3 PROJECTPROCESSAND PROGRESS
could export those documents to webpages containing MathML. Depending on
themethod ofcreation, the particular content, and the computer-typeused, the
process varied from ‘perfect’ toimpossible.
When converting aMicrosoft Word document toa webpage that uses MathML,
we must have Design Science’s MathType  installed on our computer. It
is actually MathType, not Word, that does all the work. Whether we create
aWord document and use MathType or Microsoft’s native equation editor, we
must still rely upon MathType tocreate theMathML webpage. Unfortunately,
not all versions of Microsoft Word and MathType can perform this conversion.
When converting a LAT
Xdocument to a webpage that uses MathML, certain
packages need to be installed. When we have these packages loaded, the con-
version process generally works smoothly. Equations are cleanly converted into
conversion without anyadditional plugins or software.
Microsoft PowerPoint. Whilewe can embed MathType equations in PowerPoint
slides, there is no way to convert the entire slide or slide show into a webpage
with MathML. Any attempt resulted with each slide being converted into an
image and all content (mathematical or not) simply became part of the image.
Therewere some suggestions of away toconvert from Powerpoint toWord, but
further investigation foundthat thereisnouseful waytodosoatthistime. The
Word document we obtain from the process has an editable PowerPointslide on
isagain converted toan image.
Scientiﬁc Notebook, an application that noone in the Math SAC currently uses,
was recommended to us. Scientiﬁc Notebook is a PC application that allows a
user to create documents containing text, mathematical content, and graphics.
tremendous success using this softwareas anote-takingdevice in the classroom.
Scientiﬁc Notebooksaves the source as a.tex ﬁle, which can easily be converted
Some faculty use Pearson’s TestGen to create their tests. TestGen is a test-
generating program that, when combined with the test bank for a particular
Pearson textbook, can be used tocreateassessmentsin both print and an online
environment. Theoutputﬁlefrom TestGensavesall mathematicalcontent(frac-
tions,expressions, equations)asimages withoutalttext. Sincethemathematical
content issaved as images, JAWS cannotinterpret them. Wecontacted Pearson
about this, inquiring if they were working on a way to make the output from
TestGen intosomethingthatuses MathML. The responsewas:
format andthe MyMathLab website will only take TestGen .tst ﬁles
Some may confuseLibreOﬃce with OpenOﬃce; see theappendix for some details of the
3 PROJECTPROCESSAND PROGRESS
Related to our investigation of MathML, we learned about MathJax. Quoting
that works in all modern browsers.
In other words, MathJax makes mathematical content appear correctly in any
modern web browser on any computer, whether the content is stored on the
torenderMathML correctly (if atall). MathJaxprovidesaclean waytoprovide
uniform renderingacrossall modernbrowsers: ‘Nomoresetupforreaders. No
morebrowser plugins. Nomorefont installation... Itjustworks.’
At this point, our project began to split into two directions. One direction was
members at PCC use. The other direction came about when we met Maurice
While PCC’s current learning management system is D2L, many faculty mem-
bers makesubstantial useofPearson’sMyMathLab(MML), whileothersusethe
ationoftheBlind(NFB). Twooftheoptional interfaces(MathMLandLAT
of the equation editor tool in D2L (version 10) are JAWS friendly. The third
(thegraphicaleditor)is not. Butnomatterwhich editorastudent orinstructor
uses tocreatean equation in D2L, thecode obtained from the equation editoris
MathML. This means that JAWS can read thediscussion postings, e-mails, etc.
thathave equations embedded in them.
The Math SAC currently subscribes to Pearson for the majority of its courses:
MTH 60, 65,70,95,111, 112, 243,and 244. AllMTHcoursesthataretaughton-
eringonlinepublisher-based contentwedecidedtofocus exclusivelyon Pearson’s
We explored MML by creating a sample course and experimented with the ac-
cessible nature of optional content for the course. We asked for, and eventually
obtained, a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for MML. While
told by Pearson that
this (VPAT)isprovidedsolelyfortheirevaluation ofPearson’sproducts
and not to be distributed outside the organization.
to make more MML content accessible, but there are some deﬁnite limitations.
Asof this writing, Pearson clearlystates ,
choice and free response questions with the JAWS 12 (only) screen
On 13 December 2012 we, along with several other invested staﬀ members at
PCC, took part in a phone conference with a senior product manager and an
3 PROJECTPROCESSAND PROGRESS
accessibility representative from Pearson. The conversation proved to be very
encouraging. Besides gettingthehistoryofhow Pearson ended up with somuch
Flash content, theyexplained whatPearson isdoingtomoveaway from aFlash-
based deliverysystemin favorofaMathMLwith MathJaximplementation. This
move would have big implications in terms of the accessibility of their content.
Theydohaveatime-linetorolloutanewversion ofMML thatwill makeuseof
the non-ﬂash-based content, but the soonest we expect to have it commercially
available is12 months from now.
books atPearson. The onlinecontentand question libraries forestablished text-
and Recommendation sectionsbelow.
AVPAT is a company’s own assessment of how their product conforms to U.S.
Federal Accessibility Standards(deﬁned bySection 508[17, 18]).
If a school or department is looking into using any online resources, be sure to
askfor the VPATfor the online resource. A VPAT givesaschool or department
a starting point from which to assess the accessibility of those resources. We
alsoencourage the school or department toexperiment with the product, as the
VPATtends tobean overall assessmentoftheproductandmightnotlistall the
particular pieces of the productthat the school ordepartmentwillbeusing.
WeBWorK is an open-source homework system supported by the MAA and the
NSF. Several PCC mathematics faculty members use WeBWorK for both their
online and on-campus courses. Because WeBWorK is open-source and can be
installed locally, itgives several advantagestoother online systems:
Each college can either use problems from the National Public Library or
create its own librariestoﬁttheparticular college’sneeds.
Using the most current version allows for the implementation of MathJax,
About four weeks into our project, we were introduced to Maurice Mines and
this was a deﬁnite turning point in the project. Maurice was referred to us by
Kaela Parks because he has a strong educational and technical background, is
blind, and Kaela knew the beneﬁt our project would receive from including the
experience of an end user. During the ﬁve sessions we had with Maurice, we
were able to ‘test-drive’ all of the ideas and sample ﬁles that we believed to
be accessible. Additionally, Maurice was able to give us both a personal and a
historical perspectiveon our project.
that JAWS was not the solution to our entire project. Instead, the rule of four
(discussed in detail on page7) becomes much more important, especially in an
accessibility context. Depending on the individual student, the accommodation
needed might involve JAWS, printed Braille, a.brf ﬁlefor an refreshable Braille
device, printed tactile graphs, or something else entirely. Maurice was also able
toexplain the diﬀerence between Grade 1, Grade 2 , and Nemeth Braille
and then demonstrate the diﬀerence between them.
We were introduced to Winslow Parker, retired lead technical specialist for the
faculty member at PCC. We had two incredibly enlightening discussions with
Winslow (one phone, and one face-to-face). He told us that the OCB is a state
agency that receives 90% of its funding from the federal government and 10%
and toget them into the workforce.
than others. Our research and meetings with Maurice and Winslow lead us to
focus mostofoureﬀortson tryingtoaccommodatestudentswhoareblind orvi-
The ﬁndings described in this report are based on many experiments, hours of
reading, and meetings with experts on accommodations. At timeof writing, we
believe the results to be accurate; as software programs evolve over time the
speciﬁc ﬁndings may become obsolete, but the general principles remain valid.
Any inaccuracies areour own.
4 General best practices
Rule of four
The rule of four is one of the most useful guiding principles both in teaching,
and from the perspective of accessibility. Explicitly, when a concept or idea is
introduced and discussed, wetrytodosoin fourdiﬀerent ways:
Depending on the student that we are working with, and the particular accom-
modations that the student has, oneormoreofthese diﬀerent descriptions may
beharder for thestudent toaccess than the others.
For example, if we are accommodating a student that is hearing impaired then
the verbal description will need to be accommodated. This can be achieved in a
number of diﬀerent ways which include: usinga sign language interpreter; cap-
tioningvideosand other audiocontent. A student whois visuallyimpaired may
havemorediﬃcultyaccessingeach ofthediﬀerentdescriptionsexceptthe verbal.
Accommodations will vary from student tostudent, and thereis nota ‘one-size-
ﬁts-all’ solution. This parallels the reality of working with a diverse student
and needs tobe treated as an individual. This is the main accommodation that
hope that we are able to use each one with an equivalent level of eﬀectiveness.
Oneofthemost importantprinciples ofaccessibilityis toprovide
an equally eﬀective learning experience.
equally eﬀective activities that provide a similar level of learning out-
Note that this applies to every single class, whether it contains a student that
has an accommodation or not. In the current era of technology we are often
tempted to have our lectures and activities explode with animations, slide-show
presentations, interactive applets, etc. If the purpose behind the mediahas not
been well-thoughtout, then it certainly risksbeingloston thestudents.
One of the many advantages to creating content that is equally eﬀective, is that
wenaturally reﬂectand thinkabout howvaluabletheactivity actually is: dowe
distracting? what do Iwant the student to get from this activity- is it just fun,
or istherea learningobjectivebehind it?
The RuleofFour isclosely aligned with Universal Design  which is
a way to describe the concept of designing all products and the built
environmenttobeaestheticandusable tothegreatest extentpossible by
everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.
for the JAWS screen reader, the most accessible format is a webpage that
contains MathML, opened in IE 5.5-8 with Design Science’s MathPlayer
forarefreshableBrailledevice, themost accessibleformat isa.brfﬁle;
forsome students,a papercopythat simplyhasenlarged fontmay suﬃce.
be available to Disability Services if they are to be able to create these accessible
formats for the student. This means that we must always keep our .docx, .tex,
.odt, etcﬁles readilyavailableand D2L users shouldhaveasinglefolderinwhich
thesourcesﬁlesare saved in theircourseshell.
It should be noted that conforming to document formatting standards (such as
using style-based headings, for example) will assist in producing accessible for-
mats, but there may be unforeseeable issues that arise. Maintaining up-to-date
versions of sourceﬁlesis still avital best practice.
Basedon ourexperimentswiththeJAWS screenreaderand onourconversations
with Disability Services, we have generally found the following ﬁle types to be
pdf ﬁles with Mathematicalcontent;
JAWScannotaccessany contentof the ﬁle,
Disability Servicescannot makemakeuseof the anypart ofthetheﬁle,
the mathematical content in the ﬁleis inaccessibletoJAWS, or
the mathematical content in the ﬁle is in aformat that is unusable toDis-
ability Services and it would need to be recreated manually in order for
Disability Servicestomakean accommodation for astudent.
PCC ensures equal access through the complementary approaches of proactive
We should design courses ‘from the ground up’ to be as universally accessible
as possible. More explicitly, almost all of the content should be screen-reader
that are not accessible to all. We will then be well prepared to accommodate
students without much additional eﬀort.
weshouldstillnotuseinaccessibletools unlessan equallyeﬀectiveandaccessible
tool is alsoavailable.
5 Speciﬁc best practices
There aremanydiﬀerent ways thatwe,asMath faculty, createour content. The
waythat weaccommodate eachstudent is, of course, goingtovaryfrom student
tostudent. Somestudents may prefertouse.brfﬁleson their refreshableBraille
devices, others may prefer Braille-embossed paper, others will prefer a webpage
thatJAWS can read, and somemay prefer anycombination ofall oftheabove.
One of the most important facts to remember is that we, as faculty,
are notexpectedtoperform theconversion tothese (and other) outputs
DisabilityServices will behappy towork withus in theproduction ofsuch alter-
Aswe discuss the followingideas and outlines, rememberthat everystudent has
diﬀerentneeds. The followingservesas aguidetobestpractices, but should not
bethought of asgolden rulesthat will always work.
We will use thefollowing legend tohelp us in discussingspeciﬁc software, but it
not beuniversally accessible. Rather, wewill useit asan equally eﬀectivevisual
greencheckmarks(X) representcontent formats thatwill stand alonefrom
an accessibility perspectiveand arerecommended;
orange circles(∙) representcontent formats that might stand alone from an
accessibility perspective and caution should be exercised;
red crosses (×)representcontent formats thatwill not standalonefrom an
accessibility perspective and arenot recommended.
Arecommended item means that we may consider using the given format in a
stand-alone, accessiblefashion. Anitem thatis notrecommended meansthatwe
mayusethe given format, but there must be an equallyeﬀectivetool or activity
toaccompany it- in thissense, the givenformat does not stand alone.
For example, during a discussion or demonstration, it is not appropriate for us
to use a GeoGebra (Java-based) applet exclusively. However, it is acceptable
todirect students toaGeoGebraapplet provided thatthereare equally eﬀective
alternative toolsthatstudentsmaychoosetouseinstead. Inthissense,GeoGebra
Recommended if used in conjunction with MathType. When using Microsoft
Wordtoproducedocuments, theestablishedprotocols forstructuringdocuments
must be followed, including using headings, formatted lists, etc. Please see 
foradditional information on properly structuringdocuments. Toincludemath-
ematical content, use Design Science’s MathType and not the native equation
editor whichusesMicrosoft’s OﬃceMath Mark-up Language (OMML).
Recommended. MathType  is an equation editor created by Design Science
thatis compatiblewith manyword processingand desktop publishingprograms.
Disability Services is able to convert a Word document containing MathType
mathematical content to an accessible electronic format. PCC has purchased
campus licenses for each campus, so all staﬀ members and students can install
acopy of MathType on their home and work computers. This way there is no
ﬁnancial burden onany staﬀor student to use this option.
Not Recommended. Microsoft has a native equation editor in the following ver-
sions ofWord: Word 2007(PC), Word 2010(PC), and Word 2011(Mac).
Disability Services is not able to convert a Word document containing mathe-
matical content created with Microsoft’s native equation editor to an accessible
electronic format. Mathematical content created using Microsoft’s native equa-
tion editor will be converted into images without alttags when DS tries tocon-
vert a document into an accessible electronic format. Since PCC has licenses
for MathType, we recommend the use MathType instead of Microsoft’s native
Sometimes MathType can convert equationsmadewith Microsoft’s native equa-
tion editor into MathType equation, but this does not work perfectly all of the
time. Using Microsoft’s native equation editor runs the risk of having to retype
themathematical content usingMathType so thatDS can use theﬁle.
Xis a mark-up language; converting LAT
an accessibleformat isusually straightforward astheaccessibleformats arealso
However, not all packages will work nicely with the conversion process. Given
that there are over three thousand constantly-evolving packages on ctan (Com-
list of the packages that do and donot work. We have detailed some results in
theappendix, but be prepared tomake adjustments todocuments as and when
Recommended. LibreOﬃce (with its native equation editor) converts easily to
an accessible format. DS has less experience of working with LibreOﬃce and
accessible documents, we do not recommend that people change their currently
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