MathPlayer Can Speak!
MathPlayer 2.0 contains an early version of Design Science's math-to-speech
technology and is intended as only a demonstration to stimulate
interest in math accessibility. Design Science plans to improve the quality of
what is spoken and realizes that much more work needs to be done before
acheiving a truly accessible interface. In December, 2003, Design Science was
awarded an NSF grant to research ways to
improve the accessibility of mathematics. Two features that Design Science is
investigating are (a) user navigation of expressions for better comprehension of
complex mathematical expressions and (b) support for various mathematical braille
formats for output to braille displays and embossers. Users with certain
learning disabilities would benefit from synchronized speech and subexpression
highlighting, and Design Science is investigating including this into MathPlayer
You can make MathPlayer speak the math embedded in a web page two ways:
- Right-click on an equation and choose the Speak Expression command.
- Use a screen reader product that will read the entire web page and invoke
MathPlayer to speak the math.
Just as a test, right-click on the equation below and choose Speak
In order for this demonstration to work, you must have a
MathPlayer-compatible text-to-speech engine installed on your computer. If you
don't have such an engine, MathPlayer will display a dialog directing you to
this page. Please follow the instructions for installing a text-to-speech engine
in the next section. Users with low vision may also benefit from MathPlayer's MathZoom
feature; simply click on the expression and an enlarged version will appear --
click again to close it.
are not running Windows XP, an additional download of a text-to-speech engine
may be required. You can download a
free text-to-speech engine from Microsoft. First download and install
Microsoft Reader and then download and install the text-to-speech engine
mentioned on that page. The installer will suggest that you "activate" Microsoft
Reader -- this is not necessary for MathPlayer. You can change the voice that it
is used to speak the math, along with the rate and volume of the speech using Window's
Speech Control Panel. Select
the "Text to speech" tab to see your speech options. Many people prefer the
female voice for speaking math.
Higher quality text-to-speech engines can be purchased from other
vendors. For example, AT&T Natural Voices are compatible with
MathPlayer's "speak expression" command and can be purchased at one of
the sites listed on their Web
page. Other speech engines should work if they support Microsoft's
SAPI 5 interface.
MathPlayer 2.0 implements Microsoft's Active Accessibility (MSAA) interface
so that assistive software, such as screen readers, can seamlessly take
advantage of MathPlayer's math-to-speech
technology. Most screen readers make use of this
standard interface. As of this writing, screen readers known to work with MathPlayer include
Window-Eyes 4.21 and 4.5, HAL, Read & Write v6, and JAWS (v5.00.844).
If math accessibility is important to you, contact your screen reader vendor
so that they will consider supporting some of the planned accessibility
enhancements to MathPlayer. Without your input, vendors may not make math
accessibility a priority.
It is very common for textbooks and technical papers to embed snippets of
math such as
inline. Even short equations and inequalities such as
are common. In fact, upwards of 90% of all math expressions in technical
papers are short, inline expressions.
Here are some larger examples of display math:
Sum and integral examples:
Example of roots:
Example of a table:
This ambiguity test is one on which MathSpeak does poorly:
A double angle formula:
And finally, no math page would be complete without the
solution for the quadratic equation:
All of these examples were written in Microsoft Word and
MathType and exported to MathML using MathType’s “MathPage” technology. MathPage technology was added to MathType in version 5.0. No special work is
needed to author the expressions to make them accessible. Any product that
exports MathML will produce pages that MathPlayer can speak.
For a larger real life example, see
this page. Also, MSN Encarta uses MathML on many of their web pages that
contain math, so much of their Math should be accessible using MathPlayer.