When we talk about creating accessible publications, we’re talking about content that meets the needs of as many users as possible, including those with visual or print disabilities. Making your publications more accessible is the right thing to do, and it’s part of expanding their reach to more readers; it’s also increasingly mandated by local regulations, national legislation (such as Section 508 in the United States), and international legislation such as the Marrakesh Treaty and the European Accessibility Act.
When accessibility is the challenge, an XML-based workflow is part of the solution. That’s where eXtyles comes in, because step 1 of creating “born accessible” content is building semantic structure—that is, XML—into your publications early on. Once elements are correctly identified, accessibility tools can interpret them accurately and meaningfully.
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the what and the why of accessible publications and looked at how you can use eXtyles to add semantic structure to your documents, find and fix dysfunctional characters and fonts, and avoid language mix-ups. In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll explore how eXtyles can help you build accessibility into math and images.
We also recommend the Publishing Accessible Content resource page from our colleagues at Atypon!
Use eXtyles to make your math machine readable
Word offers several good ways to create an equation or formula, but that doesn’t stop some Word users from inventing a variety of bad ways to create equations!
The equations you want in your Word files are created using Equation Builder (included in Word) or MathType (a Word plug-in). Equations created with these tools can be exported as OMML or MathML, which are accessible ways to represent math. Whether your final file is Word or XML, correctly using Equation Builder or MathType will produce machine-readable equations that are accessible to someone using a screen reader or similar assistive technology. They’re also transformable, discoverable, and searchable!
→ Can you create a PDF with accessible math from Word? According to MathType, the answer is yes—provided you follow some best practices.
The equations you typically don’t want include
- equations created using text, underlining, and face formatting;
- equations that combine Equation Builder or MathType equations with plain text; and
- equations inserted (or exported) as images.
All of these will emerge from a screen reader as gibberish (or nothing at all) and are usually useless or invisible to search and discovery tools.
→ Looking for a deeper dive into Word, math, and XML? Check out “Wrangling Math from Microsoft Word into JATS XML Workflows” by Caitlin Gebhard and Bruce Rosenblum, presented at JATS-Con 2018.
eXtyles, Word, and MathType work together to help you make sure your math is accessible.
- eXtyles Font Audit tells you how many Equation Builder equations your document contains and how to find them. Remember, an equation can be as small as a single character!
- Bonus benefit: This feature also alerts you when a document should not contain any equations, but unexpectedly does!
- eXtyles Cleanup finds display equations laid out as single-row tables and turns them into regular text, so that you can apply the appropriate semantic markup via eXtyles Paragraph Styling.
- MathType lets you convert Equation Builder equations to MathType equations, or vice versa, so you can impose a consistent format.
- When you export XML via eXtyles, provided you have MathType installed, your equations will be stored as machine-readable, and thus screen-reader-friendly, MathML.
- Note: While eXtyles will export both Equation Builder and MathType equations as MathML, the nesting of the equation elements can vary between these pre-export formats. That’s why we recommend using one or the other consistently.
→ Check out this blog post for more on MathML, JATS, and MathType.