Overview of accessible math

Saturday, December 9, 2006 - 2:30pm - 3:00pm
EE/CS 3-180
Neil Soiffer (Design Science, Inc.)
Computers and the internet have been a boon to those with visual disabilities. Screen readers and other assistive technology provide access to information that would have previously been inaccessible to these individuals. While access to mathematical information is harder to access than textual information, significant work has been done to make math accessible.

There are several US and international laws that impose legal mandates on accessible material. These mandates provide an economic incentive for researchers and businesses to provide accessible solutions. These mandates are based on standards such as DAISY, and use MathML to encode math.

Mathematical expressions have been a focus for math accessibility solutions, and much of this work uses MathML:

  • MathPlayer works with screen readers to speak math in IE. It also allows for magnification and navigation of expressions, and provides synchronized highlighting.

  • MathSpeak provides similar features for digital talking books using their DAISY player.

  • Group UMA and the LAMBA project are working on two way Braille translators, and many efforts in the US have developed MathML-to-Nemeth code translators.

MathML is not designed to be directly authored. Two programs are focused on authoring/editing:

  • ChattyInfty is a self-voicing text and 2D math expression editor which can export to MathML and TeX.

  • WinTriangle is RTF-based and presents the expression in a quasi-linear format. WinTriangle maps onto TeX in a straightforward manner; it can also import and export MathML.

Beyond making mathematical expressions accessible, graphs and diagrams need to be made accessible. Solutions range from sonification of the graphs as done in the Accessible Graphing Calculator to tactile graphics via embossing printers or thermoform paper.

Because legacy documents are often not available in electronic formats, OCR techniques are important. InftyReader can read printed documents with math in them and convert them to XHTML+MathML or LaTeX.