Re: Proposed Open and Interactive Widgets for STEM Community Group


I agree with Doug.  T.V Raman and I are proposing this group in advance of a presentation at the EDUPUB workshop on 10/29.  The presentation will be making a case for an open source repository of accessible widgets to enable publishers to easily deliver advanced interactive educational widgets on the web and in EPUB 3 without sacrificing accessibility [4].  SVG's accessibility features will facilitate our born accessible goals for these widgets.

In preparation for EDUPUB, Doug and I have been prototyping an example widget that integrates SVG with the Web Audio and Web Speech APIs to more broadly deliver the capabilities of a an open source tool called MathTrax [1], which was developed by NASA over 6 years ago to help blind and visually impaired students with mathematical graphs commonly used in STEM education [2].  You can check out a demo using the WebKit or Chrome with the experimental web platform feature flag turned enabled [3]:
Upload any of these sample SVGs:

VP Engineering, Benetech<>

[3] chrome://flags/#enable-experimental-web-platform-features.
[4] Workshop on The Need for a Library of Open Source Accessible Interactive EPUB 3 Widgets:
An EPUB 3 book is essentially a mini­website packaged up as a book ­­ it can contain HTML5 content, augmented by CSS for presentation and JavaScript for interaction. In addition, EPUB 3 content can encapsulate scientific and math content using markup languages such as MathML and SVG.

We postulate that a key differentiator of EPUB 3 books from a publisher point of view is the cross­platform interactivity that they enable ­­­ imagine a high­school Physics textbook containing interactive widgets that enable the student to play with different variations of a specific scientific experiment. In a sense, EPUB 3 books bring to scientific education what graphing calculators initially brought to learning Calculus ­­­ if successful, every aspect of education can be made interactive within the confines of an EPUB 3 textbook.

It is critical that these new interactive capabilities not render EPUB 3 textbooks inaccessible to students with disabilities and that they integrate as much as possible with the assistive technologies, such as screenreaders, students prefer and know how to to use.

To date creating accessible non­interactive content has been challenging for publishers, particularly within the STEM field. We recognize that interactive content will worsen the difficulties for publishers. Thus we propose to provide publishers with tools and templates for creating accessible widgets.

Specifically we intend to create a library of openly licensed tools and widget templates that publishers can style, configure, enhance or modify to incorporate interactive content in EPUB 3 textbooks. Examples of templates may include graphing calculators, common physics simulations, assessment items, interactive video players and sonified mathematical graphs.

By doing so, we hope to turn an accessibility challenge into an accessibility opportunity ­­­ the rich, interactive, accessible learning materials that will result can be expected to enhance the education experience for all students!

In preparing to write this position paper we reached out to existing creators of interactive content and received strong interest in helping to seed this library with openly licensed templates and tools. In addition to the presenters of this session, interested parties included Educational Testing Services (ETS), PHeT Interactive Simulations at University of Colorado, Wolfram and the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at OCAD University.

PHeT Interactive Simulations has developed various HTML5 open source simulations for example to teach Ohm’s Law, gravity and molarity in chemistry. IDRC has been working with PHeT to make their simulations more accessible to students with disabilities. ETS has been working on accessible number lines to be used with assessments. And Benetech along with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s Accessible SVG Community Group are working on sonified SVG mathematical graphs.

One advantage of this approach is that the authors of the contributed widgets and other developers will be able to identify common functions and components across their widgets that they can work together on to further simplify and bring consistency to implementing accessibility best practices. We expect for example to be able to draw upon the award winning work of Bryan Garaventa on accessible HTML5 user experiences, such as accessible drag and drop. We also expect to add accessibility to many existing open source interactive HTML5 based interactive widget frameworks, such as those created with Mozilla’s Popcorn.js technology for interactive HTML5 video.

This will be important as there is widespread expertise around creating interactive widgets with JavaScript, but there is limited expertise with regards to accessibility for iterative widgets using W3C standards, such as WAI­ARIA and newer community driven standards for Web Audio and Web Speech. Mobile and touch­based devices further complicate implementation and will be further reason to create common components. Those components will also greatly benefit from emerging standards, such as Indie UI and<> Accessibility Metadata.

This library will also provide a testbed for developers of accessible Reading Systems. We plan to initially test the widgets against emerging accessible reading systems, such as those based on Readium SDK, which in turn is based on WebKit. Over time we hope to expand the range of Reading Systems that the widgets have been tested with, so that publishers are further incentivized to use this library.

In summary our proposed EDUPUB workshop will intend to answer the following questions:

• What interactive capabilities are enabled by EPUB 3?

• What types of widgets publishers will be looking to use in textbooks?

• How can these widgets be made accessible?

• Why there is a need for a library of open source widget “templates” and authoring tools?

• What support for scripting and web standards will need to be supported by developers of Reading Systems?

• Demonstrations of accessible widgets

• What organizations are involved in the creation of widgets today?

• What open source licenses will be used?

Gerardo Capiel
VP of Engineering

650-644-3405 - Twitter: @gcapiel<> - GPG: 0x859F11C4
Fork, Code, Do Social Good:

On Oct 18, 2013, at 3:08 PM, Doug Schepers <<>>

Hi, folks–

Good catch, Jennifer! I think this will be relevant to many people on this group.

Great news, the group has enough support, and is now launched.

You can read more here:

You can join here:


On 10/18/13 3:45 PM, Jennifer Sutton wrote:
Greetings SVG Community Group:

I'm not sure what this group is actually going to do. But I thought I'd
pass the following tweet along, since there is (or should be, as I see
it), considerable overlap between this group and the other one that is
being proposed.

Of course, not all interactive content for STEM will need SVG, but
plenty could.


@w3c tweeted:

#w3ccommunity Proposed Group: Open and Interactive Widgets for STEM
Community Group

Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 11:20:07 PM

Received on Friday, 18 October 2013 23:17:59 UTC