Assistive Tech

Books in Alternate Formats

If you qualify for books in an alternate format, the first thing you will want to do is think about your learning style and decide what book format is best for you. If you are unsure, ask an LSS staff member about taking the learning style inventory. Books come in many formats:

  •  Printed Text

This is the most popular and readily available form of textbook. The Villanova Bookstore sells all required texts in this format.

  • Audio Book

This is a text that is read aloud. In the past, these types of books were referred to as books on tape. Usually, these texts are recorded by a human voice and are available as CDs or as downloadable files via Learning Ally, iTunes, or other vendors.

  • Electronic Book

These “E-Books” are available in several formats, but you are probably most familiar with PDF files. E-books or E-texts are basically electronic versions of the text and are available from a variety of sources. If you want to listen to the text as you read along on the screen, you may use a screen reader such as Read & Write Gold.

Electronic books allow the text to be read aloud to you in a computerized voice. This voice takes a little getting used to, so you may want to practice using the software if you are unfamiliar with it.


How can I access audio books?

Make an appointment to speak with an LSS staff member about how to locate audio books. Also, check out the Learning Ally website for more information about membership and software for qualified users.

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How else can I access E-Text?

Scanning Text
When books are not available through the publisher, Learning Ally, or other sources, LSS will arrange to have your textbook scanned to a CD with the use of high speed scanning in the Graphic Services Department. This CD can then be heard on your computer with the use of the same software offered for E-Text.

  • Student must submit their purchased textbook to LSS along with a copy of the course syllabus.
  • Student must sign a scanning agreement allowing Graphic Services to break the binding of the textbook for high speed scanning. Graphic Services will re-bind the textbook with spiral binding.
  • The CD will be in PDF format. The student can read it with Adobe Acrobat, which is on all university computers, or using a variety of other software options such as Read & Write Gold.

In ALL alternate text arrangements:

  • The student must purchase the textbook.
  • Requests will be handled in the order they are received. The closer to the beginning of the semester, the longer the wait time. It is best to put in your requests as soon as you register for classes.
  • All alternate texts – CD’s, tapes, and files are to be returned to LSS at the completion of the course.

Students who are not eligible for alternate text formats based on their documentation are still welcome to utilize Read & Write Gold.

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Is there any software to help with my notetaking?


The Livescribe Smartpen records audio and links it to what you write.  It automatically captures everything as you write and draw.  The Smartpen works only with Livescribe dot paper.  Both can be purchased at Amazon, Target, Staples, and other retail stores.

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Is there speech to text software available?

Speech Recognition

Computing by voice dictation is more familiar to mainstream computer users because of the appeal of the basic idea.  For some, it is a successful keyboard alternative, but for people with mobility limitations; it may be the only way that they can use the computer.

Read & Write Gold for Windows (available for installation) has a speech to text function. After training the program to recognize your voice, you cannot only type by speaking, but also control the entire computer with your voice

Dragon Naturally Speaking is the most popular and advanced of the speech to text programs.

This is not something that we have available for loan.  This is an individual program that requires that the student train the system to their own voice for ease of use.

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How can I obtain E-Text from the Publisher?

If your text is not available through Learning Ally or other sources, LSS can request an E-Text file of your textbook direct from the publisher.  E-Text can be viewed and read aloud on your computer.  Not all publishers provide this feature.  Response time varies with time of order, but most publishers request 4 to 6 weeks notice.


  • Students must submit book title, author(s), edition, publisher, and year to LSS as soon as registered for classes.
  • Student mush show proof of purchase of textbook to LSS to comply with copyright laws.
  • Students must return the CD at end of term.

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