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MathML and accessibility

From: B.K. DeLong <bkdelong@pobox.com>
Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2003 19:51:46 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Cc: www-math@w3.org, w3c-wai-ua@w3.org

Hi all -

I'm doing some work over at the MIT OpenCourseWare project 
(http://ocw.mit.edu) and we're having an interesting time converting a lot 
of the mathematics and engineering course material to accessible HTML.

We're mostly doing with  LaTeX source files but sometimes we have a few MS 
Word files. Either way, the equations and formulas more often than not 
become graphics of some sort.

Luckily, we've had the benefit of having one of the folks over at the MIT 
ATIC Lab (http://web.mit.edu/atic/www/) who's sight-impaired check out 
several of our files. Besides a conversion to HTML, we are also converting 
them to PDF files and running the "Make Accessible" plugin on them.

The results? Using a screenreader with the PDF seems to be the most 
accessible, even trying to read-out some of the equations. The tester 
suggested that worst-case, the user could have a human-reader help with the 
equations. JAWS, of course, skips over the images in the HTML.

Where am I going with this email? Well, by Fall 2003 OCW plans to have 
material from about 500 MIT courses on its site - resulting in almost 
90-100 source files per course. That's a lot of stuff. We're interested in 
looking at the possibilities of getting some of the material into HTML & 
MathML as well as looking for some means of making such things in PDF more 

Besides making it easier for screenreaders to translate mathematical 
material, being able to reuse the material inclusive of the forums & 
equations is important as well. The closest users can come to that at this 
point is copying and pasting from the PDF - and that's provided the user 
has the fonts to support it.

I've been working to figure out TeX4ht with little success. Of course, I am 
wholly unimpressed with LaTeX tools available for the Windows environment, 
but that's a different story. Guess that's what Athena's for. ;)

Anyway, this appears to be a somewhat unique situation. Any advice, 
pointers or suggestions would be great. I'm basically looking for 
conversion tools as well as finding out if Microsoft, Opera or Apple plan 
on building MathML into their browsers.

Thanks in advance.

B.K. DeLong


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Received on Monday, 3 March 2003 19:59:06 UTC

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