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Accessible web content: what is the best format for sharing documents?

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Web pages are in HTML-coded hypertext. Where possible, web pages are preferable to separate file attachments in public information sharing. Therefore, if you can write directly to the web service using the web editor, do that instead of attaching a separate file. However, sometimes it is necessary to share files over the internet.

In the internal daily use of Oulu’s higher education institutions, it is generally advisable to use Microsoft Office applications (such as Word) and the associated file formats (DOCX in Word), as we all have access to the MS 365 cloud service. The cloud service includes a license for Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) for all University of Oulu and Oamk students and staff members.

Word and OneNote feature an excellent Immersive Reader reading comprehension tool that is particularly useful for people with difficulties in reading. As we all have access to MS products with useful accessibility features, it is recommended to use MS file formats.

You should use PDF files, for example, in the following cases:

  • when the file is archived (use the PDF/A format for archiving)
  • when you share files created using professional programs for users who do not have access to the program in question.

For example, students upload their theses in PDF format to Laturi/Theseus. (Note: unlike other student assignments, theses must comply with the accessibility requirements. Students should create their work in an accessible and archivable PDF format.)

A PDF file is usually not intended to be edited/updated. Therefore, the original file (made using an office or professional program, for example) should be kept for possible further editing.

More information about PDF files

Microsoft’s Immersive Reader allows readers to adjust the view to suit their personal needs without changing the original file

The author of the file decides what the file looks like by selecting the font settings (such as font and line spacing) and defining the column width. MS Word’s Immersive Reader provides readers with an easy way to change the appearance of the text to make it more convenient for them. Readers can change the background colour, line spacing, font and size of the text easily without changing the original file.

Readers can also easily choose to listen to the text read aloud by the computer. (In the case of a PDF file, however, the text is displayed to the reader as it is, which is why you need to pay particular attention to the layout, e.g. the font, column width and line spacing.)

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