Accessibility of doctoral theses

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Accessibility means taking human diversity into consideration in digital services. In other words, it corresponds to accessibility in the physical world.

Accessible digital services can be used regardless of any functional restrictions, be they permanent or temporary. For example, people with a hearing disability require captions for videos, but captions are also useful for, e.g., a hearing student travelling on a rush-hour bus.

How does the act apply to doctoral students?

In Finland, accessibility is also required by the Act on the Provision of Digital Services, which applies to the online content and services produced by universities and other authorities.

The act applies to certain public digital documents produced by doctoral students, particularly doctoral theses and their abstracts, which are stored in the E-thesis system and made available to the customers of Helsinki University Library.

Further information and instructions pertaining to accessibility are available (in Finnish and Swedish only) on the saavutettavuusvaatimukset.fi website of the supervisory authority.

How to create an accessible doctoral thesis

Take accessibility into account in your thesis-writing process from the very beginning, not only when the thesis is about to be printed. For instructions on how to create an accessible Word file, see below.

The thesis abstract is usually submitted to the E-thesis system using an electronic thesis form. However, if the thesis is longer than allowed by the form, you can submit the abstract as a separate Word file. Make the separate Word file accessible by following the instructions below.

An accessible Word file should take into account at least the following:

  • The file structure (headings, paragraphs, lists) must be created using the Styles menu, not, for example, by changing the font size.
  • The font must be sufficiently large and intelligible (at least 12 pt), while the contrast between the font and background must be sufficient and the text must be aligned to the left.
  • Images must have text alternatives that describe the image content to those unable to see the images.
  • Tables must be created with the table tool of Word or Excel, and they must contain a header row.
  • The language and title (not the same as file name) of the document must be assigned in the properties.
  • Accessibility must be ensured using Word’s Check Accessibility function.

To make a PDF document accessible, you must first make the original Word document accessible and then convert it into PDF format using the appropriate procedure. A correctly saved PDF document contains all of the structures included in the Word document, which, for example, a visually impaired person can utilise to read the document using a screen reader.

Detailed and illustrated instructions for creating accessible documents are available on the saavutettavasti.fi website (in Finnish only).

Creating PDF files

On a PC:
  1. In Word, click ‘Save As’ or ‘Export’ and select PDF as the file type.
  2. Click ‘Options’ in the save window and check the following items: Document properties, Document structure tags for accessibility and Create bookmarks using headings.
  3. Click ‘Save’.
On a Mac:
  1. In Word, click ‘Save a Copy’ and select PDF as the file type.
  2. In the save window, check ‘Best for electronic distribution and accessibility’.
  3. Click ‘Export’.

NB! Do not use the ‘Print to PDF’ function to create PDF files. If you do so, the document will have no structure. Instead, it will resemble a scanned image.

If a doctoral student prints their thesis at Unigrafia, an accessibility check is part of the service. Please note, however, that making any corrections based on the check is not part of the service.

Further information on accessibility

Accessibility of the University’s digital services:

General information on accessibility:

  • Website of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, the supervisory authority responsible for accessibility: saavutettavuusvaatimukset.fi (in Finnish and Swedish only)
  • Instructions for content producers on a website maintained by Celia, a national centre for accessible literature and publishing in Finland: Saavutettavasti.fi  (in Finnish only)