Accessibility in STEM subjects

Equations, formulas and diagrams

  • Create content using formats such as Word, EPub3 and HTML (using MathJax to render mathematics). These formats are accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies.
  • You can check if an equation or formula has been rendered using MathJax by right-clicking on the equation.
  • Avoid using PDFs. If you can’t avoid using a PDF, please follow the guidance on making PDFs accessible.

Microsoft Word

  • Make sure your document is properly structured, using headings and subheadings to organise content.
  • Use the Equation Editor in Word to add all mathematical text (including a single x. Go to Insert, Equation in the desktop app to do this.
  • Do not use Insert, Symbol to add mathematical text in Word.
  • Do not write superscripts, subscripts, fractions, etc. using font or style changes and standard keyboard input alone.
  • Do not use an image of an equation.
  • Use the Accessibility Checker to check the accessibility of your Word document.


The mathematical content in PDF files compiled from LaTex cannot be read by screen readers. In order to make these accessible, the LaTex should be compiled as HTML.

  • Use the \section{} commands to create a structured document. This helps create a navigable document which is compatible with screen readers.
  • Include \renewcommand{\familydefault}{\sfdefault} in the preamble to change the font family to sans serif.
  • All images must have a written caption that describes the content of the picture. Use the package \usepackage{axessibility} to add an automatic caption to every equation consisting of the LaTex for that equation.
  • For longer PDF files, you should consider adding a table of contents before producing the HTML file. In general, several smaller files are preferable.
  • If you use the axessibility.sty package with PNG image files, the outputted PDF can explode in size by a factor of 10-20. However, if you use JPG or PDF images, this does not happen. So our advice is to use only JPG or PDF images to keep the file sizes down

HTML compliers for LaTex

The School of Mathematics and Statistics have tested the following compliers:

Compiling LaTeX to html with LaTeXML-  explanation on how to compile your LaTex file into HTML

When compiling the HTML file, please add the package \usepackage{axessibility}.

After the HTML is compiled, add in the lines:

<script src=""></script><script type="text/javascript" id="MathJax-script" async src=""> </script>

to the <head>...</head> section of the file.

This runs through Command Prompt or PowerShell on Windows/Terminal on Mac.

Compiling LaTeX to html with pandoc -  explanation on how to compile your Tex file into HTML

R and RMarkdown

An alternative to writing documents in LaTex is to write them in RMarkdown. This produces HTML with the maths equations rendered using MathJax, which is accessible and works well with assistive technologies.

The BrailleR package can create descriptions of graphs automatically. 


Use alternative text to describe complex images and diagrams.

In-depth image description guidelines from the Diagram Centre - includes detailed guidance for maths, chemistry, graphs, relational and text-only images


This guidance is based on work by Shazia Ahmed, School of Mathematics and Statistics.