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Thank you so much for all your information. It is obvious that I have a 
bundle to learn about all of this.

Since asking your thoughts about markdown text files, I discovered a 
screen reader provided with my Linux Mint 18. I've been playing with it 
with various file formats. So far, it seems to like plain Markdown and 
the HTML files it produces (at least for the simple text files I've 
created -- i.e., no tables, graphics, etc.) Whether in Markdown source 
text or the resulting HTML, it recognizes the heading levels. However, 
it reads right over other tags, such as **boldface** without 
interpretation. It even ignores quotation marks (which I had "smartened" 
with Smartypants, which could be a problem for a blind person not able 
to discern what are my words or the words of someone I'm quoting.) I've 
also found that if I load anything *but* a Markdown file into my Geany 
text editor, the screen reader tells me that the file doesn't have a 
Markdown file type and refuses to read it.

The screen reader that comes with Mint is Orca and I am truly just 
starting to learn it. For example, while writing this email, I took a 
break to search for Orca preferences and just literally found out how to 
access them through the terminal. So, I'm less than a noob on a11y tools 
(I also just learned what a11y means.)

I obviously have never had a vision impaired student in any of my 
college courses, so these issues have never arisen. However, I have used 
various resources for my work. For example, for slide presentations, I 
have used LO Impress, LaTeX (Beamer class) and AsciiDoc's Slidy backend. 
Impress has its native ODF file format, LaTeX produces a PDF and 
AsciiDoc Slidy produces an HTML presentation. In addition to showing the 
presentations during class, I provide my students with the files so they 
can read them in their own studies. Over this summer, I will experiment 
to see how well each file format works with the Orca reader.

I also give a lot of essay style assignments where I create a document 
with the questions, email the file to my students and have them fill in 
the answers and email the completed assignment back to me. So far, as I 
mentioned in my original post on this thread, I have used LO to create 
the document and then I have shared it with my students as an MS Word 
DOC format as most of them use Word, which is provided to them free as 
students. It has worked well, but I never considered visual a11y concerns.

Tanstaafl has suggested fillable PDF files, but so far, I haven't gotten 
Orca to read any PDF file I've created (fillable or not), whether 
created through LO or LaTeX. I'm sure the problem is my infantile 
understanding of the tools, so I'll keep learning.

In the meantime, I am toying with the thought of using plain text for my 
take home assignments, either with or without Markdown tags (although 
Orca reads my plain Markdown heading tags (#, ##, etc.) very well). As I 
think about it, my take home assignments don't *need* any formatting as 
they're not intended to be printed out. They are, in fact, just plain text.

Thank you again for all your information and help. You've introduced me 
to a whole new world I had never considered, perhaps because, being 
fairly well sighted, I never thought much about the difficulties facing 
the visually impaired.

I'm reminded of the courthouse where I worked in my lawyering days. It 
was constructed in the 1970s when split-level construction was all the 
rage. It was built on four levels and the only way to access each level 
was through short flights of stairs (about 10 steps each). The 
architects obviously had working legs for nobody ever thought how a 
wheelchair bound litigant was supposed to get to the courtroom on the 
fourth level, or the clerk's office on the third level, or the restrooms 
on the first level, not to mention the main entrance on the second 
level. It was all idiotic.


On 05/08/2018 03:24 AM, toki wrote:
On 05/02/2018 01:08 PM, Virgil Arrington wrote:

Do you have any information/opinion about various forms of markdown files (i.e. Markdown, 
RestructureText, AsciiDoc).
What happens when a screen reader meets markup language depends upon:
# The program used to open the document;
** Some programs display raw markup;
** Some programs display the presentation;
** Some programs display both the markup, and the presentation;

# The specific screen reader;
** A screen reader I used to use, intercepted <ALT><B> keyboard commands
** Strings within a file are occasionally treated as keyboard commands.
Whilst this is usually a bug, it can be both extremely annoying, and
even more difficult to track down;

# How "Reading Punctuation" in the screen reader is configured;
** Typically, one can choose between none/some/most/all. My guess is
that most "experienced" screen reader users, set that to either "none",
or "some"(^2). Setting it to "all" can be extremely irritating to listen

# The operating system being used;
** Operating systems intercept keyboard commands before either the
screen reader, or the program can.  Once upon a time, I had a screen
reader that used <ALT><F4> to open either an extension, or an external
program. I don't remember which it was supposed to, but the inevitable
result was the program I was using, was closed. That same program had a
bug, that threw certain strings it read, straight to the OS, as if they
were keyboard commands;

I'd avoid anything that uses HTML markup tags. (^4)

The only suggestion I can make, in terms of markup files, is to
experiment with the a11y tools you have available. Some, probably most
colleges and universities in the US, have a person in the IT department,
whose primary function is to check a11y compliance. As oft as not, these
individuals are willing to do limited testing of material for local
school teachers.  (This is not an official part of their job. They do
it, because it is both good PR, and acts as an early warning system for
"unusual" disabilities (^5) that the college will have to accommodate.)

Would a screen reader get tripped up by the various formatting tags (* A Bulleted item; 
_italics_, *boldface*)?
Maybe. Maybe not.
If a Braille Display Monitor is used in conjunction with the screen
reader, then anything is possible. (^3)

Where most people fail, is in creating tables that make sense, when
using a Braille Display Monitor. In general, it is much easier to
rewrite the table, as a series of sentences, than to format it, so that
it makes sense when reading it in a Braille Display Monitor.

^1: Braille Display Monitors will frequently change <ALT><B> to ⠳.

^2: This is why punctuation of blind, and deaf-blind people can be
"strange".  They accidentally type ">", instead of ".", and because
punctuation is turned off, they don't realize that they made an error.

^3: In theory, Braille Display Monitors display the glyph as its comes
in, with no alterations, or modifications. Whilst the practice is
usually the same, I've come across a few monitors that have switches for
either "raw mode" or "translated mode", and if the latter is selected,
then an option to translate everything into either Grade 1, Grade 2, or
Grade 3.0 Braille, regardless of what is input.

Testing Braille Display Monitor compatibility is an extremely expensive
proposition. Cheap monitors run US$50.00 per cell. A good Braille
Display Monitor runs around US$100 per cell.

^4:  The major problem with HTML, is that most software that claims to
utilize it, has a broken implementation. Whilst brokenness such as
<BACKGROUND Color="000000">  within the text --- not markup --- causing
the entire background to be black, is no longer common, there are enough
other oddities, that there is a divergence between the desired effect,
and what the viewer sees.

^5: By way of example, deaf, blind, and is confined to a wheelchair.
Things that make life easy for one group of individuals can make life
impossible for a different group.  Things can become extremely
complicated when an individual is a member of both of those groups.


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