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Re: Equations, MS Word 2007, PDFs, and alt text


From: Stephen L Noble
Date: Sep 26, 2010 10:09PM

At the moment, there is no such thing as a natively accessible equation
format within a Word document. However, you can take a Word document
with either Equation Editor 3.0, MathType, or the 2007 Microsoft Word
Equation editor equations, and export the document (using MathType's
MathPage function) as XHTML+MathML, which is accessible to screen
readers when using IE plus the MathPlayer plugin. Here are some details
on that:

One other alternative is that a blind user who knows TeX can use
MathType's TeX-toggle function. In other words, the sighted user can use
a WYSIWYG equation editor to insert the equation in a Word document, and
then the blind MathType user can hit the TeX-toggle command and all the
equations get converted to TeX, which being simple keyboard characters
can be read by any screen reader. Not all blind users know TeX, of
course, so it is not a perfect solution. Exporting to XHTML+MathML would
typically be considered the standard accessibility course for most

Hope this helps,

--Steve Noble

-- Steve Noble
Chair, National Technology Task Force
Learning Disabilities Association of America

Disclaimer: The opinions and comments made in email are those of the
author, and do not necessarily represent the official position of any
organization unless explicitly stated.

>>> Cliff Tyllick < <EMAIL REMOVED> > 9/24/2010 8:07 PM >>>
Our agency has recently moved from MS Word 2003 to MS Word 2007. A few
of our publications, produced in MS Word and published as PDFs created
with Acrobat Professional 9.0, include equations that are complex enough
to require the Equation Editor. Generally, the documents that include
equations include *a lot* of equations.

In MS Word 2003, we were able to attach alt text to each of these
equations so people who use screen readers could understand the

But in MS Word 2007, we find no way to attach alt text to an equation
-- as well as absolutely no documentation as to whether we need to do
anything to make these equations accessible!

It occurs to me that it's possible that the version of the Equation
Editor in MS Word 2007 might produce equations that screen readers can
read directly. (Perhaps MathML is embedded?) In other words, perhaps we
don't have to do anything to make these equations accessible.

Does anyone know if that's the case? And, if not, how *do* we create
accessible equations in MS Word 2007?

Oh, and if possible, let's not have a debate about what an accessible
equation is -- at least, not in this thread. ;-)


- Cliff

Cliff Tyllick
Usability assessment and Web development coordinator
Agency Communications Division
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality