Information for Faculty

Syllabus Format and Accessibility

All faculty in the history department are required to make available an accessible electronic syllabus for each course taught at Sacramento State. This page provides basic instructions to support this process, which is required to comply with federal law.

The department no longer copies physical syllabi for in-class distribution. Exceptions may be made for specific pedagogical reasons with permission of the chair.

General guidelines for the electronic syllabus

1. The electronic syllabus must be in pdf format.

You can create a pdf file from your word processor syllabus in two ways:

a. In most word processors, you can use the "Save As" function to save the document in pdf format. Just choose "pdf" from the "Save As" menu. This method is the preferred method.

b. If you have a version of Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Professional on your computer, you can print your document directly to the Adobe pdf printer as if it were a regular printer.

2. Each electronic syllabus must have a specific file name to allow the department to categorize and store each file efficiently.

Please follow this file name format: LASTNAME-HISTCourseNumber-SemesterYear.
Samples: SMITH-HIST110-FA11 or SMITH-HIST182-SP12

For courses with multiple sections, please include the section number.

3. Check that your pdf syllabus is accessible, if possible, before submission. (See instructions below.) If you are unable to check, go ahead and send the syllabus anyway.

4. Email your electronic syllabus to LoriAnn Rodriguez with cc to Julie Cahill. Please note in your email if you have checked the document for accessibility or not (see below).

5. The department will post all electronic syllabi on the department website. Inform your students to look to the website to find the syllabus for their course under the "Course syllabi" heading. You may send them a message with link to this page via the faculty center or use SacCT to distribute the syllabus.

How to make your syllabus accessible in MS Word

Here are some basic guidelines for making the syllabus accessible in your word processor. The following instructions are for Microsoft Word, but they should be similar for most modern word processors.

It's likely that your syllabus may already be complaint, especially if you follow these basic rules, but if you would like to create a new syllabus, the university has an accessible syllabus template available. For more information, see the ATCS course template page. You can find more details about how to make a MS Word document accessible by reading this Word document accessibility handout.

The following information is based on the Word document accessibility handout with the history department's recommendations in italics.

1. Use Styles in your Word syllabus. It is probably easiest to use just the "Heading 1" (and possibly the "Heading 2") style to identify different sections of your syllabus.

There are various built-in Styles in Word that group together different formatting characteristics and are ready to be applied to text. Styles mark up a document to define the elements that it contains. This provides an organized structure that is easily read by all users, including individuals using assistive technologies like screen readers. You can modify existing styles or create your own based on your formatting preferences. To learn how to use Styles, see the Word document accessibility handout.

2. Avoid images. If images are necessary, you can deal with them in two ways:

a. Make sure each image has an alternative text description (see the Word document accessibility handout).

b. Create two versions of each syllabus: one version with images to distribute to students and one version without images for posting on the department web page.

3. Use text labels and descriptions for hyperlinks. Avoid using "Click Here" or only the URL for hyperlinks. Provide a text description to the document or website. To learn how to create text labels, see the Word document accessibility handout.

4. Avoid tables. If you use tables, keep them simple. Simple tables have one row of headings, one column of headings, or both. Don't use nested tables or merging cells which are difficult to read using a screen reader.

For more detailed information about making Word documents accessible, see the accessibility handbook for MS Word 2003 or MS Word 2007.

How to check that your pdf syllabus is accessible

The department asks all faculty, if able, to verify the accessibility of their pdf syllabus before submitting it for posting to the website.

1. You can "quick check" your pdf using the free Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat, or Adobe Acrobat Professional. If you need the free Acrobat Reader, you can download it from the Adobe Reader download page.

2. Open the syllabus in Adobe. You may have to start Acrobat, then open the pdf from inside the program by going to the "File" tab, selecting "Open," and searching for your file.

If you have Adobe Reader 9:

3. Once the file is open, look for the "Document" tab.

4. Select the "Accessibility Quick Check " option on the "Document" tab.

5. Run the check.

If you have Adobe Reader X:

3. Once the file is open, look for the "Edit" tab.

4. Select the "Accessibility" option on the "Edit" tab.

5. Choose the "Quick Check" and run the check.

If you have Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Professional:

3. Once the file is open, look for the "Advanced" tab.

4. Select the "Accessibility" option on the "Advanced" tab.

5. Choose the "Quick Check" and run the check.

If there are no errors, email the file to LoriAnn Rodriguez and note that you have checked the document.

Correcting common pdf accessibility errors

If you have an error, you can fix it with Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Professional. The free Adobe reader will not allow you to make changes. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Professional, please email your syllabus to LoriAnn Rodriguez and note that you cannot fix the document.

If you have Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Professional and receive the following error messages, please try the following fixes:

1. You may receive this error message (or something similar) when running the Adobe Acrobat accessibility check: "This document is not structured so the reading order may not be correct. Try different reading orders using the Reading Preferences panel."

This error is common. If you receive this message, you can check your syllabus by making the following changes to your pdf file and running the accessibility check again:

a. Look for the "Edit" tab in Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Professional

b. Choose "Preferences" at the bottom of the Edit menu. A large dialog box will open.

c. Select the category "Reading" on the left side of the Preferences dialog box.

d. Under "Reading Order Options" at the top of the dialog box, choose "Left-to-right, top-to bottom reading order" from the drop down menu AND check the box "Override the reading order in tagged documents."

e. Click "OK" at the bottom of the dialog box.

f. Go to the "Advanced" tab.

g. Select the "Accessibility" option on the "Advanced" tab.

h. Choose the "Add Tags to Document" option

i. Save the pdf.

j. Run the accessibility check again.

For more detailed information about making pdf documents accessible, see the accessibility handbook for Adobe documents.