Document Conversion

Books and Print Documents

Converting books and print documents to alternate formats takes time — about 25-40 hours to convert the average textbook. The typical process is as follows:

Book is debound if electronic source file is not available

Book or document is scanned using an optical character recognition (OCR) program to recognize and convert the scanned image into text

Document is proofed for artifacts picked up by the scanning or OCR process, omissions and misrecognized text

Edit the document for structure and format

For documents with graphical information, interpretation of visual information for non-visual presentation - most often provided as an alternate text description embedded in the image or caption

A note on optical character recognition and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) content

Optical character recognition software converts a scanned image into a text-based file. The file can then be used to make a variety of accessible file types. Unfortunately, there is no current OCR engine with the ability to recognize math or symbolic content in an efficient batch-file processing capacity. Although Kurzweil can be used for such content, it requires heavy amounts of manual editing and is not ideal for the reader. It is therefore best for someone who requires access to STEM content to explore options in consultation with their disability specialist and Document Conversion staff.

Assessment/Selection of Accessible Format

An access consultant will forward a student to Document Conversion and/or the Computer Accommodations Program (CAP) after assessing the disability impacts based on the student's disability accommodation, classroom needs and software and hardware familiarity, availability. A tech assessment will be conducted for those who have uncertain technology needs or who would like a survey of available accessible technologies. The purpose of this assessment is to identify useful technologies and determine what file format(s) will work best with these technologies.

Document conversion requests are completed and delivered to students approximately two weeks prior to the due dates as listed on the course syllabus or reading schedule.  For instance, if Chapter 1 is due the 4th week of class, Document Conversion staff will send this converted file to the student during the 2nd week of class.

There are factors which may delay this process such as poor original copy quality, lack of clarity in the syllabus or failure to submit a due date with a conversion request. Someone from Document Conversion will contact the student and/or instructor in this event.

Prioritization of materials conversion

In order to serve students equitably, Document Conversion must prioritize conversion requests based on syllabi due dates (1st) and date of submission (2nd). As such, documents submitted for conversion 2 weeks or less in advance of the due date may not be completed on time.

For assignments that are due during the first two weeks of class, Document Conversion will need the syllabus and materials before classes start. If a student is unable to submit texts and/or reading schedules within this time frame, Document Conversion will do its best to convert the documents by a reasonable date.

It is University Policy that faculty have complete syllabi available the first day of class.

In the event that a student has contacted faculty and found that no reading schedule or syllabus is available, students should notify Document Conversion to follow up with the faculty member or department. The student should also submit best estimates for the first few assignments until a reading schedule or syllabus becomes available.

Delivery of converted materials

Disability Resource Center sets timelines for completion of document conversion requests based on when the request is submitted, all materials are received, and/or the reading schedule as indicated by the syllabus. Required course readings are given priority and optional readings will be completed as resources allow. It is the instructor's responsibility to work with the student and Document Conversion to clarify priorities.


Once the first document is converted, students will be notified and asked to bookmark their newly created Disability Resource Center Netfiles directory so they can navigate to their DRC directory from their personal University of Minnesota directory. After the first email notification, any remaining files from the specified book or document will be posted to the student’s Netfiles account approximately two weeks prior to the due date on the syllabus.

If Document Conversion is unable to send files to a student within this time frame, Document Conversion will contact the student and the instructor to discuss how to proceed.

If a student would like to receive reminders for each file, please contact Document Conversion at 612-626-1333, or stop by our office in McNamara Alumni Center, suite 180.

Please feel free to email us anytime at to check on the status of your materials.



If the student’s access consultant recommends Kurzweil, the specialist will notify Document Conversion staff. A staff member from Document Conversion will contact the student to set up a 90 minute training session.

After training, the student will start a 30-day trial with Kurzweil software.

If, after 30 days, the student would like to continue using Kurzweil, the Disability Resource Center will provide a permanent license for the student.


CAP is the Computer Accommodations Program at the University of Minnesota. Upon request, they can provide training on accessible media to students, faculty, staff and visitors.


Under US Copyright law, accessible files (e-text) provided to the student can be used solely for eligible student’s own educational purposes and cannot be copied, shared, or distributed for use by others.