[nabs] Fw: Accessibility Questions for MML+
Birkir R. Gunnarsson
birkir.gunnarsson at gmail.com
Mon Aug 1 21:13:26 EDT 2011
I am working on an online presentation about math accessibility in all
its glorious complications for www.access2science.com ... I will post
here when it is up.
Word with embedded MathML (or Word where math is created using the
MathType plug-in, $57 academic license though many schools already
have site licenses) is not, in itself, accessible but it is possible
to generate accessible documents from it.
There are 3 ways to do this:
1. Generate a web page with embedded math, that can be read back with
Internet Explorer and the free MathPlayer software (this can be done
by going into the MathType menu, export, and choose MathPage using
2. Emboss the document through TSS from ViewPlus or DBT Duxbury, where
the math in the document is turned into Nemeth (yes, only useful if
you know Nemeth I understand, but it is not that hard to learn, it
depends on the amount of math you intend to take of course)
3. Creating a Daisy book with embedded math. Thjis requires another
two plug-ins, the MathDaisy ($150) and Save As Daisy (free). With a
decent speech synthesizer you can now export the Word file to a Daisy
book with math read correctly.
Other options to make math accessible invole the students learning the
LaTeX math code. It is used by many people in math and engineering
communities,and in lots more places. It is like html for math, so the
math can be read like text. This has the pros that it can be read on
any note taker in any application, and by writing this out you
generate beautiful looking math printed that your sighted peers and
teachers can read without a scribe.
I realize that these are not solutions for all, especially not for
those who have to take a math class or two as part of a studythat
otherwise avoids math. For those more serious about math, they need to
learn Nemeth and/or LaTeX to most independenly and efficiently deal
with math in their subjects.
I never advised against using a reader either, it is a great part of
the skill set. But I want to remind everyone that if you major in a
math related subject like math, engineering, fiance etc, you will have
to hire your own reader in future when you hopefully get a job in that
field, so finding ways of working independently without areader is
also a valuable skill, and pressing for accessibility is important.
For graphics, yes, this is a different story, though I think way too
much stock is put into graphic access. There arer instances, too many
sadly, where graphs and pictures are used on their own to explain a
concept, but very often they are just there to underline what the text
has already said or can be deduced from a formula.
Graphs can be embossed, described or renderred to some extent with
applications like AGC from ViewPlus, the Iveo and some other tactile
gadgets. The key to this is that graphs be created in a format called
SVG, which also enable browsers to size them automatically for the
screen size of the viewing device, and thus they are renderred
accurately both for the iPhone and the 23-inch display.
The fight revolves around making content providders and software
providers stick to standards that Assistive Technology can use, and
then press Assistive Technology companies to better use these to help
readers work with the information in a way that is intuitive to them.
As for simply using readers:
1. Ask for a senior or graduate student in your subject.
2. If none are available, ask for grad student with a lot of math
background (lots of poor grad students around, the rates shouldnot sky
I had an economics major, a comp sci student and an architect work
with me for undergrad, all worked quite well.
Make sure you do not hire friends, or at lesat be aware of the fact
that friends often make lousy readers, and they have similar exam
schedule to yours so they can be too busy when you need them, and if
they do not perform as expected it is a mess to deal with without
ruining the friendship.
As for explaining graphs, my favorite way has been a wooden board with
nails in it and rubber bands forming the lines in the graphs (nails
have to form a sort of rectangle, 6 by 6 or larger), then you can use
little rubber caps or other things to mark points such as the middle
point and points on a graph tactilly.
The ADA centers are the best way to discuss accessibility issues, and
their staff are expert in helping you nigotiate and go through your
school services before you file an OCR complaint, and they try to help
you resolve issues before it comes to that.
I am not advocating reckless abuse of the system for complaints, but I
am pointing out that we go way to far the other way, work out
solutions that sort of work for a semester or two, do not give us the
skills to independently do and learn math, thus often putting us in
lower paying jobs and careers, and we are not asking for what is
possible in terms of accessibility.
If one chooses history or English or writing, thater or whatever,
because they want to do it, all the power to them. But if they choose
it because they really want to be an engineer, finance person,
computer scientist etc, but avoid it because they feel math is too
difficult, that is lost income, lost opportunity, lost indepenence and
revenue and loss to society, something we must help fight. I'd make a
terrible English major (just look at my writing, though I have Jaws
issues and can't read my typing in forms mode with IE9), so if I
majorred in English I'd never get a job. ;)
I hope I have cleared up a few of these points. I understand both
sides of the issue, but I strongly feel we need to understand and
advocate to make sure that we move towards solutions other than
readers. It is, of course, up to everyone of us to decide whether
he/she has the energy and interest to participate in it, we all must
choose our causes, but I want everyone to know that this is important.
Again, this will all be summarized better in a few days on
access2science, and I will put up a post once that is ready.
Finally, I want to state I am completely unaffiliated with any
software manufacturer for math, though I did some work for Design
Science for a time.
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