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Electronic Master's Theses and Projects

Accessibility requirements

Our goal is to make our digital collections accessible to readers of all abilities. SUNY Oneonta is committed to complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. That commitment includes Electronic Accessibility, which provides equal access to online information at SUNY Oneonta.

The library has created this accessibility formatting guide to help you meet these standards. 

How to make your Masters project accessible

By using the following accessibility guidelines when writing, formatting, and finalizing your document in Word or Google Docs before submitting to SOAR, you can ensure that it complies with online accessibility standards and—more importantly—can be read by everyone, regardless of physical, sensory, or cognitive ability.

This page offers step-by-step instructions about how to make your thesis or graduate project electronically accessible. For more resources, visit the SUNY Oneonta Electronic Accessibility webpage

Pro tip: Apply the formatting changes after you have written your paper instead of while you are writing—focus on the content first, and format later.


Use the Accessibility Checker in MS Word

Check your document accessibility with the MS Word Accessibility checker (not an option in Google Docs).


Step 1: Add "alternative text" (alt text)

The most helpful thing you can do to make your documents accessible is to add alternative text (called alt text) to the tables, graphics, and images. Screen readers use alt-text to describe graphics to sight-impaired readers. 

  • Alt-text should provide a concise description in 1-2 sentences. How would you describe the main point of this image/graphic/chart to a sight-impaired person?
  • If the image is a logo or does not contain information related to the paper topic, click the box for “mark as decorative” in the alt-text editing area.
  • Everything you need to know about writing alt text

The following video shows how to add alt text to logos, images/charts, and a table in Microsoft Word. Learn more about Adding Alt Text in MS Word here, or Google Docs Alt Text here



Step 2: Use Heading styles for structure

Paragraph & Header styles allow readers (including screen readers) to understand and follow your document’s reading order and hierarchy, from top-level chapter titles to subtitles to paragraph text. The following video shows how to use the Accessibility Checker and apply Heading Styles in Microsoft Word. Learn more about how to apply Heading Styles in your version of Word (or Google Docs).



Tips for applying Heading styles

Use Normal style for all paragraph text and anything that is not a section heading. Depending on your preferences, you can use Normal or No Spacing styles for tables, captions, etc.

Use Heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) to establish levels of hierarchy in your section and subsection titles. 

Change the font, size, and other formatting of the standard Styles in Word or Google by following these steps:

  • Apply the desired appearance to the section of text (font, size, italics, etc.). 
  • Right-click on the Heading Style name in Home > Styles on the Word taskbar (or in the Google Docs Styles drop-down) and choose “Update [Heading Style name] to match selection” in the dialog box. See the demonstration in the video above at minute 03:30.


Step 3: Check color contrast 

If you are using color to identify differences in data in text, images, of graphics, pay attention to contrast. Black and white provide the best contrast, and some color combinations are harder than others to decipher for visually impaired readers.

  • Do not use red with green to create contrast in graphics. Colorblind users cannot discern a difference.
  • Use a color contrast evaluator to make sure users can see the differences in your graphic colors.

How do screen readers work?