There exist some regulations regarding the accessibility of educational materials (mirror), such as the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (mirror) or the Section 508 (mirror).

Is there any regulation governing the accessibility of research papers?

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    @NateEldredge Thanks for the suggestion. Persons with "disabilities" may benefit from accessibility features but others may also like it. I prefer to distinguish accessibility from disabilities. I don't like much the disability term, we are all different and some have accessibility preferences. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 25 '17 at 17:10
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    Since they are generally private (I.e. Non government) publishers, no. However, for example the American Physics Society has been collaborating to make papers more directly accessible out of their internal work flow. One can find links to such efforts with ViewPlus, a maker of printers for the eyesight impaired. – Jon Custer Mar 25 '17 at 18:33
  • @JonCuster Laws may also apply to private entities. Thanks for the pointers to AMS. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 26 '17 at 14:37
  • “Preferences” aren’t sufficient to drive ADA compliance. You would need to have a real accessibility claim to drive a compliance request. If all you need is to increase the zoom factor, a publisher need not provide you with a single-column, large-type format of every article in their archives. – aeismail Mar 20 '18 at 4:31
  • Accessibility in mathematics in borderline impossible. Accessibility without having a specific person in mind is... something that would only be requested by someone who has no idea of what would be involved. – Jessica B Mar 20 '18 at 6:28

To the best of my knowledge, no such law has ever been passed (though I'm no legal expert).

Even if such a law was passed, however, enforcing it would likely be difficult or impossible:

  • How could one assess the accessibility of a paper that can only even be understood by a tiny community of specialists?
  • How could one ensure that an obscure or newly-invented notation can be translated to alternative formats?
  • How could one effectively force scientists to invest time and energy in compliance, when funding agencies can barely even get them to do quick and easy things like pre-registering medical studies?
  • The onus would be on the publisher, not the author. The basic “standard” is that the work is “screen-reader” friendly. As for notations, and so on, I don’t think it’s as big a deal. Visual impairments short of blindness can usually be handled largely by virtue of having larger displays. It’s for the blind primarily that special accommodations are needed. – aeismail Mar 20 '18 at 4:28
  • @aeismail Have you listened to maths on a screen reader? Even for a human it's not easy to read out a research paper so as to be intelligible. – Jessica B Mar 20 '18 at 6:30
  • @JessicaB I’m just mentioning what’s formally required. I suspect publishers get some latitude, because of the technical challenges. – aeismail Mar 20 '18 at 8:32

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