## What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is about making the digital world accessible to everyone – this includes websites, digital documents, mobile apps and any online tool.

The LTA has produced some general advice on accessibility; their document can be found here.

An overview of digital accessibility in mathematics based subjects is given here by Emma Cliffe (University of Bath).

## The problem with LaTeX

Creating accessible resources for a highly symbolic subject, such as mathematics, is difficult since equations pose a problem for many assistive technologies unless they are rendered using MathJax in formats such as Word, EPub3 or html.

Traditionally LaTeX is used to typeset notes and produce a pdf document which is not digitally accessible.

The pdf documents produced from LaTeX cannot be read by text-to-speech screen-readers used by some visually impared students and they can be difficult to zoom, create contrast and do not allow the final user to choose font style/size.

## What are the alternatives?

This is a non-exhaustive list of alternative methods of producing accessible mathematics. No one method will suit everyone, as the choice of typesetting will be a matter of personal preference (and each has pros/cons). Since many notes/resources will already be in LaTeX we also list methods to convert from LaTeX to html (with MathJax).

Finally, we present a quick ‘how-to’ guide showing one method to convert your current LaTeX documents to an accessible html format.

### Methods

#### Typesetting

Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

**Word**– using the appropriate headings, sub-headings etc to structure the text, using equation editor to insert any mathematics and giving alt-text descriptions to figures will ensure an accessible document. There is an inbuilt accessibility checker and LaTeX-like commands can now be used in the equation editor.**LaTeX**– It is possible to use LaTeX to produce accessible documents with some changes e.g. with \usepackage{axessibility}, compiled as html and with the addition of MathJax to the resulting html file. (There are other packages available too.)**RMarkdown/bookdown**– Integrated with the RStudio IDE, uses LaTeX commands for equations etc, has choice of outputs so, for example, once can still produce a pdf while producing accessible html. RMarkdown documentation and Bookdown documentation.**TeXmacs**– This is a wysiwyg editor which can produce mathematics in html format with MathJax enabled. Documentation here.**Canvas**– Typing mathematics into a Canvas page directly using the in-built equation editor will result in mathematics with MathJax enabled.

#### Conversion from LaTeX

All conversion method will have issues, in part due to the highly customisable nature of LaTeX. Some of these issues include cross-referencing, footnotes, some personalised commands and most methods do not work at all on Beamer presentations.

**Pandoc**– A versatile document convertor can convert LaTeX into html with MathJax. There are many alternative conversions available, well documented and easy to use from the command line. Find it here.**Chirun**– previously named ‘Coursebuilder’, created by the e-learning team at Newcastle university. Runs as a Python package (see the Github documentation) or can be used in the Public content builder available here.**TeXmacs**– can also be used to convert as it will read-in LaTeX sources.

#### One method to convert LaTeX to accessible html

This is a very short guide which outlines the steps used to take a LaTeX document and produce accessible html (with MathsJax).

Since I do not wish to convert LaTeX (and fix the issues) every time I make changes to notes, I have decided to use Bookdown going forward as I found it fairly easy to learn and the option to output the final document in different formats is convenient.

I followed the guidance given on this site ‘Making Lecture Notes with Bookdown’. More details on bookdown can be found on the main documentation website where there is also a simple demo to follow.

A summary of the main steps I used is given below:

- Using Pandoc, convert the LaTeX file(s), input.tex, to Markdown, output.Rmd using the command line. (pandoc -f latex -t markdown input.tex -o output.Rmd )
- Open the Rmd file(s) using bookdown in Rstudio and tidy up. During the conversion some aspects of the LaTeX will not always convert correctly or may just look a little different to how you wish.
- Using the demo template (or otherwise), order your document and save as an RProject.
- Export the document to the desired format, by ‘Build book’.

An example of my final accessible format can be seen here: Complex Numbers.