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For Immediate Release

Design Science Releases MathPlayer 4 Beta

Enables math to be spoken in assistive technology products.

Long Beach, Calif. – March 5, 2015 – Math and science tests by their graphic nature are difficult for students who are blind or who have visual impairments. A major step toward overcoming this barrier is being realized with today’s public beta release of Design Science’s MathPlayer 4, with new math-to-speech technology that enables such test takers to learn, practice, and take math and science tests on a more equal footing with their classroom peers.

Design Science has been working jointly with Educational Testing Service (ETS) and assisted by some of the country's leading subject matter experts and developers of assistive technology. The effort is supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences through a grant award of approximately $1.5 million.

In supported environments, the initial release works with NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader to speak and Braille mathematical content in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Users can also navigate within any equation to listen, study and learn at their own pace. In addition, MathPlayer 4 continues to have the most complete support for MathML and supports both visual rendering and speech in Internet Explorer (requires Enterprise Mode in IE11).

“MathPlayer 4 makes it possible for people with visual impairments to hear math as it would be spoken by a teacher and to navigate the question piece by piece, something that hasn’t been possible before,” says Dr. Lois Frankel, Senior Assessment Specialist at ETS and the project’s principal investigator.

“Since our founding in 1947, ETS’s mission has included serving test takers and learners with disabilities,” adds Beth Brownstein, a Senior Assessment Specialist at ETS and the project’s co-principal investigator. “We have designed and contributed to advances in assessment design and application in this area and this project is a wonderful contribution to improved accessibility for this important population.”

"NVDA breaks down barriers to information access for blind and vision impaired users by enabling them to access Windows computers via speech or Braille for no more cost than their sighted peers. However, accessing mathematical content has remained a major challenge. Existing solutions require specially prepared material, utilize special standalone applications, have a steep learning curve, or lack features such as interactive navigation that are necessary to understand complex math," said James Teh, Executive Director of NV Access Limited. "With NVDA and MathPlayer, blind and vision impaired users can now read and explore math in mainstream applications at no extra cost, lowering yet another barrier to access."

“Interactive exploration of mathematics has been the critical missing piece to digital math accessibility. This is the most meaningful step forward in access to mathematics for the blind since Dr. Abraham Nemeth's Braille code. Such unparalleled access to digital mathematics will have an incredible impact in the lives of blind students and professionals,” said Sina Bahram, President of Prime Access Consulting. “I’m so pleased to have helped shape this meaningful solution to the problem!” added Mr. Bahram, a computer scientist who is blind, and a contributor to MathPlayer's design.

"NVDA is the first screen reader to include MathPlayer support in browsers and Microsoft Office," says Dr. Neil Soiffer, Senior Scientist at Design Science. “This allows assistive technology vendors to start incorporating MathPlayer and enhancing what they offer to their customers. I expect we will start seeing a long string of announcements from other vendors that are including MathPlayer.”

MathPlayer 4 will debut today at the California State University, Northridge's Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, during the session on Accessible Math presented by Dr. Soiffer, Dr. Frankel, and Ms. Brownstein. A free download of the public beta is available on the Design Science website.

About Design Science

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Long Beach, California, Design Science develops software used by educators, scientists and publishing professionals, including MathType, MathFlow, and MathPlayer, to communicate on the web and in print. www.dessci.com.

About ETS

At nonprofit ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. www.ets.org.

About NV Access Limited

Founded in 2007, NV Access is a global non-profit organisation, based in Australia, dedicated to the ideal that access to technology should not incur an extra cost for blind and vision impaired users. NV Access develops NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), which is award-winning screen reading software for the Microsoft Windows Operating System that is completely free to users. NVDA allows a blind or vision impaired person, regardless of their location, language or economic status, to gain independence through access to computers. www.nvaccess.org

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Design Science Contact:

Bruce Virga
brucev@dessci.com
+1 (562) 432-2920
Design Science, Inc.
140 Pine Avenue, 4th Floor
Long Beach, CA 90802
USA

ETS Contact:

Tom Ewing
tewing@ets.org
+1 (609) 683-2803
Education Testing Service
Princeton, NJ 08541-0001
USA

NV Access Contact:

James Teh
jamie@nvaccess.org
+61 7 3149 3306
NV Access Limited
10 Bunowen Street
Ferny Grove
QLD 4055
Australia
 
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