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TechNote #145 Last modified: 07/10/2013

Making math in Wikipedia pages accessible via MathPlayer

The information in this document applies to:

MathPlayer (Windows)

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 technology.


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 needed.

  1. Create a Wikipedia account
  2. Set Wikipedia to use MathJax
  3. 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.

  1. In the upper right of the login page are some links. Click on the "Preferences" link.
  2. There are a number of tab-like links near the top of the preferences page. Choose the "Appearance" link.
  3. Near the bottom of the resulting page is a section for math with three radio buttons. Choose "MathJax (experimental; best for most browsers)".
  4. 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. Therefore, 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.

  1. Find a math expression on that page and right click on it. The first math expression is "P=Q".
  2. Choose "Math Settings":"Math Renderer":"MathML" by moving the mouse to the right.

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.

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