- From: Neil Soiffer <Neils@dessci.com>
- Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 23:25:36 -0800
- To: w3c-wai-pf@w3.org, public-pfwg-comments@w3.org
- Message-ID: <d98bce170802202325s5ed35b21r253ab552e993240b@mail.gmail.com>

I work for Design Science, which is a W3C member. I am a member of the MathML Working Group and have been since its inception. I am also chair of the DAISY/Math Working Group. That WG developed a spec that added MathML to DAISY; it was approved about a year ago. Our company developed MathPlayer, the standard "plug-in" for IE to display MathML both visually and aurally. MathPlayer works with JAWS, Window-Eyes, TextHELP, and other AT to make math encoded with MathML accessible. It is capable of generating speech, synchronized highlighting, and braille from the MathML. I have a request for an additional "role" to further support math accessibility. First, some context... Because of browser implementation issues, MathML adoption has not been as widespread as it should otherwise be. A lot of people/sites, including wikipedia, still use images for math. However, the images often include alt text or embedded comments that could be used to make the image accessible. An idea that Design Science has been thinking about is writing JavaScript that grabs the alt text or embedded comments and provides some level of accessibility. For example, if the image contains embedded MathML and MathPlayer was installed, then the javascript could rewrite the page as one containing MathML and MathPlayer could take over display and interaction with AT. If MathPlayer wasn't installed (for example, someone is running Firefox on Linux), the JavaScript could still do the translation of MathML to speech and braille. It wouldn't be able to magnify or sync highlight. If TeX or some other known format was found, the JavaScript could translate it to MathML and then make it accessible. The same JavaScript accessibility issues arise with this idea as with other JavaScript -- AT doesn't know about the JavaScript and doesn't know that the image (or div/span for JSMath) is really math. If it did know, then it could call on our interfaces (or eventually some standard expert handler interface) and get an appropriate string to speak or string to send to the braille display (math has it own braille codes and they are not identical to what is spoken). Now for the suggestion... ARIA should have a way to say 'this element is actually math'. My non-expert suggestion for how to do this would be to add a "math" role to the list of known roles. 'math' would be similar to 'grid' in that it represents document structure and contains other elements. Ideally, an extensible mechanism would be desirable, but math is an obvious case that maps onto an existing W3C standard and would enhance existing pages that don't use MathML. As a real life example from Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_root], the first image in the XHTML could potentially be made accessible if AT knew about it by adding a role attribute as <img class="tex" alt="\sqrt[n]{a}" role="math" src=" http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/9/a/2/9a2b6d33f3d62a1e8bd99c76f3cb79f5.png "> [Note: the alt text is present on the Wikipedia page. The TeX was used to generate the image in the first place] Adding role="math" says that the alt text or comments in the image contains information that can be used for accessibility purposes. It alerts AT software so that they can call on some expert math handler to get information about how to handle the element. Neil Soiffer Senior Scientist Design Science, Inc. neils@dessci.com www.dessci.com ~ Makers of Equation Editor, MathType, MathPlayer and MathFlow ~ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_root>

Received on Thursday, 21 February 2008 07:25:53 UTC