[accessibility] Accessible TeX rendering (was Re: TeX Hour: Thu 21 and 28 October: Durable conversion to accessible outputs)

Jason White jason at jasonjgw.net
Sat Oct 30 18:04:17 CEST 2021

On 20/10/21 14:34, Jonathan Fine wrote:
> Thu 21 October: 6:30 to 7:30pm: What is an accessible TeX rendering 
> pipeline?

That's a good question and an important topic. I have a relatively 
simple solution at the moment: a makefile that converts my LaTeX source 
to PDF and HTML.

At present, I am using the Lwarp package to generate the HTML output, 
and Lualatex for the PDF. However, it would be straightforward to use 
TEX4HT or LaTeXML instead.

The main problems, from my limited perspective, are as follows.

1. Not knowing which LaTeX packages are compatible with producing 
high-quality HTML output, and addressing incompatibilities that do 
occur. If the HTML conversion were standardized and supported directly 
within the packages themselves (e.g., with code that specifies 
structural tags/elements), I think this would be easier from a user's 
point of view. I hope the development of support for tagged PDF will 
have the side effect of improving HTML processing. I care about quality 
HTML output, but not so much about PDF tagging.

2. The fact that there is no standard HTML production pipeline for 
LaTeX, but rather a multiplicity of tools with similar functionality 
(but differences of detail in what is supported and what output is 

3. There is support for providing a text alternative to graphical 
content in LaTeX now, equivalent to the HTML ALT attribute. However, 
there doesn't appear to be a standard mechanism for providing extended 
descriptions (e.g., containing tables, paragraphs or other structural 

It should also be noted that mathematical notation doesn't have a 
significant role in my current work, so I am effectively avoiding 
mathematics accessibility issues by not needing this aspect of LaTeX 
much. When I wrote my Ph.D. thesis in LaTeX, there were occasional logic 
symbols and variables in the technical chapters, and in that context, 
the ability to include the notation correctly (and to edit it in a 
completely accessible manner) was important.

I have also used Pandoc Markdown and AsciiDoc, but I keep coming back to 
LaTeX for all of my substantial writing due to the wealth of packages 
available in TeX Live and the excellent facilities for use in scholarly 
manuscripts. Anyone with a complete TeX Live installation could work 
with my documents, whereas, if I wrote them in Markdown, for instance, 
anyone else who wished to build them would have to install extensions 
and use specific command line options or makefiles - and I would have to 
rely on various extensions that may or may not be maintained.

I think LaTeX currently has a more mature software environment than the 
"light-weight" markup languages provide, at least in relation to my needs.

I also appreciate having the typographical details decided by 
specialists in that domain (namely, the autors of LaTeX and its packages).

The ability to use word diffs in Git to compare revisions of a document 
(a feature that has an option to respect LaTeX syntax) also proves 
useful at times.

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