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## 1. Subject: Copying MS Word and PDF Files into SN

April Gasper April.Gasper@nn.k12.va.us
Thu Jul 31 2008
Greetings All,
A number of regular education math teachers I work with send me electronic copies of worksheets and supplementals in either Adobe .pdf or MS Word .doc files (using the "equation editor" option in the menu bar). I'm having difficulty copy & pasting the algorithms from these files into Scientific Notebook for translation into a latex file for embossing via Duxbury. Does anyone have suggestions?
April M. Gasper
Itinerant Vision Specialist
Newport News Public Schools

### Response:

Theodor Loots theo.loots@gmail.com
Thu Jul 31 2008
If you have the latest versions of MathType (version 6) and Dduxbury installed on the PC from which you are going to emboss, you don't need to go via Scientific Workplac/Notebook, since the latest version of DBT supports embossing of mathtype (equatin editor) objects in Braille.
For the PDF's, kindly ask your lecturer to provide you with the original source documents.

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## 2. Subject: Help with Math player

Greg gwblindman1@gwblindman.org
Tue Dec 28 2010
Hello all,
I am running JAWS 12 on a Vista 32 bit system with IE7. I downloaded and installed Math Player 2.2. I can’t get it to work. I have a basic algebra math class starting next week and I do my classes online. For the tests they have an online lab that uses Math ML. I can not get math player to work. I went to the web page from the user manual and tried looking at their examples and I cannot find any of the math player options. I went to manage my add ons and did not see math player listed there. Anyone have suggestions on what I can do? Also, I have another laptop running Windows seven 64bit with IE8. Will math player work with it?

### Responses:

Neil Soiffer NeilS@dessci.com
Tue Dec 28 2010
The most common reason we have seen for people not being able to use MathPlayer, is that they don't notice IE's ActiveX warning. It's a small "information bar" at the top of the content window (below the various buttons) that appears with a beep. What I've heard, IE is not very good with screen readers about making this warning obvious. You need to say it is ok to run the blocked content.
Also, if you are using local content (eg, files you downloaded to your computer), you need to make the change described here: http://www.dessci.com/en/support/mathplayer/tsn/tsn111.htm
Again, this is security issue that IE imposes on plug-ins like MathPlayer. MathPlayer will run on a 64-bit OS, but only with 32-bit IE. 32 bit IE is the default because only a few vendors have a 64-bit version of theirplug-in; if Microsoft made the 64-bit the default, very little would work with IE and users would complain. I hope this fixes your problem,
Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc.
www.dessci.com
~ Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, MathDaisy, Equation Editor ~

Birkir Rúnar Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 2010
One way to get to the information bar is to press f6 3 times in IE. If there is a plug in warning it should show up there. On the Design Science test page, does it read any equations for you (such as x squared) or does it not read anything at all? You should see MathPlayer options if you right click when inside an equation (shift-f10 will not do it, at least not with Jaws but right click simulation will, jaws key and the number 9 on my laptop keyboard). There you should see choices like "copy MathML" "Speak Equation" and a few others. If the page your course lab is publically accessible I can take a look at it to see if my MathPlayer will read it.

Rasmussen, Lloyd lras@loc.gov
Wed Dec 29 2010
The shortcut to the Information Bar is Alt-N. In the Windows 7 sound scheme I use, the notification sound that the Information Bar has popped up is rather faint and short compared to some of the other sounds.
Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Project Engineer
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress 202-707-0535
http://www.loc.gov/nls
The preceding opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress, NLS.

Greg gwblindman1@gwblindman.org
Tue Dec 28 2010
Hello Neil, It fixed it just fine. Thank you for your help. I had to go to the information bar and allow active x controls to run. I have found that for just about all the examples I don’t need to have math player to speak the expression. It reads just fine using my screen reader. Another question for you. Is math type accessible for screen reader users to use. I am trying to find a way for me to do my homework in Microsoft word.

Birkir Rúnar Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 2010
Greg
MathType is, unfortunately, not accessible at this time, though hopefully that will be fixed in future. Thank you and good luck

Roopakshi Pathania r_akshi_tgk@yahoo.com
Fri Jan 7 2011
Hi Greg.
Just clearing my inbox, so saw this. Yes, you can use Microsoft Word and MathType to do your homework because although MathType equations are inaccessible, the process of typing in LaTeX expressions and then converting them into MathType symbols isn't. The key question here is: do you know LaTeX symbols for the level of Math you are dealing with?

Greg gwblindman1@gwblindman.org
Fri Jan 14 2011
Hello. No I do not know latex at all. I was hoping to avoid using it. I did not want to have to learn a programming language on top of everything else I have to learn for school. Though I believe I am going to have to learn it. Anyone have suggestions on a good place to start learning it? Also, anyone know of a good editor for it?

Sean Tikkun jaquis@mac.com
Fri Jan 14 2011
Greg. I'm looking at some of the LaTex and the rules and design is not incredibly different from Nemeth. Or any of the many other CAS languages, for that matter. There's got to be a coming together at some point. I want a screen reader that sees: x = #frac{y+z/2}{y^{2}+1} and can both say it and produce the nemeth accurately. Seems like a simple enough 1-1 mapping with some additional conditions. Aren't the conditions for grade 2 Braille actually more complex?

Birkir Rúnar Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Fri Jan 14 2011
I actually do work for MathPlayer and Design Science, so I can speakto this a little bit. Part of the problem has been the very slow adoption of the MathML standard (the w3c standard used to display math on the web or in eBooks).Math has traditionally only been displayed in bitmap graphics and there is nothing any screen reader can do with that. We are hoping that MathML will become more widespread, both on the web and in eBooks, and could become the stanard for exchanging accessible math and STEM texts. MathPlayer, currently, turns MathML expressions into spoken text, and in future versions we would very much be looking at refreshable Braille output, for instance, by connecting with the Liblouis libraries, because Braille is essential to many math students who are blind. We could also look at better speech navigation and speech scheme customization and other cool user features (this is not a promise, but this is definitely something we would look into). Other possibilities include having MathPlayer work better with other software, eBook readers, Word, other browsers, pdf (once it is better standardized) etc.
But all that development is useless if the standard is not used, if nobody requests the features from their screen reader vendors and if online courses and eBooks do not use MathML but keep displaying math in graphics. We very much hope this year is a watershed moment, with the free MathJax development, that makes authoring and displaying math in web pages much easier, better, and supported in multiple browsers. Also we think the convertion to eBooks provides a unique opportunity for us to request more accessible math.
Currently you can read speech output of a page with MathML in it in IE with MathPlayer installed (it is freeware).If you have MathType you can open a Word document with MathML in it and read it two ways: You can export it as MathPage and then read it with IE and MathPlayer or you can select the entire text and press alt-backslash, which turns all MathML objects in the document to LaTeX code. You can, furthermore, emboss the MathMl document into text with Nemeth if you have the TSS software from ViewPlus, or emboss it with Nemeth, after transforming all MathML objects to LaTeX with DBT 10.7 and above.
You can also enter equations in MathType in LaTeX mode and then press alt-backslash to switch to MathML and display math in your document that way.
We sure hope this is just the beginning. We need screen reader vendors to work more closely with us to better display math and add Braille and other support, we need online learning platforms to start using MathML for courses to make them instantly accessible, we need publishers and alternative text producers to start using MathML as standard in all documents (some alternative text producers do this already, others are not quite there yet).
We need people who want more accessible math, to write the software vendors they use and let them know this is important. I certainly hope this does not really come of as advertizing, that is not my intent though I joined DSI because I was excited for the opportunity to improve math accessibility, but it is up to us users to request better accessibility and standardization of math so that we can start working with our science books instantly instead of waiting for months while they are being manually transcribed, and the use of non-proprietary standards can bring that about. All that being said *grin*. LaTeX manual can be found here: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX and you can use the TexNic center for LaTeX editing (it will help debug your code too). There are a few tricks setting it up. Under tools and options there are two choices that must be checked "use classic inerface" and "optimize for screen reader users". Then you must create an output profile, which means linking to a LaTeX compiler such as MiTeX. If you require specific help feel free to email me off list. I've been meaning to set up an accessible math tools web page for the longest time, maybe I better get around to it. Hope any of this helps.
-Birkir

Roopakshi Pathania r_akshi_tgk@yahoo.com
Fri Jan 14 2011
Sean. Alastair, who is I think also on this list has written a set of scripts to create Nemeth on the fly. They are called latex-access

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## 3. Subject: Automated Production of Braille Math-Step One: Digitization

Susan Jolly easjolly@ix.netcom.com
Sat Jul 16 2011
Several people have recently pointed out that producing Braille math textbooks can be very expensive and time-consuming. I'd like to explore some of the reasons.
There can be two steps to automated production of braille. Unless the original document is "born digital," the first step is converting a paper document to an electronic format. Once an electronic document is available, it is potentially possible to automatically transcribe that document to braille. I'm going to discuss digitization in this email and address automated transcription later. I suggested that any feedback recognize this distinction as well.
(Note that my impression is that many sighted braille transcribers still find it easier to mentally transcribe and directly enter braille math rather than using automated tools. I'm guessing this approach accounts for part of the current cost.)
There is no getting around the fact that it does cost something to convert a technical document available only in printed on paper form to an accurate electronic format, be it LaTeX or MathML or some other format.
However, there are many commercial organizations which are experts in this process and there are many places where one can outsource the conversion of paper documents to electronic format. One good company is River Valley Technologies, located in Kerala, India, which uses tex4ht in their workflow. (By the way, this is the same software that Michael W. recently posted instructions on the use of and River Valley is probably the world expert in tex4ht.) http://river-valley.com/
Another good company, which is here in the US, is Data Conversion Laboratory.
http://www.dclab.com/
By the way, I've named particular commercial organizations for two reasons.
First, I've gotten the impression that the poor quality of some NIMAS files may have led to the impression that producing accurate electronic documents isn't feasible whereas I don't think that is true. Second, the names could be a useful starting point for research by producers of accessible materials.
An alternative to outsourcing is to do one's own scanning and to use InftyReader for math OCR to either LaTeX or MathML. I don't have any experience with InftyReader so don't have any estimates as to how long it would take a properly-trained person to prepare an acceptable electronic document using this software. (I realize that different content would take different times.)
I should point out here that the efficiency of digitization has recently been increasing dramatically because so many libraries are digitizing their entire collections. There are now scanners that can automatically scan entire books either without damaging valuable fragile books or by first chopping a paper copy that has no intrinsic value. There is also commercial software such as the oXygen XML editor that makes it easy to add and edit markup as well as compare marked-up files. (A copy of this software for academic or non-commercial use can be obtained for $64.) To summarize, there is a growing amount of expertise in converting printed technical documents to electronic format that is likely not being leveraged in the production of braille materials. So this issue needs to be addressed. I don't see much value to addressing the cost of artifacts of less than optimal solutions. For example, someone mentioned that a braille version of a book might be an older edition. However, if there were an accurate electronic source document for this older edition, it might be possible to update that electronic document more cheaply than to digitize the entire new edition of the printed book. Note that there should be opportunities for cost-sharing among entities that might want to utilize a given electronic format for other purposes than braille production. If so, this has the potential to significantly reduce the contribution of the cost of digitization to the cost of braille production. ### Responses: Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com Sat Jul 16, 2011 Susan All fantastic points. I probably won't use this directly in my upcoming presentation to students. However, as a final project of my EASI certification (http://easi.cc), I have agreed with Prof. Norm Coombs (one of the guys behind A2S) to produce a math accessibility course for academic staff. I expect to work on that in the weeks following my NFB presentation, and these types of posts are a goldmine for such a project. I’ve always got the feeling that costs have remained artificially high, mainly through lack of knowledge, lack of collaboration and, maybe understandably, through throwing the ad-hoc sighted reader at the problem and solving it that way. There's nothing wrong with having a good reader as a stop-gap solution (after all they provide instant access to the text material for the student and are, in the short term, cheaper at$20 an hour or less than paying for manual braille transcription, say) , but once blind students/professionals who rely solely on this method of learning math, enter a place in their career where this can't be done, they end up like a fish out of water. Whether it is this, a problems at an earlier stage or the general mind set of blind students, it is also a fact that a tiny percentage of blind students actually end up in STEM related fields (I have numbers, I believe less than 1% of VI students who enter university graduate with a STEM related PHD), so the general perception is that, on the grand scale of things, STEM accessibility is simply not a very important issue. But, enough of that, that's policy stuff and your post is practical, which is something I can work with, I have to leave policies, ideologies and establishing frameworks to others. In my earlier posts inquiring about obtaining existing Braille copies, I am certainly not advocating this solution, and I am fully on board with a one-source solution that fits different disability groups (after all, that way you can create a larger consumer group and, therefore, a more significant market of users, that may encourage publishers and other content creators to consider the direct benefits of making their materials available to all). However, I want to present the NFB students with a set of possible solutions for when they may be stranded in their first year course, perhaps with unhelpful DSS staff and falling behind on their classwork. In this scenario I want them to try everything, including obtaining older copies of hardcopy braille material, if it gets them through the course. I will place emphasis on the fact that this is not ideal, and a significant portion of my presentation will be an encouragement to advocate and to ask for accessible electronic documents, pressure both publishers, DSS staff and Assistive Technology vendors, if necessary, to show this is important to them. Cheers and keep the posts coming.

Steve Jacobson steve.jacobson@visi.com
Sat Jul 16, 2011
Birkir,
You may have seen some things I have not seen, but I have yet to see a blind person fail because he only knew how to access materials using sighted readers. It isn't that it couldn't happen, but most people who go through college now get some exposure and knowledge of other techniques. However, I have seen people struggle in the computer field because they went through college without ever using readers, having had all their materials either transcribed by a DSS office or by using electronic texts. Such people were lucky in a way, but when they discovered that there generally is not a disabled employee’s office on many job sites, they simply didn't know what to do. The point here is not to glorify readers, nor is it to say that readers should be considered as a general means of accessing materials. I think you were probably also saying that some institutions may see readers as the cheap way out as well, and you could be right about that. However, readers probably can be oversold to institutions, but I believe students need to understand that they can use readers, even on the job, to fill in the accessibility gaps, at least for a while yet.
You have some interesting things going there. I hope that your presentation goes well.

Sharon Clark sharonjackson03@comcast.net
Sun Jul 17, 2011
Steve,
Thank you for pointing out that while accessibility is great to have, students must learn to advocate when accessibility is not in place. I believe students must have as many tools in their toolbox, so to speak, to accomplish the task at hand. This may mean that some classes are fully accessible with a student taking and receiving notes while another class they may use a human reader to access information. In my opinion, there are people without disabilities who ask for assistance so why should it be shameful to use one's resources to accomplish the task. I would imagine that an employer would rather "see" how a job can be accomplish rather than someone complaining that they are not able to complete the task at hand because it is not accessible.

Ken Perry kperry@blinksoft.com
Sat Jul 16 2011
Even having the math text in electronic form doesn't make it possible to easily make it work in Braille. For example If a matrix problem only takes up half a page in regular electronic form converting it to Nemeth may make it rap and thus not line up columns so that the problem makes little since. A good document about some of the problems in the conversion is found here:
http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~gurari/proposal/nsf-02.html

qubit lauraeaves@yahoo.com
Mon Jul 18 2011
Nice little project to keep in mind.
As for matrix / linear algebra problems, I wonder if it would be easy to add an "elision" feature that would elide the elements of a matrix that took more space in Nemeth than it did in print, and clicking on that link would cause it to expand into the full braille representation. Of course, the rest of the code would remain the same unless overwritten, and the user would have to elide the entry again before moving on. Obviously this would be for use with a display and not an embosser. This sounds straightforward to do. Anyway, just a thought.

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## 4. Subject: How important is tactile access to graphs?

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
Hey gang
Last topic for discussion for awhile. Since they have been so lively I want to weigh in on this topic, which probably will not have any exact answers.
I certainly appreciate the increased possibilities for tactile exploration that machines like the Iveo are offering, but I wonder how important access to every graph in a book is to a blind student, one that is not used to thinking visually and, perhaps, is better served by other means. I am not suggesting that graphs should be taken of the table altogether, quite on the contrary, but I wonder whether intelligent sifting of graphs in a text book might not be a better idea, at least until technology has moved to a point where SVG is more commonly accepted as part of HTML5 and graph production is less costly and problematic.
Even then, to what extent have people here relied on tactile graphs. Have you felt you needed access to every graph in the book. Has exploring a graph tactilly helped you understand concepts, theories and shapes, and made your life over-all easier?
I know there is an ever-increasing emphasis on visual clues and aides in text books, starting pretty much in the first grade, but I wonder to what extent tactile access will benefit blind kids.
Again, I want to stress that I am pleased to see this possibility becoming more and more realistic with the work of ViewPlus mainly, I am merely wondering if we can deploy this technique in a most efficient manner by a better understanding of what graphs will be most beneficial to reproduce, and thereby limiting the cost of graph convertion and avoiding the production of graphs that do not really add much to the student's ease of learning. (appologies if there are typos in this email. Since my latest Windows update yesterday, Jaws has stopped functioning in edit more in IE, I am trying to figure out why this is and will submit as a bug if I find no explanations).
-B

### Responses

Pranav Lal pranav.lal@gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
Hi Birkir,
It is up to the student to use the graphs in a book and the transcriber should not be making the judgment whether content is included or excluded from a book. The problem is that the text of the chapter refers to the graph so it becomes vital for a student to have access to it. Never mind whether a graph or diagram is really necessary. I hear you on the intelligent sifting front but a student is free to sift as he deems fit. Why load book producers even more?
I am more of an ideas person so language is crucial for me when understanding new concepts. I have not really used diagrams too much except when studying geometry.
Pranav

Jaquiss, Robert RJaquiss@nfb.org
Fri Jul 15 2011
Hello:
I agree with Pranav. The only way I could go along with selectively not producing graphics would be if there was interaction between the student and transcriber. The problem would then be that a book would be in effect a customized book and not as sharable with other students.
Regards,
Robert
Robert Jaquiss
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Phone: 410-659-9314, ext. 2422

Amanda Lacy lacy925@gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
I also would not trust most transcribers to make that judgment as to whetheror not a figure or graph is important. Many graphics have proven to be crucial for my understanding. Since I did not have access to them, my professor drew many of the diagrams on my arm or onto paper with a tracing wheel to convey concepts I could not pick up from the text.
Amanda

John Gardner john.gardner@orst.edu
Fri Jul 15 2011
Hello all, I am happy to hear the strong support for including tactile diagrams. However, in most textbooks there are images that are, well, just eye candy, and it really isn't necessary to have tactile diagrams for them.
For example it is common to have photographs of people, and I believe that it would be quite sufficient to have a text description of who the people are. In some books, the great majority of images are eye candy. In most math and science textbooks, this is not so, and it is really necessary to have that tactile.
FYI the Smith Kettlewell Institute has developed an analysis application that looks at images and gives probabilities as to what they are. For example: standard graphs, bar and pie charts, flow diagrams can all be recognized pretty accurately. These should definitely have tactile and descriptions. Photographs, cartoons, etc can be recognized with somewhat lower probability. These are usually just illustrations of what's in the text, and most can be just as accessible with a good descriptive sentence or two.
I do understand one's concern about leaving the judgement to a transcriber. Today it is certainly true that too many important images are left out largely because of the time/money cost of transcribing them. If the cost could be made very small, then judgements might improve. In the future, accessible books are almost certainly gonna be distributed as DAISY/EPUB. I recommend that they include tactile graphics for important images but that all images be included in the EPUB document. So any given reader can at least request a sighted friend to make a judgement if she suspects that an image is more important than the transcriber did.
John

Susan Jolly easjolly@ix.netcom.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
If you are going to talk about production of tactile graphics might want to mention the Tactile Graphics Assistant (TGA) and related work at the University of Washington. Note that TGA is intended for use by sighted persons. http://tactilegraphics.cs.washington.edu/
SusanJ

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## 5. Subject: Wanted: Examples of good articulation of math expressions

J.Fine j.fine@open.ac.uk
Thu Apr 14 2011
Hi
I’d like your help. My employer, the Open University, has asked me to write a specification for translation of MathML to speech text. Please don't get your hopes up too high, because they want it by the end of the month and so it won't be comprehensive. And there's no guarantee that software will be written that meets this specification.
In 1995 Abraham Nemeth wrote "No standard protocol exists for articulating mathematical expressions as it does for articulating the words of an English sentence." I thing this sums up the problem beautifully.
I'd like help with what the outputs should be, particularly from those of you who screen read mathematics. I've done some background reading and know of Nemeth's MathSpeak, the Unified English Braille (UEB) "Guidelines for Technical Material", the output produced by Design Science's MathPlayer, and the work of T.V. Raman. (Raman's software I've not yet installed on my computer.)
The context I'm working with is our course S151 "Mathematics for Science", which starts with numbers and powers, goes though graphs, angles, trig and logarithms, and then two chapters on probability and statistics, and finally a chapter that introduces differentiation. I'd like the outputs to be right for that course, and correspond to what a human reader might say.
And so, for example, Pythagoras theorem should be "a squared plus b squared equals c squared". In another post to this list I will give you some examples I have, invite comments, and ask for more examples. I know that this does not conform to MathSpeak, but I think it's what's best for S151 students.
Best regards
Jonathan
--
The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302).

### Responses:

Roopakshi Pathania r_akshi_tgk@yahoo.com
Thu Apr 14 2011
Hi Jonathan,
As some one who depends entirely on math content delivered via text to speech for her reading, I'll be glad to give you my input (As soon as I'm free from certain obligations).
I don't have time to go into a lot of the stuff right now, but want to point out a few things.
1. I think that rules for pronouncing MathML rendered through MathPlayer are based on MathSpeak.
2. The spoken MathML is not very efficient for a power user, or some one who has to deal with complicated equations on regular basis (Integration for example).
3. You cannot use AsTR developed by T.V. Raman to listen to math output unless you have access to a hardware speech synthesizer. At least that was the case when I last saw that project several months ago.
4. You might also like to look at LaTeX math expressions spoken out by a screen reader. Some of the ways in which LaTeX expressions are written translate efficiently into speech. This is particularly true of fractions.
Note that I'm only talking about math as it is represented in LaTeX and not anything else. We've had holy wars over this issue in the passed.
5. Also google for other research projects addressing the same concern as yours.
Regards
Roopakshi from India
Sent from my Lenovo ThinkPad

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Thu Apr 14 2011
Hi
This is not directly related to MathML, but you mentioned graphs in your post. Are you aware of the NCAM guidelines for describing charts and graphs: http://www.altformat.org/index.asp?pid=406&ipname=US (this is not the actual NCAM page but the first Google hit and there is a link to the NCAM page and research from there). I think flexible speech rules are the future for spoken math. I believe users who have a Nemeth or UEB background may want speech patterns that follow the same structure as those braille systems.
Users who are not totally blind and can see the screen (Dyslexic users for instance) may want much less verbosity, as they can follow the math on the screen, same with math produce with refreshable braille and speech simultaneously (not possible right now, but that seems to be about to change with MathPlayer version 3, according to a recent post from Neil at Design Science to this list, and he's got a few tricks up his sleeve). :)
Otherwise, I believe our resident Indian expert has given you all the resources I am aware of.
Thanks and good luck, keep us posted on your progress.
-Birkir

Madeleine Rothberg madeleine_rothberg@wgbh.org
Thu Apr 14 2011
Thanks for the mention, Birkir. The NCAM guidelines on Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books can be found at: http://ncam.wgbh.org/experience_learn/educational_media/stemdx
I'm happy to answer any questions.
-Madeleine

Neil Soiffer NeilS@dessci.com
Thu Apr 14 2011
I want to correct one small misstatement with respect to MathPlayer's speech: MathPlayer 2.x has it's own paradigm for speech and is not based on Nemeth's/gh's MathSpeak. MathPlayer 3.0 has lots of new functionality and does what I've wanted to do for years -- it will speak differently depending on the target audience. As Birkir mentioned, what works for someone who is "fluent" in Nemeth may not be good for someone who uses UEB and is almost certainly bad for someone with dyslexia.
MathPlayer 3 does support MathSpeak, but it also supports other ways of speaking math including a re-tooling of it's current speech style. I've been working with another group to define yet another speech style that they feel best fits their target audience.
I think it is very important that you declare who the target audience is, both in terms of level of math sophistication and in terms of their disability/needs. One size does NOT fit all!
Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc.
www.dessci.com
~ Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, MathDaisy, Equation Editor ~

Lucas Radaelli lucasradaelli@gmail.com
Thu Apr 14 2011
"4. You might also like to look at LaTeX math expressions spoken out by a screen reader. Some of the ways in which LaTeX expressions are written translate efficiently into speech. This is particularly true of fractions."
Is there any jaws script that reads LaTeX formulas in a good way? I have some .html files here, and the alt of the images are LaTeX formulas, would be great to read them more easily.

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## 6. Subject: Some examples of mathematics speech text

J.Fine j.fine@open.ac.uk
Thu Apr 14 2011
Hi
Here are some examples of mathematics speech text. There aren't many but its already enough to learn from. I welcome comments and further examples, particularly if you regularly use a screen reader.
Examples:
Sum of two fractions: fraction 2 over 3 end fraction minus fraction 1 over 6 end fraction
Number to negative fractional power: 125 sup minus fraction 1 over 3 end fraction end sup
Numerator of quadratic formula. minus b plus or minus square root of b squared minus 4 a c end root Gravitational attration. cap G fraction m sub 1 m sub 2 over r squared end fraction
Concentration of a solution: 10 sup -3 end sup micro grammes per millilitre
Comment:
Already I want to say "m sub 1 m sub 2" but this is not consistent for example with "x sub i minus 1 end sub". Nemeth's MathSpeak does not have this problem.
My specification is open source and is available at these URLs (which might not be accessible)
Project home: https://bitbucket.org/jfine/ou-lts-mathml-to-speech-text/
Specification page: https://bitbucket.org/jfine/ou-lts-mathml-to-speech-text/src/tip/test_data/s151_answers.txt
Best regards
Jonathan

### Responses:

John Gardner john.gardner@orst.edu
Thu Apr 14 2011
Hello Jonathan, I like your philosophy of writing equations. I can suggest two big improvements. One is to compact the vocabulary so that you write things like end fraction as EndFraction. This helps a lot when one is stepping through the equation with CTRL right-arrow and is fine for audio recordings too. For text that is to be read by a screen reader, adopt an extension of the Latex rule that drops braces for single character sub and superscripts. I do not require the equivalent of braces when sub or superscripts are written as a single string.
Let me illustrate. First your examples.
Sum of two fractions: fraction 2 over 3 end fraction minus fraction 1 over 6 end fraction
I would write: fraction 2 over 3 EndFraction minus fraction 1 over 6 EndFraction. This reads a bit easier/faster when CTRL right-arrowing through, and it helps even more when there are lots of end things. Screen reader defaults pronounce "split" words like EndFraction as end fraction and not endfraction. Number to negative fractional power: 125 sup minus fraction 1 over 3 end fraction end sup I would write: 125 super -fraction 1 over 3 EndFraction The superscript is written as a continuous string so doesn't require an EndSuperscript. Numerator of quadratic formula. minus b plus or minus square root of b squared minus 4 a c end root I would write: -b PlusMinus SquareRoot b squared -4ac EndRoot This reads fine except that the -4ac says negative 4 ack with my screen reader, but in stepping through I stop at this term and arrow through to hear it say dash 4 a c. Not good for an audio recording, but fine for me.
Gravitational attraction. cap G fraction m sub 1 m sub 2 over r squared end fraction
I would write: F sub G = G fraction m sub 1 m sub 2 over r squared EndFraction
I find Cap G to be annoying, and the case of characters is usually clear from context. It's easy enough for me to arrow to the G and hear that it is a capital. There are others who really want to hear that cap, so you need to give users the ability to control how such things are spoken.
Concentration of a solution: 10 sup -3 end sup micro grammes per millilitre
I would write: 10 super -3 micro grammes per milliliter
Don't need the EndSuper because the -3 is written as a single string. By the way, it's often hard to tell the difference between sup and sub, so I write super and sub.
A few more examples might be instructive. The full quadratic equation solution: x = Fraction -b PlusMinus SquareRoot b Squared -4ac EndRoot over 2a
EndFraction.
Let me give an example of some difficult notation that gets really messy normally. A common notation in nuclear physics uses an element symbol with both left and right subscripts and superscripts. For example I once used then 111-indium metastable isotope whose full notation can be written in Latex as… {49}^{111}In_{62}^{m*}
(Note that the sub and superscript order is not important - the superscript= can be first and the subscript second.] I would write this expression as: LeftSubscript 49 LeftSuperscript 111 In subscript 62 superscript m* which is spoken perfectly except for the In, which would need to be stepped through to hear that it is I n) (Yes I know this is not quite correct, the In should be expressed in roman font) For comparison, my MathPlayer speaks this expression as: sub 49 also super 111, cap i, sub-superscripted n sub 62 super m times, end sub-superscripted This and the Latex expression are, I claim, a whole lot harder to understand than my compact notation. By the way, the MathPlayer expression is wrong, because it somehow makes the "n" In "In" a subscript. I've asked Neil to check this out to find out whether the mistake is mine or MathPlayer's.
What about more complicated sub and superscripts that need an EndSub or EndSuperscript? For illustration I distinguish the two cases:
x^n_i and x^{n_i} respectively as x superscript n sub i and x LongSuperscript n sub i EndSuperscript
Okay, that's my opinion. By the way, Roopakshi mentioned Aster. It uses prefix notation. Prefix notation is used in Content MathML and to some extent in Presentation MathML.
For example, the (infix) expression x sub i is, in prefix notation something like sub x i. Good for computers, and TV Raman would argue that you and I should use prefix notation too. As I said, there is no single "right" way to express math verbally. I look forward to some interesting commentary.
John

Michael Whapples mwhapples@aim.com
Fri Apr 15 2011
Hello,
I agree with John on the idea that may be for single elements ends don't need marking, like how LaTeX doesn't require the braces. If speaking an equation under such a condition I probably would leave a slight pause just after the element to indicate this.
Now to something I was going to mention when you were asking about the speaking of an equation, however this probably only works in the actual spoken form rather than the written down "what should be spoken". Consider how prosody might be used. Here is an example (I am only using pauses but speed may be good as well):
1 over x <pause> plus 2 x squared
or,
1 over x plus 2 <pause> x squared
or,
1 over x plus 2 x <pause> squared
Probably for the above brackets may make things clearer but hopefully it shows how pauses could be used to make things clearer.
If using a text to speech synthesiser the above can be done using SSML which can be passed to the synthesiser (espeak is one which accepts SSML, there are others). As part of the MSOR work I did I did implement this.
This idea can be broadened to use more than just speech, possibly positional audio (eg. bracket being said from the left could indicate open bracket saving on a word, similar for fractions, etc). Also how about speeding these key words up very fast and/or shortening them where it seems sensible (eg. saying frac instead of fraction)?
Instead of continuing with this I will point you to some research which I saw last year at the International Conference for Computers Helping People with Special Needs (ICCHP), you should have access to it through the Open University library system, its on Springer. The paper is called:"Spoken MathematicsUusingPprosody: Earcons and Spearcons"and I believe is by D. Fitzpatrick and E. Bates, published as part of the ICCHP 2010 proceedings.
I have to say I was very impressed with the idea and think it has great potential. Sometimes I think these formal spoken systems seem so clunky.
Michael Whapples

Neil Soiffer NeilS@dessci.com
Fri Apr 15 2011
Using prosody has been shown to be quite useful. MathPlayer has used it for years and can generate SAPI 4,5 and SSML prosody tags. Here's the rub: while some AT software makes use of this, the leading screen readers do not and MathPlayer is forced to do its best by adding commas and periods to introduce pauses. If you self voice, then you won't have a seamless reading experience unless you take over reading the text as well... and then you are doing what a screen reader does. Firefox took this later approach (sadly, Firevox seems like a dead project).
There's a second rub: even when a voice claims support for SAPI or SSML, quite often they only support some prosody features and are just broken on others. You test your system on one or two voices and it seems good, and then try and third and there are big problems. There is a ScanSoft voice that that I know of that moves pauses around that are embedded in the speech stream and simply refuses to speak anything if there are two adjacent pauses. That's maybe more extreme than normal, but that's what the real world is like and limits what you can do. Eg, if you try your system on a voice that supports sounds, what will it sound like to people who use voices that don't support sounds? Donal Fitzpatrick's work is interesting, but getting it to work seamlessly with screen readers is problematic, at least at the present. SSML supports audio, but not SAPI. The vendors that I have spoken to only use SAPI voices.
Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc.
www.dessci.com
~ Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, MathDaisy, Equation Editor ~

Michael Whapples mwhapples@aim.com
Sat Apr 16 2011
Don't you just love it when everyone comes up with their own versions of a standard. I hadn't realised there could be such issues with SSML.
As things stand I do see the issues for software such as mathplayer, however the problem shouldn't really be that hard to solve if all involved could work together. Decent SSML support probably would be a good start, and also if screen readers could accept SSML probably would also help. However SSML probably wouldn't be enough for positional audio/speech.
I wasn't sure quite what the scope of the original request was, for something which is fairly self contained and self voicing (IE. where one has high control over how speech is produced) then all these ideas are probably very good and much more feasible to implement.
Michael Whapples

Susan Jolly easjolly@ix.netcom.com
Fri Apr 15 2011
The classical application for speaking LaTeX is T. V. Raman's long-available Emacspeak. http://emacspeak.sourceforge.net/
SusanJ

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## 7. Subject: Convert word document for reading whith mathplayer

Iddo Keret iddokt@netvision.net.il
Mon May 2 2011
hello every one
my lecturer gave us word document with equations i tried to convert it with mathtype for reading whith mathplayer , but didn't get result. does someone know how to do this?
thanks,
iddo keret

### Responses:

Ken Perry kperry@blinksoft.com
Mon May 2 2011
This page might help. http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathdaisy/

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Mon May 2 2011
Hi
Your lecturer has to open the Word document on his computer, choose publish to MathPage, choose "use MathML" and then export the document to xhtml plus MathML.
Then he will get a .xht file that you can use in IE7 or IE8 with MathPlayer installed.
Alternatively he, or you, should be able to emboss the document, if MathType and either DBT or TSS is installed. Finally, if you have MathType installed and you know TeX, you can select document and convert all MathType equations to TeX by pressing alt and backslash.
Thanks
-B

Iddo Keret iddokt@netvision.net.il
Mon May 2 2011
Hi,
thank you for the answer. the option of convert to Tex worked well. but i didnt success with the publishing to MathPage. the result was .xht file but the equations remains as pictures .(i select MathML and xhtml) if you have any idea i'll appreciate it.
thanks
iddo

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Mon May 2 2011
Hi
Not sure, one thing that sometimes prevents the reading of math in .xht file is a local security setting that prevents MathPlayer from running in a local webpage. There is a tech bulleting on www.dessci.com about this, you have to allow add-ins to run in the local security zone or from a CD in order to allow MathPlayer to read the equations in the document. Therefore, if you are blind, you may think the equations are still a graphic because they are not read.
Try Googling something like MathPlayer problems local files, or something like that, or someone else will give you more precise insturctions, I am very busy with other things till tomorrow, but I can give you better directions to check for this then.
Of course this might not be the solution, but it is the only thing I can think of that might be preventing you from reading the equations with MathPlayer at this point.
Thanks
-Birkir

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## 8. Subject: Availability of college level math text books in Braille, sufficient to recommend it as something to check?

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Thu Jul 14 2011
Hi all
The Youth Slam lecture construction has certainly drawn my attention to various issues I had not thought off previously (a god thing, I suppose).
One such is whether to even suggest inquiring through APH, National Braille Press or others for hardcopy versions of math text books in Braille.
For one thing I have a calculus braille book 800 pges print, in 3 boxes and need our storage space to keep boxes I amnot using, so this is very impractical.
For another, I simply do not know if there is sufficient quantity available of books to suggest students try this.
Either way I am listing it as a last resort, behind elecronic files from Publishers, InftyReader scanning of hard or electronic files, using readers and checking with RFB&D (Learning Ally) and Bookshare.
If anyone has any comments on this, I'd be happy to see 'em.
Thanks
-Birkir
p.s. great discussion threat on how to perform transformations and calculations, I will incorporate all suggestions into the eventual presentation

### Responses:

Steve Jacobson steve.jacobson@visi.com
Thu Jul 14 2011
Birkir,
I would suggest APH because I believe their "Louis" database tracks textbooks that are being transcribed around the country. There are still agencies who have volunteers transcribing textbooks in braille. For example, the Communication Center in Minnesota State Services for the Blind still doesit, at least they do when our state government isn't shut down because of a budget fight. I could be wrong but I don't think National Braille Press does specialized textbooks.
Best regards,
Steve Jacobson

Lisa Bongiorno Lisa.Bongiorno@dhs.state.nj.us
Fri Jul 15 2011
I deal with students from age 3 months to 18 (or 21 depending the age they graduate from High School). I am assuming it's more difficult for college students to find and retrieve college books. Does Bookshare, NIMAC, and Learning Ally offer college books? What about ShareBraille at NFB? I have posted some of my academic Braille books – especially math and science on ShareBraille. I don't have the space to store some of the books I retrieve, and I hate to throw them out. So I post them in hopes that someone else could use them.
Lisa

Ken Perry kperry@blinksoft.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
I used rfbd for all my college math books. The calculus one at the time was one edition behind the one we were using in school. The cool thing about the reader of my calculus book was he was obviously some math wizard because he corrected a few of the examples and one of the graphs. Unfortunetly not all readers are this great at RFBD but you can find a lot of math books recorded.
Ken

Birkir R. Gunnarsson birkir.gunnarsson@gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
I do suggest Bookshare in my presentation and suggest students check with Learning Ally for current and previous editions of the text book to be used, NIMAC does not offer post-secondary text books, the best approach for producing accessible post-secondary text books in a timely manner is being discussed by the AIM committee (Accessible Instructional Materials), I believe they are due to issue recommendations to congress in the fall. I pushed for some math and science emphasis a while back, but I have not followed up since.

James McCarthy jmccart@lbph.lib.md.us
Fri Jul 15 2011
Birkir,
I am not sure how helpful Bookshare would be in this situation though I do not have personal experience with their math and science materials. I think that for those who know Braille, that is the best option but there is a real lack of material in Braille and no good system for improving on that. I saw something in notes from the AIM commission that you referenced stating a cost of often greater than $50,000 to create some Braille math textbooks. The reference was more in the nature of an anecdote or a statement lacking factual specificity, though it may nevertheless be an accurate one. One text costing as much as a year at that the most expensive American colleges though is a hard thing to justify any way one tries. I don't think digital texts would be nearly so costly. However, there is no easy way to do them accurately without extensive labor involved. I operate a program to aid college students in Maryland receive textbooks for their courses. I hope to employ InftyReader and that may help us some, but at the present time, making digital texts usable for mathematics is not that feasible. Recently on this list, Steve Noble described the process he uses to make these materials accessible and it is very labor intensive, though I think it is the process that appears most likely to make these materials accessible. If Bookshare follows a similar process for math and science materials, I think materials from them would be as accessible as is generally possible. If not, they are probably not usable. There is the NIMAS standard for making materials accessible in K-12 but unless it has been updated since its inception, it falls short on math and science as well, not just for graphs but I think also for equations and other content. The AIM commission you referenced appears to be considering a recommendation regarding access to math and science materials. I believe that they were wrapping up their recommendations in their recently completed meeting in Seattle and there is a document on line that is a draft from sometime prior to their Seattle meeting. I am not sure how strong their recommendation will be nor how likely it is to be implemented even if it is one that will improve this area of access, one that certainly needs improving. James McCarthy, J.D. Maryland Accessible Textbook Program Coordinator Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped 415 Park Avenue Baltimore, MD 21201 Phone: (410) 230-2453 Fax: (410) 333-2095 Email: jmccart@lbph.lib.md.us John Gardner john.gardner@orst.edu Fri Jul 15 2011 Hi, just one comment. It is absolutely correct that it can cost more than$50k to convert a math book to braille. I know of some that cost quite a bit more. The largest chunk of that is converting the graphics. At risk of seeming self-serving I should point out that it is quite inexpensive to convert typical math figures to IVEO SVG. If one used InftyReader and IVEO, the cost should be "only" a few thousand dollars. Largely labor of preparing the copy and correcting the math.
John Gardner

patti at 4dewitt.com patti@4dewitt.com
Thu Jul 14 2011
Braille books are usful at the students home base, as long as you can get them in time for their classes. There always seems to be a lag. From when they start classes and then get their materials. So I take the multi tech aproach that also works well as a multi sensory approach to learning. Everything depends on the student's desire to use them and their access to them. At college level it is hit or miss!

Sina Bahram sbahram@nc.rr.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
I'm glad to hear they were helpful to Ken. I found them to be one of the most frustrating and absolutely irritating mediums of transferring information ever devised when it comes to discussing mathematics.
Matrices were often read with no respect to row/column, figures were described with respect to color, as if that matters when the question simply want you to find the minimum of a graph, certain Greek symbols were mispronounced which sounds minor except when you realize that there is a huge difference between how people in class/papers say it, and how your reader does, etc. etc.
I'll take Braille, only in math/science, over audio any day of the week.
For everything else, I'm perfectly happy to listen to my screen reader at speeds tripling all my peers, but for mathematics, I'm equally happy to consume the information at one third of my peers, if it at least means getting it mostly correct. Although sadly, braille books are also littered with mistakes.
Take care,
Sina

Ken Perry kperry@blinksoft.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
I don't disagree that Braille and layout is probably better. I just found the books I used were well described. Now I did have a friend that used another book and he let me listen to it. It was as bad as Sina points out. I think it is luck of draw when it comes to RFBD or learning what liars say or is it learning a lie or whatever their name is now.

Amanda Lacy lacy925@gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 2011
Sina,
I feel very strongly about this topic. People (both blind and sighted) have suggested countless times that I should get my math/science books from RFB&D. I have always read Braille and seen symbols in a very visual way, and I could not comprehend all math through audio alone. Surely I am not the only one. If I cannot obtain a math book in Braille, someone will have to transcribe it through the use of the programming-like syntax I might have mentioned before.RFB&D for math, to me, is next to useless.

Jerry Richer jerry@ChirpingBat.Com
Sat Jul 16 2011
I only ever had Braille for ninth grade Algebra. I did get a BA in Physics in 1979 and worked several years as a Physicist and Operations Research Analyst with only RFBD audio books. I agree they can be quite miserable trying to reconcile what the reader is saying and what you are understanding. Years ago we had tactile diagrams included with the audio books and now we don't even have that but then again back in high school we were using five inch open reel tape which was a nightmare. Regardless, I still use current versions of RFBD Physics and Math books. One huge problem with RFBD or Learning Ally for me is hat there is almost nothing past the four year degree level.

Ryan Thomas rlt56@nau.edu
Sat Jul 16 2011
RFB&D books are frustrating for math. It seems that too many concepts require graphics for completely autitory description to be a viable means of learning. Another issue is that some readers aren't familiar with the math and exactly what is important to focus on.
When that happens yu get matrix issues and other problems as was previously pointed out.
I do think that cost is one of the primary bariers to access to math and science in braille. Schools are reluctant to spend that much for a single text book or more, especially when it will only be used for four months. New editions come out frequently as well so that braille books become obselete before a number of students can use them. I think one thing that we need to focus on, as a blind community, is to figure out less expensive means of producing braille, one of our most fundamental means of reading. How that's to be done I'm not sure, but I'd love to hear what ideas any of you have on the matter.
Finally, I think braille digital files have a lot of potential, but they still lack things like tactile diagrams which are incredibly important. What's more is they must be correctly transcribed into Nemeth. I did download some from Bookshare, but haven't explored how their math is done. Unfortunately their collection of math books is just very small at the moment.
-Ryan

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## 9. Subject: Math Production Question

James McCarthy jmccart@lbph.lib.md.us
Thu Dec 2011
I operate an instructional materials access center making accessible textbooks in the state of Maryland. I personally have little knowledge of stem materials, but am committed to providing as accessible a stem experience as possible. I am an avid follower of this list, though rarely post, however, I now seek your advice. To date, we have not had any capacity to provide accessible mathematic materials. However, we strive to change this to the extent it is feasible. We are purchasing the entire Infty Reader suite and can purchase most of the remaining software we will need. Obviously MathType seems essential and I think Math DAISY may also be something we require. I am less sure of the role of Scientific Notebook, though I have some notes stating it is helpful and perhaps essential for a production house. Any thoughts from others on this list?
James McCarthy, J.D.
Maryland Accessible Textbook Program Coordinator
Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
415 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: (410) 230-2453
Fax: (410) 333-2095

### Responses:

George Bell george@techno-vision.co.uk
Thu Dec 22 2011
Hi James,
You've asked a heck of a lot in a short space.
If we leave diagrams aside for a moment, various output formats from Large Print to Braille can be done using INFTY to scan if needs be. You save the scan as an XML file, whereupon it can be brought into Word 2007 or 2010
It's an easy job then to convert what will be Word's Math objects into MathType objects using MathType to do this.
You are then ready to do any corrections and editing, paying particular attention to the Word Styles used.
When you have a decent Word file, again it's a relatively easy operation, if required, to convert the whole document, including the math object into Large Print, although you will need to review the enlargement and possible edit where appropriate.
The very same original file may then be simply brought into Duxbury 11.1 for conversion to Braille, but here you do need to carefully proof read the braille.
Gain with the same original Word file, you can prepare for DAISY.
Graphics are a different matter, and there are many who are experienced in this field here. I will add that I'm currently testing out a Phoenix graphics and braille embosser, but it is too early to report progress.
Scientific Notebook is possible something to consider later but so far in our school system, it's not proved to be required. Perhaps when we advance to University level we will need it, but there are few enough doing decent math at the school level.
We're also looking at how we may obtain speech output from the Word file, and will be tackling that in the New Year.

John Gardner john.gardner@orst.edu
Thu Dec 22 2011
I'll add four comments to George's below. Details on all of the technologies I describe are available on the www.acccess2science.com web site. Math in the Duxbury application mentioned by George is also documented on that site.

Jaquiss, Robert RJaquiss@nfb.org
Thu Dec 22 2011
Hello: In case anyone is wanting to make a DAISY book with math in it, you not only must have theMathType plugin but also the MathDaisy plugin. Happy Holidays
Robert Jaquiss
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Phone: 410-659-9314, ext. 2422

John J. Boyer john.boyer@abilitiessoft.com
Thu Dec 22 2011
A couple of comments of my own. Just to inform those who haven't heard. The BrailleBlaster software will be capable of producing both math in various braille codes and tactile graphics. It uses the same braille engine as TSS. Development is in a very early stage, but work is continuous. to get an idea of the present status of the project go to http://www.brailleblaster.org

Amanda Lacy lacy925@gmail.com
Thu Dec 22 2011
What kinds of graphics files can it emboss?
Amanda

John J. Boyer john.boyer@abilitiessoft.com
Thu Dec 22 2011
BrailleBlaster will use the DAISy ZedAI Publishing and Interchange standard. If I remember right, this standard calls for SVG graphics. There will be import methods which can transform other kinds of graphics. BrailleBlaster will be aboe to natively translate xml, html and text files. Documents are created as document.xml files and placed with their graphics immages in ZedAI containter zip files. Such documents can also be edited MSWord, RTF, etc. files can be imported and transformed. BrailleBlaster is open source and is written in Java.

Michael Whapples mwhapples@aim.com
Thu Dec 22 2011
I would also add to what has been said, scientific notebook really is not needed. MathType is probably able to do all that is needed, should you deal with a LaTeX document then there are other editors out there (if you know LaTeX even notepad will do the job).

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## 10. Subject: mathML and Semantic MathML

Kevin Chao kevinchao89@gmail.com
Sun Nov 6 2011
What's the difference between MathML and Semantic MathML, especially when it comes to providing spatial structure, relations, and the various operators/symbols, etc. for STEM content? In particular, does one have more potential or benefit for screen reader (speech and/or braille) accessibility?
Thanks,
Kevin

### Responses:

Neil Soiffer NeilS@dessci.com
Sun Nov 6 2011
MathML contains two parts. These are referred to as "presentation MathML" and "content MathML". Content MathML carries much more precise semantic information in it then does presentation MathML, and hence potentially has the ability to offer better access. BUT:
1. Well less than 1% of all MathML on the web is content MathML. There are very few editors that produce it. If you include MathJax pages (which are TeX or MathML, but which MathJax converts to presentation MathML for MathPlayer), it is probably something like well less than 0.01% of all pages use content MathML.
2. It is possible to infer semantics from presentation MathML, especially if the author gives the renderer information about the subject area. That is what every person does everyday when they read a printed page with math.
3. Although MathML defines over 100 content tags, that is nowhere near enough to cover math most math. MathML 3 aligned itself with "OpenMath" to give precise details about the meaning of content tags and to provide greater functionality. OpenMath is open-ended and meanings are defined by content dictionaries which anyone can write. Currently, the dictionaries listed at openmath.org define about 1,000 operators, and often, operators have qualifiers that affect meaning and speech. Supporting those dictionaries would be a lot of work, and that doesn't cover the dictionaries that aren't registered there.
Also, most renderers only support presentation MathML -- MathPlayer might be the only renderer available that can display content MathML (but not content defined via content dictionaries with the exception of legacy dictionaries for MathML 2). There is a style sheet that converts MathML's predefined content tags to presentation, but it doesn't cover the dictionaries at openmath.org. The bottom line is that content MathML is largely confined to academic research use, and isn't used much in the real world.
Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc. www.dessci.com
~ Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, MathDaisy, Equation Editor ~

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