Accessibility Features

MathJax’s mission is to provide the best tools for mathematics on the web. Naturally, this means for everyone and thus accessibility is an important concern for us.

MathJax User Interface

The MathJax user interface currently consists of the MathJax Menu and the various MathJax messages, such as syntax error messages from the TeX input processor.

The user interface for version 2 was localized to over 20 languages and many more partial localizations thanks to the fantastic support of the community at Localization is not yet available in version 3, but is on the roadmap for a future version.

The MathJax Menu follows WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Each MathJax fragment is included in the tab order; the menu can be triggered via the space or menu key; and navigation in the menu is possible using the arrow keys.

MathJax Accessibility Extensions

The MathJax Accessibility extensions provide several tools and features that enable universal rendering of mathematics on the web. They enhance rendering both visually and aurally. In particular:

  • An innovative responsive rendering of mathematical content through collapsing and exploration of subexpressions.
  • An aural rendering tool providing on-the-fly speech-text for mathematical content and its subexpressions using various rule sets.
  • Tactile rendering tool enabling Nemeth Braille output on a connecte Braille displays.
  • An exploration tool, allowing for meaningful exploration of mathematical content including multiple highlighting features, magnification and synchronized aural rendering.

The Accessibility Extensions support the widest selection of browsers, operating systems, and assistive technologies as they only require the use of well-supported web standards such as WAI-ARIA, in particular labels and live regions.

The Accessibility Extensions can be enabled using the MathJax Contextual Menu (right-click on any typeset expression), and are loaded automatically when enabled. The contextual menu code is included in all the combined MathJax components, such as tex-chtml and mml-svg. If you are making a custom configuration, you can include ui/menu to enable the contextual menu, or you can include any of the a11y extensions explicitly.

See the Accessibility Extensions Options section for details about how to configure the extensions.

Screen Reader Support

Some screen readers support MathML, MathJax’s internal format. Screenreaders like ChromeVox, JAWS (on IE), and TextHelp support MathJax directly (most only version 2); other screenreaders are supported by the assistive-mml extension as of version 3.0.1.

The assistive-mml extension embeds visually hidden MathML alongside MathJax’s visual rendering while hiding the visual rendering from assistive technology (AT) such as screenreaders. This allows most MathML-enabled screenreaders to read out the underlying mathematics. It’s important to note that Presentation MathML is usually not expressive enough to voice the mathematics properly in all circumstances, which is why screenreaders have to rely on heuristics to analyze the MathML semantically.

The quality of MathML support in screenreaders varies greatly, with different levels of MathML feature support, different speech rule sets, and different voicing technologies.

The expected result for MathJax given the current state of technology is roughly the following:

  • The visually-hidden MathML is read out correctly by AT (i.e., not just the character strings but, e.g., <mfrac> leads to “fraction”; this will vary with the MathML support of the screenreader).
  • The visual rendering is not read out by AT
  • The MathJax Menu triggers AT to say “clickable” before each math element.
    • This allows keyboard users to enter the MathJax Menu via space or menu key.
  • The visually hidden MathML does not get an outline (usually placed at an odd location due to the target of the outline being visually hidden).
    • except in iOS VoiceOver, where this allows the user to hook into VoiceOver’s exploration features.