Accessible formats and alternative formats

If you are not able to read standard print you may need books and other learning resources in an accessible format. If the publisher has not created a commercially-available accessible version, you may need it converted to an alternative format.

This page explains the different ways in which you can access these formats.

What are accessible formats?

Many eBooks and eJournals provided via the Library allow you to convert text to an accessible format by, for example:

  • changing the text size
  • changing the colour of the font
  • changing the background colour
  • downloading a PDF version and using screen reading or text-to-speech software 

An accessible format can be used by anyone.

The Library’s Database A-Z page includes an accessibility statement for all our providers of online resources. In some cases, this will also take you to a resource-specific help guide outlining the accessibility features available.

Accessible eBooks

The Library has an extensive collection of eBooks for all subjects.

We only buy eBooks from suppliers who score highly in Aspire's national eBook accessibility audit. However, some of our older eBooks may not conform to current standards. Please contact us if this is the case. We will check to see if a more accessible version is available.

Finding eBooks

The two main ways to access eBooks are:

  • Via your module reading list in Reading lists at Hull or via your module's Canvas site. eBooks and other digital resources can be identified by the View online button to the right of the title.
  • By using the Library search and selecting the Available online option from the Refine your search menu.

University policy on accessible reading lists

  • It is University policy that all essential reading list resources must be available via the University Library in both digital and print formats.
  • It is University policy that recommended resources should be available via the University Library in both digital and print formats.

University of Hull Reading List policy, in full.

What if titles are not in accessible formats?

If items are not in accessible formats, please try one of the following:

  • Contact the Library - we will check to see if a more accessible version of the title is available. The Library's digitization service can also create an accessible scan of a book chapter or journal article if it is not available online.
  • If the item is on a reading list, speak to your module leader as they may be able to suggest alternative titles that are accessible
  • If you can't find the item in the Library, you can suggest a purchase
  • You may be eligible to use the Alternative Formats Service (see below).

(Note to staff: please submit digitization requests via the reading lists system.)

Alternative Formats Service

What is the Alternative Formats Service?

The service provides support, access to software, and other tools, to help you use learning resources in accessible formats.

For example, books and journal articles that are provided in an alternative format are usually PDF files that can be viewed on a computer screen and read aloud using screen reading technology. You can also change the format, for example by changing the font's colour, size, and style.

A Learning Support Officer can show you how to use specialist software, such as JAWS or Read and Write, to ensure your access requirements are met. The Learning Support Officer can also show you how to scan, make audio files, and use the features within PDF files so you can use the reading materials in a more flexible way to suit your needs.

Am I eligible to use the Alternative Formats service?

The Disability Advisers in Student Services will assess your needs for the Alternative Formats Service as part of your Assessment of Needs or Reasonable Adjustment Plan. 

If you have not been referred for this service but feel you would benefit from it, contact your Disability Adviser.

How do I get something in an alternative format?

There are two main sources of alternative formats, SensusAccess and RNIB bookshare, both of which are explained below.


SensusAccess is self-service, and you do not need to register to use it.

SensusAccess automates the conversion of documents into a range of alternative formats including digital Braille, MP3, DAISY and eBooks. It can make accessible otherwise inaccessible documents such as image-only PDF files or scanned images.

Teaching staff can use SensusAccess to convert lecture notes and other educational material into accessible formats.

SensusAccess is powered by the award-winning RoboBraille service and supports many languages not just English.

To convert a document, go to the SensusAccess form

RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) Bookshare service

The RNIB Bookshare UK education collection is a free service that allows teachers and students to download learning materials in a range of formats to suit the personal needs of print-disabled learners.

The collection covers all stages of study, from early years to higher education.

You need to be assessed by Disability Support to gain access to the RNIB Bookshare service. Contact Disability Support

Disability Support will then contact the Library so that a username and password are created for you to log in to the RNIB Bookshare service

You can be given access to RNIB bookshare if you are a student with:

  • Visual impairment: blind and partially sighted
  • Specific Learning Difficulty: Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD
  • Physical disability: if it significantly affects use of printed material