ADA compliance: What is it and why is it important?

When working on your thesis, project, or dissertation, PLEASE NOTE that it must be made accessible. What does "accessible" mean? It means that the file will be accessible to screen readers and other assistive computer technologies. This means MORE people can possibly access and reference your paper online. If you still have any questions PLEASE watch this short  video on ADA issues.  *For assistance, email and let Amy Dyess know what you have tried and where you are stuck. Amy provides ADA formatting assistance Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM by email, virtual meetings, and in-person.


Are you planning on uploading your thesis or project to the library this semester? Send it in for ADA-compliance formatting!

Send it in by April 20th and the ScholarWorks team will make it ADA compliant for you. We will have all files made compliant and returned to you by May 4thIn order to do this properly, we need some information from you. PLEASE make sure to follow all of these instructions carefully! If you miss a step or forget something, it could delay the processing of your file. 

Please send the following in an email to 


Your full name

The name of the program that you are in.

The Word file for your Thesis/Project. Drafts are accepted, and please include a title page!

Before emailing us, please check the formatting for the following: (Note: Please only include the file/s if it should appear in your thesis/project. You should decide with your advisor what is important to include in your file.)

  • Does your thesis/project contain PowerPoint slides? If so, please include the original slides.
  • Does your file contain a survey? If so, attach the survey in a Word file. If you do not have access to the survey in a Word file, please attach the PDF.
  • Does your document contain a form? If so, attach the form/s as a Word file. If you do not have access to the form as a Word file, please attach the PDF.
  • Is there a companion website as part of your thesis/project? If so, please include a link to your website.
  • Does your thesis/project contain podcasts, videos, or other multimedia files? If so, please include a link to the files or email them to us.  
  • If your thesis/project is too large to send via email, please upload it directly to Sharepoint: Spring 2020 ETD files. (You will be required to log in with your CSUSM user name and password.)
  • Do you have tables in your thesis/project? If so, make sure that the tables are editable and not images. If you only have an image of a table you will need to recreate and type up the table before including it in your file.
  • Do you have any worksheets in your file? Make sure that the worksheets are editable and part of the Word document. Do NOT take an image of a worksheet and insert it into your thesis/project.
  • Do you have any "official correspondence" as part of your file? For example, permission letters, approval letters, research information letters or emails, etc. If so, please include the Word or PDF file of the official correspondence.  (Word is preferred, when possible.)
  • Do you have an IRB form? If so, please include the image of each page of the IRB Form in your thesis/project Word file.
  • Do you have any ‘SmartArt’ in your file? We will reconstruct it into a table or other text information. Smart Art is not ADA-compliant.
  • Do you have a signed, departmental signature page?
    • If yes: please attach the PDF of the signed departmental signature page.
    • If no: once you receive the completed departmental signature page, email it to, and the library will make it ADA compliant and email it back to you. If you have completed your thesis/project, please email it to us as well and we will merge the two files for you.


Accessibility Help Main Page

To check your thesis, project, or dissertation for accessibility it is recommended that you use Word 2011 or later. These versions have a built-in accessibility checker. We also recommend that you do not use Google Documents to make your thesis, project, or dissertation ADA compliant as work you do in Google Documents often does not convert properly to Word or Adobe. You can learn about the accessibility checker from the Microsoft accessibility checker page.  Microsoft also has how-to guides for creating accessible Word documents. 

After you have validated that you fixed all issues detected by the Word accessibility check, save your page as a PDF. Go to Adobe Acrobat Pro and check for accessibility. Students may download the Adobe Creative Cloud including Acrobat Pro from Technology Support ServicesAdobe has created a how-to guide to create and verify PDF accessibility.  That site has tips/recommendations on how to resolve issues.


ADA Workshop

Please watch this recording of our ADA Workshop for an overview of how to make your file ADA compliant. Contact Amy Dyess for more information


Steps to Make Your Paper ADA Compliant

Adding “Heading Styles”


Creating “Alt Text” for ALL Images, Figures, and Graphs, etc.


Adding “Table Headers”

Making your Signature Page Accessible: It's easiest to make your Departmental Signature page accessible *before* merging it into your thesis or project. These instructions will walk you through this process in Adobe Acrobat. (Online Students: Your signature page requires an extra step due to the DocuSign protections. You must "Print" your signature page to Adobe PDF and then follow the instructions.) 



How to check your paper for accessibility:

  • Accessibility Links : Microsoft Word (Word) or Adobe Acrobat Pro (PDF) or Adobe Acrobat Pro (website).

If you are using LaTeX for writing your thesis or project, please use the tutorial that Jacek Polewczak from CSU Northridge created. 


Common ADA Errors

Watch these videos for instructions on how to fix common errors. Word 2016 is used for all videos.

Infrequent Headings Video

Repeated Blank Characters Video

Unclear Hyperlink Video

Merged or Split Cells & Check Reading Order Video