefer to use your VitalSource books on a mobile device instead of a computer? Download the VitalSource Bookshelf app for either Android or iPhone.
**Questions: Check with us at adatech@mtsu.edu or e-mail accessibility@vitalsource.com about platform accessibility and features.

Below is an example illustrating audio features found on VitalSource books:

A screenshot illustrating the text-to-speech functions available on VitalSource books.

RedShelf Instructions:

1. Go to RedShelf and create an account if you don't already have one. Make sure to use your .edu (MTSU) email address.
2. After logging in click/activate the "Find a Book" button in the center of the page.
3. Search for the book you need using the search bar, 'view details' for the book, then 'Add to Cart' and complete check-out.
4. Select the book you want to open from the My Shelf/Library page; RedShelf will automatically launch the book where you may begin reading.
Prefer to use your Redshelf books on a mobile device instead of a computer? Download the RedShelf app for either Android or iPhone.
**Questions: Check with us at adatech@mtsu.edu or email accessibility@redshelf.com about platform accessibility and features.

Below is an example illustrating audio features found on Redshelf books:

A screenshot illustrating the text-to-speech functions available on Redshelf books.

CUSTOMS info