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Re: Math Online: Images or MathML?


From: Stephen L Noble
Date: Aug 19, 2008 5:50AM

For the benefit of those on the list, I'll share the email I sent Elizabeth...

Hi Elizabeth,

I have written extensively on this topic. Let me say flatly that using math images along with alt tags is a very poor substitute for true accessible math like MathML. Here are a couple of articles that help explain the difference between providing images and alt tags and providing truly accessible math:


For a list of screen readers that can handle MathML just fine, see "Which Assistive Technology Products Have Math Support?"
Any of the reading tools that are listed as having "Basic Math Speech" can handle MathML. All the user needs to do is simply install the free MathPlayer plugin:

If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Steve Noble
RFB&D Kentucky Unit Board of Directors
Learning Disabilities Association of America National Board
Immediate Past President, Learning Disabilities Association of Kentucky

>>> Christophe Strobbe < <EMAIL REMOVED> > 8/19/2008 5:46 AM >>>
Hi Elizabeth,

At 20:02 18/08/2008, you wrote:
>I hope this isn't old territory, but we are working on an online
>course with complicated enough equations to require an Equation
>The editor we are using (MathMagic) can export both image files and
>MathML (within an XML file containing XHTML and MathML), but we want
>to make sure the MathML is accessible for screen readers.

According to Design Science, their MathPlayer (plugin for IE) works
with JAWS, Window-Eyes, HAL, Read & Write, and BrowseAloud. MathPlayer
also has a zoom feature.
See <http://www.dessci.com/en/company/press/releases/040722.htm>;
and <http://www.dessci.com/en/company/press/releases/070917.htm>;.

There is some interesting information on Dominique Archambault's blog
"chez dom" at <http://chezdom.net/blog/>;, for example
"How to set up MS Internet Explorer for displaying MathML contents" at

The @Science network has been collecting experiences and (best)
practices regarding access to mathematics and science, and its
deliverables are publicly available at

A related network, JEM - Joining Educational Mathematics, has also
published some accessibility-related items on one of their blogs;
see Olga Caprotti's blog at

>Does anyone have an opinion on whether MathML can be accessed by
>screen readers or whether images with alt tags are still a safer

Out of curiosity, I would like to know what alt text you would
publish. Wikipedia uses LaTeX; see "Using LaTeX markup" in the
"Wikipedia Manual of Style (mathematics):

Best regards,


>Thank you in advance.
>Elizabeth Pyatt
>Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
>Instructional Designer
>Education Technology Services, TLT/ITS
>Penn State University
> <EMAIL REMOVED> , (814) 865-0805 or (814) 865-2030 (Main Office)
>210 Rider Building (formerly Rider II)
>227 W. Beaver Avenue
>State College, PA 16801-4819

Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Dept. of Electrical Engineering - SCD
Research Group on Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 bus 2442
B-3001 Leuven-Heverlee
tel: +32 16 32 85 51
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