Thesis accessibility

On this page, we will show you how you can ensure the accessibility of your Word document and produce an accessible PDF file from it for the JYX publication archive. The instructions are suitable for ensuring the accessibility of other Word files as well.

Here are the instructions on how you can ensure the accessibility of your thesis. First, you need to create an accessible Word document and after that convert it into an accessible PDF file.


Accessibility is required by the Act on the Provision of Digital Services, which applies to the online content and services produced also by universities. The law applies to public digital documents produced also by students, thus including bachelor's and master’s theses.

Please check if there already is an accessible thesis template available in your department. If yes, we highly recommend that you use it for your thesis.

What is an accessible file?

To produce an accessible PDF thesis for our university´s digital archive JYX, you must first make the original Word document accessible and after this convert it into PDF.

In an accessible Word file

  • there is a clear structure, i. e. the headings, subheadings, paragraphs and lists are created using the styles in order to create an accessible document. Styles contain information about the document structure and also convey that information to readers who use assistive devices. Therefore, manually changing e.g. the size or the color of the font does not make the file accessible.
  • the font is large enough (minimum 12 pt).
  • the tables, figures and pictures contain an alternative text which explains the information included in it to someone who is not able to see it.
  • the tables are created using the Insert Table command in Word or Excel. Also, please use header rows in the tables.
  • the document language is set in document settings.
  • a title for the document is provided in the file properties.
  • a descriptive name for the file is provided.
  • the accessibility has been inspected using the MS Word's Check Accessibility function.

If you´re not using MS Word for your thesis, you might find these instructions helpful:
Accessibility for Docs editors
Accessibility for LaTex

Create an accessible Word file by using the styles

The layout of a Word document must be defined by styles in order to create an accessible document. Styles contain information about the document structure to readers who use assistive devices. Thus, simply editing the appearance of the fonts does not make the file accessible. You need to choose the styles on Word's Home tab. Also, make sure that you use descriptive headings, i.e. make sure that the reader can get an overall idea of the document content just by reading the headings.

Mark the headings of the chapters with the style Heading, the subheadings of the next level with the style Heading 2, etc. Choose the Normal style for the rest of the text.

If you want the font to look different, you need to edit the styles. So, do not directly modify the appearance of the font. If you wish to emphasise some part of your text, please use bold text rather than italics. Also, not all readers distinguish colors. Essential information should not be conveyed using different font colors.

Creating the Table of contents

When the headings are marked with particular heading styles, it is easy to add the Table of contents to the Word document. Add the table of contents by selecting Table of Contents on the References tab.

Creating lists

Create lists using an appropriate list style. Lists are found in the Paragraph menu on the Home tab.

Accessibility in images and tables

Add images to the Word file using the Insert- Pictures function. Do not import them via the clipboard or by dragging. The image file formats that are best preserved in the PDF conversion are jpg and png.

At the same way, create your tables using the Insert - Table command in Word. Do not paste images made out of tables. Also, keep your tables simple.

To add a table with a header row

  • Go to the Insert tab. Click on Table and create your table.
  • Insert the information into the table cells.
  • Once you have filled your table, move the cursor to the top row of the table.
  • On the Table Tools tab, select Design. Make sure that the header Row has been selected (on the left side of the screen).
  • Move to the Layout section on the Table Tools tab.
  • Select Repeat Header Rows. This way the header row will be repeated if the table continues to the next page.

Creating an alternative text for images and tables

According to accessibility requirements, a corresponding text must be provided for images and tables. In Word documents, this is called alt text.

Alt text explains the essential content and meaning of the image or table for readers who cannot see it. Alt text is not the same as a caption, but sometimes the caption is enough.

Also, if the content is described in the text, you can leave the alt text empty. However, it is important to take into account the location of the image or table in relation to the text in which its content is explained. If the text is just before or after the image or table, the alt text can be empty. However, if the image or table is placed on a different page than the text about it, you should give a short alt text that tells you where the content of the image or table is given. For example, the alt text could be the following: "The content of table 1 is explained on the previous page.

To to add alt text in the latest Word versions, move the cursor over the image or table and right-click on it. Open the Alt Text window by clicking on Edit Alt Text. Write a short description of the essential content of the image in the white field. End your text with a full stop.

Document language

Check that the language of the text of your document is as the language in which it is mainly written. The document language is usually recognised automatically.

To do this, open the Review tab and select Language. Select Set Proofing Language.

Document title

In Word's file settings you should give your document a title which describes its content. A clear title is one that tells you what the document is about. Usually, the main title of the thesis is enough.

Open the File menu, click on Info and move to the right to find the Properties. Add a descriptive title to Title field (or Add title). If the document already has a title, you can edit it.

Check the accessibility of your Word file

When you have finished your document, you can check its accessibility by using the automatic checking function in Word. If necessary, first save the document in the docx format

Open the File/Review tab. Open the Check for issues menu. Select Check Accessibility.

Before publishing: Convert your Word file into a PDF/A file

Once you have created an accessible Word document according to the instructions above, you can convert your document to an accessible PDF/A file.

Convert a Word document into PDF as follows:

1. Select the File tab.
2. Select Export. Then select Create PDF or XPS Document.
3. Click on Create PDF/XPS.
4. In the window that opens, determine the folder in which the file is saved. Give a file name
that describes the content of the document.
5. Before clicking Publish, see Options.
6. Select both Document structure tags for accessibility and Document properties.
Select Create bookmarks using Headings.
7. Select PDF/A compliant.
8. Click OK and then Publish.

Publish your thesis in JYX digital archive

You can now upload your approved thesis to JYX digital archive. For this you will need the university's user account to sign in.

For more detailed information about ensuring the accessibility of your document, please see these instructions provided by Theseus.