Alternative Format Suite (AFS)

The University has a well-equipped Alternative Format Suite. This primarily functions to produce electronic accessible reading materials for students who have difficulties accessing print. The AFS can offer accessible books in the following formats: Proofed-Word doc, Searchable-PDF, Text-with-Audio-DAISY and Braille and Bespoke Tactile Diagrams.

  • We scan books, convert the scans using OCR and proof-read the resulting e-text. We work with MS Word which allows us to produce a versatile e-book, taking advantage of the display options in MS Word. The client can also have the e-text synthetically read out (and recorded if they have the equipment). Important: How to get the best results.
  • We also record books in audio, using live readers for clarity. The books we produce are full-audio-text DAISY 2.02 talking-books. Metadata is added to the DAISY books prior to building the MP3 version.

Diagrams, tables, figures etc, can be scripted and/or described: this takes a huge effort, depending on the complexity of the material; for best (and accurate) results, it is done with expert readers where possible.

The AFS operates thanks to the help of around 50 volunteers including local residents, University staff and students.

AFS Equipment:

Small version

  • Two sound-proof recording booths.
  • Braille printer for type 1 and 2 braille
  • Mid-range voice synthesisers
  • OCR software
  • Two edge scanners for scanning books

Small version

Once an e-book has been produced, the digital copy can be made available on a web site for downloading (systems are required for copyright protection). The e-book could be in text form as an MS Word (.doc), plain text (.txt), HTML or PDF.

A talking book is held by AFS in two forms: raw WAV and compressed MP3. Either of these, along with the text versions above, can be offered via on-line streaming to legally entitled clients.


Copyright and access restrictions

Clients sign a form of their Copyright responsibility when they take possession of an e-book supplied by the AFS. We need to advertise that e-books are being created and eventually stored (in the University Library) but due to copyright, they are not on Open Shelf access. Access to the e-book must be advertised as for print-disabled clients only.

UK Copyright law has improved over the last 12 to 18 months, so that all print-disabled clients are now covered under the Copyright law for the purpose of study and do not need to seek permission to create an e-book or adapt the text for accessibility, whereas previously only blind or partially sighted clients were able to by-pass the permissions department of a publisher.

How to request a digital copy of a book

Please contact the Disability Team in Student Services for further information by emailing Student Services will then authorise the request and pass it on to AFS.

Important notes on what you need to supply to get the best results from the AFS.

Further details about the Alternative Format Suite

Further details of services are available as an aritcle: online article about the AFS at