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Making maths accessible


How do I create accessible Maths from a Microsoft Word document?

When using Microsoft Word, please use the built-in Equation tool for any mathematical content (including symbols or variables within a line), and avoid “Insert symbol”, superscripts/subscripts using font/style changes, or images of equations.  

Note: If you have previously used the Mathtype equation editor to embed all your equations consistently within MS Word, it is feasible that the equations are of an accessible format. However, the full document would still need checking for accessibilityUpdating documents that use Mathtype equations becomes more difficult without access to the Mathtype equation editor. As such, for future proofing, it is recommended that people move towards reproducing/rewriting the equations in the MS Word Equation tool as they need to update their documents. 

  • Checking accessibility: You can use the Accessibility checker in Word to check the accessibility of your Word document. You can also use “Review -> Read Aloud” to check the mathematical content. The location of this tool can vary depending on the version of Word you are using*. You can also try uploading your file to OneDrive and using the Immersive Reader. 

[*Note: ‘Read Aloud’ is only available for Office 2019, Office 2021 and Microsoft 356; see Microsoft support for this]  

Blackboard Ally also provides insights into the accessibility of your Word documents, and guidance on how to solve accessibility issues. 

Benefits/Drawbacks: If you are creating new content, you might want to consider the benefits and drawbacks of using this format: 

  • Benefits: in general, it avoids the learning curve associated with some other approaches (e.g. LaTeX and RMarkdown/Bookdown; see “How do I create accessible Maths with LaTeX”). No third-party software required for staff. 
  • Drawbacks: it can be cumbersome for content that is very rich in mathematical content. Equation and theorem numbering and cross references are also cumbersome in Word.

Illustration of graphs and pie charts

How do I create accessible Maths directly in Minerva?

You can use the “Insert content” functionality to add MathType content, which has some accessibility features.

  • Benefits: mathematical content is displayed directly in Minerva as an image with alternative text description. Format is native to online viewing through a browser and screen readers will read the alternative text.
  • Drawbacks: limited support for advanced notation; cumbersome for content that is very rich in mathematical content, or for long documents/sets of notes; accessibility is limited to alternative text.

How do I create accessible Maths with LaTeX?

As of 2022, it is very difficult to generate PDFs with LaTeX which are fully compliant with accessibility legislation. You can provide a PDF as long as you provide an alternative accessible format alongside. A good approach is creating an HTML document that uses MathJax* to render the mathematical content in an accessible form.

*MathJax: MathJax is a JavaScript display engine for Mathematics that works in most modern browsers. It exposes the content to several screen readers and provides other interactive accessibility features (e.g., expression zoom, interactive exploration, etc). In the UK, MathJax is sponsored by the London Mathematical Society, the Oxford University Press and the Cambridge University Press.

Two ways of producing HTML mathematical content are:

  • Pandoc-based solutions (e.g., (R)Markdown/Bookdown): these are probably some of the easiest tools for creating new teaching material containing LaTeX content. Markdown is a markup language with plain text formatting syntax which allows to generate HTML and other formats. Pandoc is a powerful converter that can convert between multiple formats (LaTeX/PDF/HTML/EPUB/Word) from a Markdown file. R Markdown is an R package that generates HTML documents from Markdown syntax using pandoc. Finally, Bookdown is built on top of R Markdown by adding additional features useful for mathematical content such as theorem/equation/figure/table numbering and cross-referencing. Bookdown allows the creation of elegant HTML pages while using LaTeX for the mathematical content; see, for example, the official Bookdown website or some Bookdown documentation.
    If you follow this route, you might find helpful some step-by-step guides on how to use these tools, developed by colleagues at Leeds and written using these methods: Creating Lecture Notes with Bookdown (by Serguei Komissarov) and Notes on R Markdown and Bookdown (by Matthew Aldridge).
  • LaTeXML: LaTeXML is one of the most mature (opensource) software to convert LaTeX files to HTML with accessible mathematical content. There are other solutions for converting LaTeX into HTML (TeX4ht, HEVEA, latex2html, lwarp, plasTeX, …), but if you use these, you should make sure that the output is accessible and not just images.
    If you follow the LaTeXML route, you might consider using BookML, which is a small add-on for LaTeXML developed by Vincenzo Mantova at Leeds, with a few additional accessibility features and producing HTML output aesthetically similar to those produced via Bookdown. For Leeds-specific tips and installation instructions, see the LaTeXML + BookML guide (by Vincenzo Mantova) which is written in LaTeX and converted for Minerva using BookML.

Once you have generated your HTML files, you can upload them to Minerva by following the steps at

  • Checking accessibility: If you want to check the accessibility of your HTML file, you can use Accessibility Insights or Blackboard Ally. Please note that Blackboard Ally may struggle with very long files and fail to give a score. We recommend you to split your files by chapter or section. This will also ensure greater compatibility with different browsers and devices.
  • Benefits: the HTML format is native to online viewing through a browser and MathJax offers useful accessibility features. LaTeXML allows the reuse of existing LaTeX assets with minimal and potentially no modifications, without creating new documents from scratch; with the addition of BookML, the output should receive top Ally scores without changes. Bookdown is stable and simple to use, and transforming an existing LaTeX document into Bookdown is usually a mechanical task that can be done once.
  • Drawbacks: LaTeXML only supports a selection of LaTeX packages, and conversion can run into problems with sophisticated macros, leading to potentially obscure errors. R Markdown/Bookdown have an associated learning curve, and the LaTeX functionality is limited: for instance, the theorem types provided by Bookdown (Theorem, Corollary, Definition…) cannot be extended, and fewer packages (such as TikZ) are supported.

How do I ensure the Maths in my PowerPoint Slides is accessible?

How do I make my handwritten notes containing equations accessible?

Blackboard Ally is a tool that identifies and helps you fix accessibility issues in content in Minerva. Students can download accessible content in formats that suit their learning needs and preferences, creating an inclusive learning experience. For further information about how to make the most of this tool, read the guide to Blackboard Ally.

Blackboard Ally gives a low accessibility score. What should I fix first?

Please follow the general principles outlined in “What general principles are there for written content? to improve the accessibility of your documents, regardless of the format being used and the amount of mathematical content in the document. 

PDF documents with mathematical content generally get low accessibility scores in Blackboard Ally. Blackboard Ally scores for PDFs are generally unreliable, especially when they contain mathematical content. To improve the accessibility of PDF documents, please see “How can I make pdfs accessible?. Please consider whether additionally providing one of the alternatives outlined above (Word, HTML, Minerva) is feasible in the short-term for your teaching materials, given that PDFs are generally not widely accessible. 

 This guidance will be updated once a robust solution to the challenge of applying the new accessibility regulations to complex and specialist text has been agreed. In the meantime, please make reasonable adjustments to these content types using the general principles outlined in “What general principles are there for written content?”