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In this paper, the question is explored of what policies, standards and practices are desirable to ensure that hardware, software and publications in the sciences and associated disciplines are created from the outset to be accessible to people with disabilities. Insight into this question can be obtained by considering the unique accessibility challenges that these materials pose, including complexities of notation, language, and graphical representation.

Having analyzed what sets this problem apart from broader issues of accessibility, the advantages and limitations of current international standards are reviewed, and contemporary developments in standards and policies are considered from a strategic perspective. These developments include the establishment of accessibility requirements for e-books and e-readers under the European Accessibility Act, the potential role of process-oriented accessibility standards such as ISO/IEC 30071-1:2019, and opportunities for enhancing the standards applicable to scientific materials via future revisions of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The accessibility of scientific and technical content is ultimately supported by several interrelated human rights recognized in international disability rights law, which constitute a foundation for further evaluation and development of policies. It is argued that attaining pervasive accessibility in scientific and technical fields requires an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration among educators, scientists, content and software producers, regulators, and people with disabilities.

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