LaTeX is NOT Easy: Creating Accessible Scientific Documents with R Markdown

JooYoung Seo, Sean McCurry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although recent advancements in assistive technology has increasingly enabled people who are blind or visually impaired to challenge themselves to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers, there is a lack of authoring tools available to independently produce scientific documents and materials which are inevitably necessary for a better communication in mainstream practices. While LaTeX, a plain-text-based document preparation system, has been considered an accessible full-fledged authoring and reference management tool, its steep learning curve and limited output type to PDF have made some blind people, who lack programming background and/or who would like to produce different accessible output formats, discouraged. This paper calls attention to the need of introducing an easy-to-write and accessible scientific document authoring tool by defining the scope of a scientific document, highlighting some issues of the conventional methods that the blind community has employed for document production, and suggesting an R Markdown system as a compelling solution. This research has developed and detailed the Accessible RMarkdown Online Writer (AROW) as a hands-on demonstration that proves its capability for highly accessible scientific document production that can be done by a blind individual in multiple formats including Word, RTF, PDF, MathML/MathJax enabled HTML, and presentations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-171
JournalJournal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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