[BlindMath] TeX Live VPAT

Jonathan Godfrey A.J.Godfrey at massey.ac.nz
Wed Mar 1 00:45:16 UTC 2023

Hello all, especially Boris.

Reading the documentation (provided in HTML) I offer the following comments:

"The tools provided by TeXLive are accompanied by technical documentation, both included in TeXLive itself, and separate: there are many books, courses and other materials about TeX. Many of the latter a fully accessible. The main documentation of TeXLive, supported by TeXLive team, is accessible as well."

JG: I have concerns about the value of this comment if the material held in the software itself is not in an accessible form. Software should not rely on third-party content such as that offered as "other material". To suggest content is accessible without pointing to such content or describing its accessibility is the sort of baseless claim that is frequently made.  I worry that the accessible (format) documentation is not as accessible (available) as is needed by the regular users (not the geeks).

"... of all documentation provided by TeXLive packages, we ensure a certain level of accessibility for all documentation. However, the full audit of the documentation for all 7300+ packages created by many thousands of volunteers is not feasible at this time. TeX Users group supports the efforts of making all TeX documentation fully accessible."

JG: it is not accessible because the default tool to create the content is the software being commented on. I am pleased that TUG wants to make the package documentation accessible, but stating an intent without saying what is meant by "accessible" or offering any time frame is honest and transparent but inadequate. If the TeXLive implementation can generate HTML, then surely the webpages that deliver the documentation can be made accessible. I note the comments made in Tables relating to WCAG which are relevant to HTML content later. Those tables do not assure the reader that the documentation is accessible via all means a user reviews it. That is, if a user gains access to TeXLive documentation because their editor opens it, will the content be readable by their screen reader? I can't test this myself so I would look to an assurance from actual users.

"We note, however, that documentation for all TeXLive packages is available as source text files, and thus is highly accessible."

JG: only accessible to a reader who is conversant with the commands used in these files. This also highlights a difference between accessible (true for plain text files) and anything related to user-friendliness. For example, I might be able to read the TeX files used by my colleagues  to create their inaccessible beamer presentations, but I have written scripts to delete or abbreviate numerous TeX commands that are a distraction to the content I am trying to understand.

Overall: while I see reference that use by blind users is "supported", this is limited by the scope of the report. (Correct me if I am wrong, but) I thought TeXLive comes with an editor, so I expected to see more about how a blind user would fare using that editor.

My general comments about VPATs are somewhat reinforced by this document. The tables offer three categories of compliance to the headings found in another document and are focused on the technical detail, much of which is beyond my understanding. This focus is going to be quite uninformative to a blind person who just wants to know if the software is going to work with their screen reader and what work-arounds might be necessary. In particular, I would expect to see a comment on the ability to complete every task without the benefit of a mouse. I have demonstrated that some statistical software has tasks that cannot be achieved by a keyboard user therefore nullifying the accessible claim; a claim made by people who didn't know how a blind user would be working with their software.

Finally, I saw no reference to any differences in experiences based on operating systems. I would hope that documentation is OS-agnostic, but the way the software is used almost certainly has OS quirks which are hopefully not detrimental to the blind user's experience.

I hope others can provide comment especially from anyone who is regularly using TeXLive with adaptive technology.

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