How is Design Science making math more accessible?
Design Science is working to help develop some of the technology
infrastructure that will be critical in addressing the issue of math
accessibility. Design Science is also actively involved with groups like the
World Wide Web Consortium, the DAISY Consortium and the NIMAS Development
Committee to further develop the international and federal standards that will
support math accessibility in the future. We have also been involved in research
and development activities supported by funding from the National Science
Foundation (NSF) to create advanced math accessibility technologies, including
improved math-to-speech, synchronized speech/highlighting of math equations, braille support, and math search engine technology.
Many of the software applications created by Design Science are key components to the
worldwide math accessibility infrastructure. DSI's commanding lead in MathML
technology has greatly promoted the new math accessibility revolution that is
being made possible by using MathML. The reality of universally designed
mainstream educational math materials is now within reach.
Our MathType product is already being used
throughout the world to facilitate authoring of accessible math and to provide
accessible equation entry for people with certain types of disabilities. DSI's MathFlow
and WebEQ product lines make professional publishers' systems ready to produce
accessible mathematics by helping them integrate MathML into their XML-based
publishing workflows. Our free MathPlayer product allows Internet Explorer for Windows to display
accessible mathematics and demonstrate our math-to-speech technology. Since MathPlayer works with popular screen
and text readers like JAWS, MAGic, Windows Eyes, HAL, Supernova, Serotek System Access,
TextHelp Read & Write, and BrowseAloud,
access to math content accessibility is transparent to the end user. We are
continuing to work with the manufacturers of screen readers, learning disability
tools, and Digital Talking Books to supply them with our software technologies
that will enable accessible math content to be widely available to consumers
with various disabilities in a variety of accessible math formats.
We worked with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help pioneer MathML, which
provides the vital link to creating accessible math. Several Design Science
employees are members of the math working group that creates and maintains the
MathML standard, including Robert Miner, DSI's Vice President for Research and
Development, who is the co-Chair of W3C's Math Interest Group. A growing number of software packages – including browsers, editors,
computer algebra programs and publishing software – use MathML to communicate.
Neil Soiffer, DSI's Senior Scientist, has an active role in the PDF Universal
Accessibility (PDF/UA) working group. This group is writing a specification that
defines what is required in an accessible PDF document. These requirements
include the use of MathML tags to make the math accessible. PDF is an open
standard maintained by the
International Organization for Standardizationn (ISO).
Design Science is also providing math leadership within the Digital
Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) Consortium, which administers the
DAISY-NISO standard for Digital
Talking Books. Neil Soiffer is the Project Lead of the
Mathematics Modular Extension Working Group, which created
extension of the DAISY international standard allowing MathML content to
be integrated into DAISY-compliant digital content.
The recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
of 2004 now requires US textbook publishers to make textbooks accessible
via the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), which
is a related standard based on DAISY. The DAISY mathematics
modular extension additionally provides for the integration of MathML
content within NIMAS-complaint math textbooks, further increasing the
availability of accessible math materials. Steve Noble, DSI's Director of
Accessibility Policy, serves on the NIMAS Development Committee and is helping
to ensure that accessible mathematics is a priority for NIMAS.
Design Science has received a number of grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to
make mathematical content more accessible to the public. In 2003, DSI received
funding to bolster our research and development efforts
web-based mathematical content accessible to people with disabilities.
funding was extended via another NSF grant in 2005
support math accessibility techniques and to extend math accessibility
beyond web-based digital environments. Some of the enhancements examined were keyboard
navigation within a mathematical expression, highlighting of sub-expressions as
they are spoken, enlarging the visual size of math expressions for partially
sighted readers, customizable speech and braille support.
Design Science received an additional NSF grant in 2003 and
to work on math search engine technology.
This project examined the ability to search for mathematical
formulas and notations in scientific literature, the same way one can now do
full-text keyword searches in common text search engines.
Further Information and Resources
This work was supported in part by the National
Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program under
Grant No. 0340439. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this material are those of Design Science and do
not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.