[accessibility] What are good reasons for not releasing the source in 2019?

easjolly at ix.netcom.com easjolly at ix.netcom.com
Sat Jun 29 03:48:09 CEST 2019

Hi Ross,


Thanks for taking the time to supply such a detailed answer.


As far as the tagged PDF sample you sent, I have no idea how to make use of it and learning how is not something I want to spend time on at my age.  Hopefully others can supply useful feedback.


As you likely know from other lists I'm a sighted retired computational scientist who just happened to get interested in braille some 18 years ago. There has been much less advance in automating braille production than I anticipated back then but there does seem to be steady if slow progress.


I hope this next comment doesn't seem naive but I'm confused.  I do understand that source files can have the kinds of additional information you pointed out along with the information needed to render a particular document.  And I fully appreciate why the additional information is best removed from a released source. But I don't understand why if it's possible to develop software to automate the production of tagged PDF files why it would be impossibly difficult to automate "sanitising the source."


As for the concern about bad actors using a source to violate copyright laws that is a legal matter and should be handled as such. Plus there are related protections already in place such as those used by Bookshare. After all people who need print accessibility well understand it is in their interest to be scrupulous about such matters.



Susan J.



From: Ross Moore <ross.moore at mq.edu.au> 
Sent: Friday, June 28, 2019 6:21 PM
To: easjolly at ix.netcom.com
Cc: Jason White via accessibility <accessibility at tug.org>
Subject: Re: [accessibility] What are good reasons for not releasing the source in 2019?


Hi Susan,


On 29 Jun 2019, at 9:27 am, easjolly at ix.netcom.com <mailto:easjolly at ix.netcom.com>  wrote:


Ross Moore wrote: "Furthermore, it does not generalize to larger
publications like text-books, as authors and publishers can have very good
reasons for not wishing to release the source."

I don't understand why this is any longer the case.  Given the tools
available in today's digital environment, properly trained persons can
create an equivalent source from a print copy of a text-book. 


It’s not about tools.

It’s about privacy and protection of commercial interests.



A textbook, especially one that has gone through many revisions and updates,

can have a source that may be used to generate several different resources.

E.g., worksheets, instructor’s version, answers to exercises, and more.

It can even have material intended for the next (as yet unreleased) version.

It may have comments about things tried, and found not suitable.

There may even be defamatory remarks made by one author against another.


Both authors and publishers can have a significant monetary interest in *not* releasing such source documents.

Sanitising the source to become appropriate for release, as the *accessible* version of the text say, 

could be a very time-consuming task; it is something that they just *do not want* to do. 


And this does not even consider the possibility of some-one else using and modifying

that source to create a similar text, and publish it in opposition to the existing versions.



With Tagged PDF providing the opportunity to better control what is in an electronic document,

supporting different purposes, and without compromising the quality of the printed product,

then this is the way that would be attractive to publishers.



 In fact this
is essentially what many braille transcribers are forced to do.  


Yes, I am aware of this.

Re-tooling the LaTeX source of a whole book is a ridiculously expensive path to take.

With a properly tagged PDF, such an action is not going to be required any more.


situation currently leads to a considerable waste of resources in addition
to having a negative impact on students who can't get their text-books in a
timely manner. There must be a better way.


Yes, again.

Tagged PDF is exactly the solution to this.


But it has to be done correctly and accurately.

That is exactly what I am working on, and so is the LaTeX team.


One thing that we cannot do is release code that is not sufficiently robust,

which would allow authors to create broken PDFs without being aware of the defects.


It is possible, and I’ve encountered such examples, to generate broken tagging which

has no effect in browsers that ignore tagging. 

Yet when you use one that does respect tagging, it can cause a crash of the application.

Thus an author can think that they have successfully created a nice accessible PDF, but

when a blind person tries to read it, it fails completely.


Such a situation would be for LaTeX, akin to what the 737 Max problems are to Boeing.




BTW, I’m attaching an example document that is fully tagged with mathematical content.

The LaTeX source of the mathematics is included in several ways.

It also has MathML tagged math content. Look at the attachments.

Please tell me what you think, about how readable it is with Assistive Technology.




Hope this helps.







Dr Ross Moore
Department of Mathematics and Statistics  

12 Wally’s Walk, Level 7, Room 734
Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia
T: +61 2 9850 8955  |  F: +61 2 9850 8114
M:+61 407 288 255  |  E: ross.moore at mq.edu.au <mailto:ross.moore at mq.edu.au> 
http://www.maths.mq.edu.au <http://mq.edu.au/> 

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