Alternative Formats

Good practice in getting alternative formats

Planning ahead

It takes time to make requests, to get the electronic copy and to adapt the material for learner use. This has implications for institutional systems and the following is suggested as good practice:

  • Institutions should review the communication systems between learner support services, library services, learners and curriculum staff. An assessment of need could automatically provide information for:
        • the learner on available library services (with suggestions for making early contact),
        • library staff on learner access needs and likely book needs,
        • subject staff so tutors can liaise with library and learner support staff on core reading list resources.
  • Libraries should develop explicit policies about obtaining books in alternative formats in order to clarify both user expectations and tutor expectations. In some instances, providing an electronic version of the entire book may not be the most appropriate solution.
  • Institutions should develop guidelines on who pays for what. Some institutions expect the students to pay for alternative formats from their Disabled Students Allowance. This raises issues of parity regarding equality of library provision where textbooks are core to the subject but libraries may be reluctant to pay for an electronic copy licensed for one learner for a restricted time window. Institutions need to think through policies and communicate them clearly.
  • Academic departments should provide reading lists from tutors as early as possible – ideally before they are distributed to the learners – to ensure that titles are requested in good time.
  • Tutors should highlight ’essential’ reading in the reading lists.

The ultimate responsibility for delivering the learning belongs to the tutor so it is important they are realistic in prioritising key information if reading lists are long or acquisition of alternative formats proves problematic. An essential part of the process is the communication between learner, tutor and library staff so that both the learner and the tutor are aware of any difficulties and can look at alternative solutions (for example 1:1 tutorials or online support) where relevant.