MathML is a markup language used to display equations and other mathematical expressions on the web and in other formats such as ePub. MathML is important for accessibility because it allows equations to be stored as structured text rather than images. Unlike images, structured text can be enlarged with good resolution for low-vision users who need magnification. Blind learners can use screen readers that support MathML to navigate and review the parts of mathematical expressions in the correct order, which is important for understanding complex mathematical expressions.
According to Accessibility at Penn State, the following browser/screen reader combinations support MathML:
- Firefox: Supports MathML natively and with MathJax
- Safari: Supports MathML natively and with MathJax
- Google Chrome: Only with MathJax
- Internet Explorer/JAWS: Use JAWS 16+ if possible
- VoiceOver iOS – Can read limited MathML
Getting started with MathJax is easy. All you need to do is include the following snippet of code to the HEAD section of the HTML document:
MathType (WIRIS) is an equation editor that can export MathML. It is available as a plug-in for both Microsoft Word and Google Docs. In Google Docs, MathType adds the math as an image with corresponding alternative text.
MathML Cloud is a cloud-based open source tool from Benetech. It was originally developed in response to the slow progress of MathML support, which resulted in many publishers providing math equations as images without text descriptions. With MathML Cloud, math content is exported as both MathML and images (in PNG and SVG formats) that include alternative text for accessibility with screen readers. Expressions can be converted one at a time, or as a batch by uploading an HTML 5 file with the desired expressions. Publishers with a large number of files can process them in an automated fashion using MathML Cloud’s API.
Desmos is a graphic calculator with sonification support for students with visual impairments. It works across a number of browsers and is also available as mobile apps for both iOS and Android.
Amazon Polly is a service for creating speech applications, including ones with an auditory presentation for math content. It provides many options for customizing the speech output by using Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), a W3C standard for speech synthesis applications. SSML tags can be used to change phrasing, emphasis, intonation and more. A full list of supported SSML tags for Polly is available on the Amazon Polly website.
Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.View in glossary
MathML (Mathematical Markup Language)
XML-based markup language used to display mathematical content.View in glossary
Distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents.View in glossary
Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.View in glossary
Alt Tag (alternative text)
Brief description of a single image designed to be read by a screenreader as an alternative to the image.View in glossary
Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.View in glossary
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)
Promotes evolution and ensures interoperability of the World Wide Web, producing specifications and reference software for free use around the world.View in glossary