Your audience may include a wide range of individuals with diverse abilities. Some of these abilities can impact how people access and read your thesis. Consider limitations such as visual, auditory, speech, physical, cognitive, neurological, or their combination and how these abilities may affect an individual’s perception of your content.
These general principles of universally accessible content are not part of the SGS requirement but will help you ensure your thesis can be accessed and read by the widest audience possible.
Structuring your document using hierarchical headings will help readers understand how the content of a page is organized and how to easily navigate withing the document.
Thesis style templates available on the School of Graduate Studies website already have hierarchical headings in place. Using the templates will ensure that you follow the correct structure.
If you are creating your thesis outside of the SGS template, follow these principles:
Alternative text (“alt text”) is a machine-readable tag that describes an image in words if the image cannot be displayed, for example for someone using a screen reader.
Only informative images need alt text. A decorative image that provides no information and only serves an aesthetic purpose does not need alt text (some applications allow marking such image as "decorative").
Complex images contain substantial information, for example:
The recommended alternative to writing about complex images is to write both a short and long description:
Select the image, right-click or Control and select "Edit Alt Text":
Select the image, right-click and select "Edit Alt Text".
►►IMPORTANT: always add alt text in the "Description" field, not in the "Title" field.
Users who navigate using a screen reader must be able to unambiguously understand the purpose of the link and skip links they are not interested in. To achieve this, link text needs to be:
Descriptive. When writing URL text, make sure it can be understood without additional context. Do not use "click here", "read more", etc
Concise. Use keyword(s) as linked text rather than longer sentences. For text that is meant to be printed, hyperlink the text and add a full URL. E.g.:
Unique. Avoid similarly named hyperlinks if they link to different places.
Visually distinct. Use the default blue underlined style for hyperlinks. If you change it, make sure the links are still high contrast and underlined. Don’t use underline for non-hyperlinked text.
When making the choice to use colour, consider whether a reader with colour vision deficiencies (CVD) or using a screen reader would still be able to understand the meaning conveyed. It is essential for the colour to not be the only means of conveying the information - consider adding other textual queues (e.g. text or numbers or % on a graph).
Don't do this:
Use the MS Word list functionality to create:
Do not add numbering to paragraphs outside of the formatted list.
The MS Word Accessibility Checker scans the file for common issues that may make a file less accessible for users with disabilities.
Run the Accessibility Checker:
After running the Checker, the “Inspection Results” will display one or more of the following messages:
Clicking an item in the “Inspection Results” list will take you directly to the issue. The item will be removed from the inspection results automatically once it is addressed. You do not need to re-run the checker.
For further support, see the MS Support resource Improve Accessibility with the Accessibility Checker.
It is important to properly convert your document to PDF to avoid losing its accessibility features such as tagging and alt text.
Export your Word Document by using “Create PDF” from a file in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Open Adobe Acrobat Pro > File > Create > PDF from File > Select desired document to convert.
If you are creating a document via the Acrobat Tab in MS Office, make sure that Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF is checked.
Save your Word Document as a PDF using the “Save As” function. This may not preserve all accessibility features, such as tagging, so it’s best to use Acrobat Pro if you have it.
Select File > Save As. Select “PDF” from the list of drop-down files. Click “Options” and make sure “Document structure tags for accessibility” is checked, then save the file.
Open the File application menu and select Save As… Under File Format, select “PDF”. Then choose the Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service) radio button, then Export.
►►IMPORTANT: never “Print to PDF” when exporting a Word Document to PDF. A screen reader user may still be able to access the text of a PDF created in this way, but heading structure, alternative text, and any other tag structure will be lost.
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