Alternative Text Materials

Disability Support Services (DSS) provides alternative format materials to ensure equal access to course materials for qualified students. These materials include, but are not limited to, Braille, E-Text, Audio Book/MP3, and Print Enlarging (e.g., textbooks and course materials). An alternative format, when possible, is provided only for courses for which the eligible student is currently enrolled. All materials will be provided in accordance with all copyright laws and exceptions.

DSS will make every attempt to provide the desired format the student requests. However, this is not always possible due to the subject matter of the material, the volume, and the required date. Converting textbooks/print can be a time-consuming process. Some requests may take up to six weeks. All alternative textbook requests must be turned into DSS as soon as course registration is complete.

Students must contact DSS Assistive Technology at [email protected] and complete the appropriate Alternative Text Production form at least three weeks prior to the first day of classes to ensure timely delivery of materials. You can place up to ten text conversion requests at once. Requests that are submitted later than three weeks will be accepted, however, please be aware of the 7-10 business day production time frame.  You may not receive your books before the start of class if your request is not submitted with sufficient notice.

Requesting Alternative Text Materials

Students who are requesting books in alternative formats should complete the following steps:

  1. Register with Disability Support Services (DSS) and meet the eligibility criteria for alternative text materials.
  2. Be enrolled in the course for which the materials are being requested.
  3. Review textbooks required for the course. If your textbooks are not listed at the time of registration, contact your professors to identify the required textbook for the course(s). Students can also engage the GWU bookstore to search for textbooks as well.
  4. Locate your books using the free resources first. Please see the “Useful Resources” section below for more information about how to locate online copies of texts. Many publishers now provide both print version and e-book options, check if the e-book is accessible for your needs.
  5. Complete the Alternative Text Production form and submit your proof of purchase three weeks prior to the start of the semester for the following reasons:
    • You are unable to locate your textbook.
    • Your textbook is unavailable in an electronic format or the digital version is not accessible.
  6. Receive alternative text materials from DSS's via your GW email account.

In order to ensure a smooth process, please upload sufficient proof of purchase to your Alternative Text Production form. This is a required element of the form, as it ensures that all materials will be provided in accordance with all copyright laws and exceptions.

Sufficient proof of purchase includes a receipt or shipping confirmation for the text(s). An order summary is not sufficient proof of purchase, as it does not prove that the text was actually purchased. DSS will not begin processing your request until adequate proof of purchase is received.

Note: If you’re purchasing Kindle eBooks, the built-in VoiceView Screen Reader reads everything onscreen aloud, including the menus and the pages of e-books, and it will even automatically turn pages as it reads aloud. Please test VoiceView against your purchased books before submitting the Alt-text Materials request.

Alternative Text Material Timelines

Please place your requests at least three weeks ahead of each semester:

  • Fall semester: August 1
  • Spring semester: December 1
  • First summer session: April 15
  • Second summer session: May 15

We recognize that our text conversion deadlines occur prior to the start of each semester's classes and that you may not know which books you will need.

We recommend that you contact your professors via email or that you talk to them in person to inquire about their book selections after you have registered for their classes.

If you are unable to speak with your professors before the start of the semester, please request your alternative text materials as soon as you have identified the books you will need to be converted, even if it is a few weeks into the semester. 

Obtaining Electronic Formats

When we receive your Alternative Text Production form, we will contact the appropriate publishers to request that they provide their texts in an electronic format. 

We will also search in our in-house archive of texts to see if we already have available a licensed alternate format of any of the books for which you have requested conversions.

When your texts have been converted, we will email you directly with instructions about how to access them.

Manually Converting Books

If we cannot obtain the books from the publishers and do not have access to them in our archive, we can manually scan and convert them to an electronic format. This process requires that the bookbinding be cut off to allow the pages to be scanned and that it be replaced with a spiral binding. Not all textbooks can be manually converted. Contact us at [email protected] to identify if your textbook can be converted.

If it becomes evident that this is the only option for text conversion, we will contact you via email to gain your permission to have your book(s) cut. We will not pursue this option without your explicit approval.

Renting a copy of the textbook is NOT sufficient, as you cannot return the textbook in its original form once it has been rebound. Please click here to learn how to purchase a rental book through the GWU bookstore.

Upon being rebound, the original hardcopy textbook(s) will be returned to you, and you will be able to sell the book(s) back to the university bookstore at the end of the semester, should you wish to do so.

In the event that you opt not to have your bookbinding cut, in the case where other electronic formats are not available, then DSS may not be able to provide the alternative format accommodation.

Useful Resources

Please utilize the following resources to identify if your texts may already be available in electronic format on the web at no cost.

DSS Resources

Sponsored Licenses for All GW Students

JAWS, ZoomText and Fusion

Video Tutorials




Collections: The largest online repository of digital contents.  

Benefits: No need to submit proof of purchase and service request to DSS; instant download the available text or listing to the content using BookShare Reader

Contact [email protected] if you have any questions regarding a BookShare account

Other Resources

Project Gutenberg


Collections: Classical studies, philosophy, literature, and history books.

Student membership is not required.



Collections: eBooks of various genres recorded by volunteers in the public domain in USA 

Browse the catalog

Open Library


Collections: Books in BookReader, PDF and ePub formats. BookReader editions may be read online immediately in any web browser on any device. 

Create an account

DC Talking Book and Braille

Visit DC Talking Book and Braille for blind or print disabled. 

Collections: Books and magazines in audio and braille format

Instructions on account creation