| TechNote #145
Making math in Wikipedia pages accessible via MathPlayer
The information in this document applies to:
Internet Explorer 6-9
Many blind, low vision, and/or physically disabled users need to use
Wikipedia, but Wikipedia's equation images are not usable by assistive
Many in the accessibility community are unaware that the math in
Wikipedia pages can be made accessible. This document is designed to
familiarize interested individuals with the accessibility features
provided by the combination of MathJax and MathPlayer so that they can
make math in Wikipedia pages accessible for themselves or help others to
make the pages accessible.
Most math in Wikipedia can be made accessible by telling Wikipedia to
use MathJax. MathJax will then turn over the rendering of the math to
MathPlayer and so the equations will be read via your screen reader or
other assistive technology (AT). The following steps outline what needs
to be done. Unfortunately, some of these steps require the help of
sighted users. However, once the setup is done, no more assistance is
- Create a Wikipedia account
- Set Wikipedia to use MathJax
- Tell MathJax to use MathPlayer ("Native MathML")
Note: MathPlayer is compatible with Internet Explorer 6-9. It
is not compatible with newer versions of IE.
Creating a Wikipedia account
Go to the
create an account on Wikipedia page and fill in your name, password, and
email address. Wikipedia uses visual captchas, so you either need the assistance
of someone who can see the captcha or you need to click on the "request an
account" link, follow the instructions on that page, and then wait for email
with more info.
Setting Wikipedia to use MathJax for math
Once you have your account, you should log in to the account.
- In the upper right of the login page are some links. Click on the
- There are a number of tab-like links near the top of the preferences
page. Choose the "Appearance" link.
- Near the bottom of the resulting page is a section for math with three
radio buttons. Choose "MathJax (experimental; best for most browsers)".
- Click on Save at the bottom of the page
Tell MathJax to use MathPlayer
By default, MathJax recognizes that you are using MathPlayer and will defer
to MathPlayer for rendering. Although subject to change, Wikipedia has, as of
July 2013, configured MathJax not to automatically defer to MathPlayer.
you need to tell MathJax to use MathPlayer. You only need to do this once and it
will apply to the entire Wikipedia site. Unfortunately, telling MathJax to do
this with a screen reader is very difficult and the assistance of someone who
can see the screen will be useful.
To tell MathJax to use MathPlayer on Wikipedia pages, in Internet Explorer, visit a page
with math on it such as this
page on the algebraic
equations. The page may take a few extra seconds to load because MathJax
needs to download fonts to render it. Your screen reader may be unresponsive
during the download.
- Find a math expression on that page and right click on it. The first
math expression is "P=Q".
- Choose "Math Settings":"Math Renderer":"MathML" by moving the mouse to
The page will redraw and use MathPlayer for display.
Not all math in Wikipedia is accessible
Some math is not formatted according to Wikipedia's standards and is not
accessible. For example, on the
Fibonacci number page,
some of the inline math is encoded as HTML with "sub" and "sup" tags. For
example, the math in the sentence that starts "By modern convention, the
sequence begins either with..." uses "sub" tags. That math will not be
read properly by your screen reader.
As a registered user, you can submit fixes for a page. If you know TeX, we
encourage you to submit those fixes so that everyone using AT will benefit.