Producing math and physics in accessible formats

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Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
steve.murgaski
»
Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:47 pm
I'm very interested in what would be the best way to produce text containing a lot of equations, graphs, and diagrams. At Sabina's suggestion I'm having a look at an online physics textbook which describes itself as being accessible. The book is called University Physics Volume 1, and it can be downloaded in a zipped xhtml file at this link: https://cnx.org/donate/download/d50f6e3 ... 7d@9.7/zip That link will ask if you want to donate, but there is a download for free option.

I haven't worked with this kind of file before but I'm trying to figure it out. If you unzip the file it creates a lot of directories, each of which seems to be for a section of the textbook. Each directory contains an html file. If you open that html file you can view the section of the textbook associated with whichever directory you're in. If someone can figure out how to open the whole book, or convert the whole book into something less cumbersome to work with, please let me know.

What I find is that the equations in the book are mostly read properly with JAWS, although I haven't read enough of them to know for sure if JAWS is failing to read some essential information. To be really accessible, though, my feeling is that equations need to be available in braille. JAWS is not displaying the equations on my braille display at all - the line says only "math" in braille. I personally find it impossible to work with equations without braille.

My thought is, if we can convert this into a .brf file, it would be really usable. I'd love to know your thoughts.
steve.murgaski
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
ka.li
»
Fri Feb 09, 2018 4:02 pm
I've always found Braille to be the best way to work with math content so a BRF file would be useful. I'll take a look as well but how are the equations written? If it's a fairly recent production, they should be taking advantage of MathML.
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
Sabina
»
Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:44 am
Small but interesting fact I learned yesterday: Kindle doesn't support Math ML so if publisher want to distribute books through Amazon, they don't design them with Math ML.
Sabina Iseli-Otto at NNELS
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
farrah
»
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:05 am
Unfortunately reading system developers have not fully caught up to support the latest developments in accessibility. EPUB 3 features are often still unsupported, including MathML.

To see what reading devices support what EPUB 3 features, you can check out: http://epubtest.org/features/
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
farrah
»
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:08 am
MathML Cloud is a great tool for converting math equations to MathML: https://mathmlcloud.org
Content Coordinator, NNELS
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
ka.li
»
Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:43 pm
Oh wow. I didn't realize reading systems haven't caught up yet. I've primarily seen advocates push for it on math education websites.
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
farrah
»
Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:29 pm
According to epubtest.org, basic MathML should be supported in Adobe Digital Editions and Kobo iOS and Desktop apps. But it looks like it hasn't been fully tested on many devices...

MathML isn't something we've used before, but I'd be curious to know how we could include it in our EPUB files (a step-by-step for our production assistants), and how well it's supported across common devices.
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
steve.murgaski
»
Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:53 pm
I've been looking into the accessibility of MathML with speech and braille. JAWS can read it and also display it on an attached braille display, but they've only tested it in internet explorer. I've tried it in Chrome as well and it seems to work, but it only seems to be accessible in browsers currently. JAWS uses something called MathJax to render MathML; MathJax is a javascript library. I phoned JAWS tech support to ask if any Epub readers could work with JAWS to display MathML, and was just told "We've only tried it with Internet Explorer." Even in browsers the JAWS support is not ideal, to my way of thinking: it doesn't automatically display equations in braille. You need to hit enter on each equation to get a braille version of it, which would be a slow way to work.

NVDA says it can also display MathML in speech and braille, at least in browsers; it relies on something called MathPlayer, made by Design Science. They have a bunch of caveats though: MathPlayer doesn't work in certain versions of IE, and other browsers, and it requires that a particular font be installed on the user's system. I'd love to know if anyone has experience with this but it sounds flaky to me.

I looked on AppleVis to see if any VoiceOver apps for Mac or iOS support MathML with braille and speech. I got the impression that iBooks might do it, so I'm going to try that out. We wouldn't want to be tied to iBooks though.

Bottom line, I haven't found a good way for screen reader users to access Epub with MathML, especially in Windows. What we might do is use software to translate Epub into a .brf file containing nemeth braille. I believe software for that does exist and it could be a stopgap solution until MathML is better supported.
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Re: Producing math and physics in accessible formats

Post by
farrah
»
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:23 pm
Thanks for looking into this Steve.
I did a bit of testing too, using the tools that I have. I found that my ebook readers like Adobe Digital Editions and iBooks could read MathML using text-to-speech on my Macbook.
Did you try Windows Narrator? Also, which book are you using to test out the MathML...?
If you're interested in testing further, I could email you a very simple EPUB 3 file that just contains a MathML equation. For some reason, I can't attach an epub file to this post...

steve.murgaski wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:53 pm
I've been looking into the accessibility of MathML with speech and braille. JAWS can read it and also display it on an attached braille display, but they've only tested it in internet explorer. I've tried it in Chrome as well and it seems to work, but it only seems to be accessible in browsers currently. JAWS uses something called MathJax to render MathML; MathJax is a javascript library. I phoned JAWS tech support to ask if any Epub readers could work with JAWS to display MathML, and was just told "We've only tried it with Internet Explorer." Even in browsers the JAWS support is not ideal, to my way of thinking: it doesn't automatically display equations in braille. You need to hit enter on each equation to get a braille version of it, which would be a slow way to work.

NVDA says it can also display MathML in speech and braille, at least in browsers; it relies on something called MathPlayer, made by Design Science. They have a bunch of caveats though: MathPlayer doesn't work in certain versions of IE, and other browsers, and it requires that a particular font be installed on the user's system. I'd love to know if anyone has experience with this but it sounds flaky to me.

I looked on AppleVis to see if any VoiceOver apps for Mac or iOS support MathML with braille and speech. I got the impression that iBooks might do it, so I'm going to try that out. We wouldn't want to be tied to iBooks though.

Bottom line, I haven't found a good way for screen reader users to access Epub with MathML, especially in Windows. What we might do is use software to translate Epub into a .brf file containing nemeth braille. I believe software for that does exist and it could be a stopgap solution until MathML is better supported.
farrah
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:50 am
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