Whew! December is already here, and I’m back to this blog at last. I’ve been on a hiatus during the past two weeks to wrap up the final requirements for my graduate school program. While defending my thesis project—a metafictional narrative—back in early November was a major milestone, submitting it to the university library was also an important part of the overall process. I’m unsure what the guidelines are for other graduate programs, but for the Kellogg Library at Cal State San Marcos, every thesis project must adhere to strict ADA-compliance standards; and that took a while to get just right.
What is ADA-compliance, exactly? Well, the acronym—according to the Office of Disabled Student Students at CSUSM—stands for “Americans with Disability Act.” And as it pertains to thesis projects submitted at the university library, the compliance is mostly there to aid students with visual impairments to access those types of academic materials online. The Kellogg Library only accepts thesis projects in electronic form now, which is probably true for most universities now (if not, I’d love to know in the comment section below).
Of course I was glad to help make accessing my thesis easier for students in need. But I also hadn’t realized that the methods used for ADA-compliance basically meant learning to set up a screen reader to function properly with your document. Screen readers are handy little tools. You can basically push a button and get the computer to read your entire document aloud, albeit in a monotone, for your needs and enjoyment. In addition, setting up a document for ADA-compliance or a screen reader to access has two major benefits for general use:
- Easier navigation of documents, which is very useful for lengthy texts. One important aspect of setting up ADA-compliance is working with the “Navigation Pane” found under the “View” tab in Microsoft Word. Using a combination of the “Navigation Pane” and types of headings found under the “Home” tab, you can basically create a detailed Table of Contents. So when accessing the document in the future, it is then possible to click on specific parts of it and get taken there.
- Smoother transition to a .pdf format. As much as ADA-compliance benefits documents that remain as Microsoft Word documents, it becomes even nicer when those documents get converted into .pdf files. Readers, such as Adobe Acrobat, will be able to recognize the organization of the text. It makes searching for specific terms much easier to do, and plus it is in the .pdf format where the screen reader function is the most prevalent.
As you can imagine, I wound up learning several new things about how Microsoft Word as a program handled documents.
Does anyone else have interesting experiences related to formatting a document for ADA-compliance, or even just comments on how the thesis project submission process works at other universities? I’d love to know!
Also, as a secondary yet also important note, because I’m officially done with my graduate program, Literary Serenity: The Grad Edition will henceforth become Literary Serenity: A Writing Blog.