Types of Alternative Formats

Be aware that even though a file may be digital, that does not mean it is accessible.

There are many different accessible alternative formats. During the Assistive Technology meeting, the Associate Director and student will review and discuss what format will work best for the student. The primary format provided to students by the CEA Alternative Formats Lab is Microsoft Word.

  • Microsoft Word©: Combined with the use of assistive technology, a structured .doc or .docx file can be  accessible for students using Windows, Mac, or iOS devices.
    • Windows, Mac, iOS: using text-to-speech software, course materials can be seen and heard read out loud. Text highlights as it reads.
    • Mac, iOS: VoiceOver, built-into the Apple and iOS operation systems, can be used to read the text out loud. (VoiceOver does not highlight as it reads.) 
    • Windows, Mac: using a refreshable braille display, read course materials.

  • RTF (Rich Text Format): Students who have vision loss may use the RTF format and have text read out loud or to access the text via a braille output device.
  • Portable Document Files (PDFs): The PDF format is very useful for individuals with vision loss as the documents can be enlarged on the students technology of choice - whether PC, Mac, iOS, Android OS.
    • Text-based PDFs: These can be used with text-to-speech software to read out loud. For many, this format is only minimally accessible, but - for some students - is a preferred format.
      • NOTE: Not all PDFs are text-based. Many are simply pictures of text. The CEA Alternative Formats Lab does convert PDFs into text-based PDFs or other formats listed here.

  • ePub with audio: For Android users, the ePub format can provide both visual and auditory access. Apps are available which highlight the text as it is read out loud.
  • mp3: The mp3 format does not allow for easy navigation. Recommended for use with only very short materials. Students can create mp3 files of study guides using either free or inexpensive text-to-speech software (such as Central Access Reader for Windows or Mac, or Balabolka.)

Learn More About AT

Using Alt Formats