[BlindMath] Please, more talk between blind math users and LaTeX developers

Neil Soiffer soiffer at alum.mit.edu
Tue Mar 16 00:55:11 UTC 2021

I don't mean to dissuade anyone from writing a paper about the importance
of latex output being accessible, but I do want to push back against the
idea that the latex developers don't care about accessibility or are
ignorant of it. I have met a few of them and they all seem like smart,
caring people who, like many of us, have much more on their plate than they
can chew.  Accessibility was not much of an issue back in the 80s when TeX
was developed, especially for a system that was (then) designed for print.
Times have changed and hopefully TeX will also.

Three things that people should know:
1. For the most part, they are volunteers trying to maintain free software
that was developed in the early 80s;
2. They have a huge user base/historical legacy and any changes need to be
carefully executed so that existing latex doesn't break;
3. Adding the tagging in a way that doesn't require authors to alter what
they wrote means the deep down guts of the program need to be modified.
This is not an easy task, especially when dealing with a large, old
program! If it were easy, it would have been done by now.

With Adobe's recent support, I believe progress will be made, but without
monetary support, it is no more fair to ask them to stop doing their day
job and work on this for free than it is to ask anyone in the group to give
up their income for two years to help some other group with needs.

I hope this message wasn't too defensive or preachy. I know TeX
accessibility is a huge problem and I hope to help remedy it in what small
way I can.

Neil Soiffer

On Mon, Mar 15, 2021 at 4:09 PM Tony Malykh <anton.malykh at gmail.com> wrote:

> I am interested. As I mentioned I can probaby convince a couple of
> fellow blind engineers to coauthor that article as well - once there's a
> draft available.
> I would probably say that we shouldn't take it into legal plane (e.g.
> you're breaking the law) - since this makes people defensive and scared
> of litigation. I would rather try to present things as shameful (it's a
> shame that blind people are left out of X Y and Z).
> I am personally left out of latest ML research for example. I can write
> a paragraph or two how that hurts my professional career.
> Feel free to contact me privately off list.
> --Tony
> On 3/15/2021 7:17 AM, Jonathan Fine via BlindMath wrote:
> > Hi
> >
> > Summary: Anyone interested in a jointly submitted article to TeX Users
> > Group journal TUGboat? The submission deadline is the end of March.
> >
> > The focus of this list is end users who have a disability that affects
> > reading, namely visual impairment. I think the LaTeX team is focussed on
> > LaTeX developers and users. Perhaps for the LaTeX team their end user is
> > the author who is writing in LaTeX.
> >
> > I think an article in TUGboat, the journal of the TeX User Group, would
> > help LaTeX developers be more aware of students and others with a
> > disability as an end user of LaTeX. After all, what is an author without
> > readers?
> >
> > March 31 is the deadline for the next issue of TUGboat. After that, the
> > deadlines are August and October. Is anyone interested in working with me
> > on an article for TUGboat, to be submitted at the end of the month.
> >
> > We don't have to agree on everything to co-author an article. Indeed,
> > communicating the diversity of experience and views could be very
> valuable,
> > along with shared views when they exist.
> >
> > Here's something I'd like to say
> >
> > The UK Government writes
> >
> >> Your service must be accessible to everyone who needs it. You may be
> >    breaking the law if you do not make it accessible.
> >
> >> You need to think about how users might access and use your service
> >    before you design or build anything.
> > END
> >
> > I'd evaluate the LaTeX Team proposal from this point of view. I'd also
> > cover technical questions, and minimal viable sub-products.
> >
> > By the way, by LaTeX developer I mean anyone that develops software that
> > has a substantial relationship to LaTeX. So this would include
> > tex4ht and lwarp developers for example, as well as the many authors of
> > LaTeX packages. And, in my opinion, developers who work with MathJax.
> >
> > So, is anyone interested in working together on a jointly submitted
> article
> > for TUGBoat. The deadline is 31 March, so we'd have to start this week!
> > It's an opportunity to influence events.
> >
> > The URL for the UK Government statement is here:
> >
> https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/helping-people-to-use-your-service/making-your-service-accessible-an-introduction
> >
> > A URL for Minimal Viable Product is here:
> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_viable_product
> >
> > with best wishes
> >
> > Jonathan
> > _______________________________________________
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