“arXiv has pioneered open access for more than 30 years by removing financial, institutional, and geographic barriers to research. No paywalls or fees, no login required for reading. This approach – which gives researchers maximum control over the release of their results and broad visibility – transformed the research process and launched the open access movement.
However, access is not the same as accessibility, which is the practice of ensuring access regardless of disability. The vast majority of research papers posted to any journal or platform do not meet basic accessibility standards.
In 2022, arXiv completed intensive user research with over 40 people to determine the extent of the problem, evaluate current mitigation efforts, and consider solutions. This work, informed by arXiv staff, accessibility experts, and arXiv readers and authors who use assistive technology, is posted on arXiv in PDF and HTML formats (arXivID: 2212.07286).
In extensive interviews, our research participants shared that finding research, reading it, preparing documents, and submitting work are all steps in the research process where people encounter barriers. In particular, interpreting math equations, figures, and charts is problematic.
Flexible content can help address these issues. Offering well-formatted HTML, alongside PDF and TeX source, will lead to critical accessibility gains. arXiv’s collaboration with ar5iv, which currently renders HTML for approximately 70% of arXiv papers, is a first step in this process. Next, we expect to reduce the error rate and add a link to HTML on arXiv abstract pages….”