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For Immediate Release

Design Science Awarded NSF Grant to Research Mathematics Accessibility

Plans to Bring Math Web Content under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

LONG BEACH, California — December 9, 2003 — Design Science announced today it has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to research ways of making mathematical content accessible to people with vision disabilities. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandates that federal agencies make web content accessible to those with visual disabilities, including blindness, low vision, dyslexia and other learning disabilities. While assistive technologies exist today that make textual content accessible to such people, making the same technology work for mathematical content has been problematic. With this grant, Design Science hopes to make significant progress toward the goal of making math accessible.

The ultimate goal is to enable those with vision disabilities to be able to work with mathematical content in web pages. The research project will explore the audio rendering of math as an enhancement to commercially available screen reader software that can already speak the non-math text in web pages to the reader. Some of the enhancements to be examined are keyboard navigation within a mathematical expression, highlighting of sub-expressions as they are spoken, and enlarging the visual size of math expressions for partially sighted readers. "The current practice of publishing math on the web as PDF or equation images makes the math essentially invisible to the vision-impaired reader. Embedding the math in the web page as MathML allows us to do much better." said Dr. Neil Soiffer, Senior Scientist at Design Science and the grant's Principal Investigator.

MathML is an XML-based language for representing mathematics that was published as a Recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1998. Since MathML captures the meaning and structure of mathematics, it enables a wide range of applications. In addition to making it possible to have math spoken to visually disabled readers, it also enables searching for mathematical expressions within content and interoperability with the growing number of computational applications that understand MathML. "MathML enables a new generation of web technology that focuses on the meaning of math and science concepts, not merely its display. Mathematics is the language of science and technology -- it deserves to be just as accessible as textual content." said Dr. Robert Miner, Design Science's Director of New Product Development. Design Science is an industry leader in MathML technology, with extensive MathML expertise, several MathML-based product-lines and market penetration into education and research. So developing new ways of adding value to MathML-aware content is a natural step for Design Science.

About Design Science, Inc.

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Long Beach, California, Design Science develops software used by educators, scientists and publishing professionals, including MathType, Equation Editor in Microsoft Office, WebEQ, MathFlow, MathPlayer and TeXaide, to communicate on the web and in print. For more information please visit http://www.dessci.com.

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