The Challenge of Accessible Maths
Access to mathematics for disabled people has been a research interest of mine for over 15 years. My degree included Mathematics as a subsidiary subject so I studied maths up to University level but I am an engineer rather than a mathematician. So, I understand many aspects of the symbolic language that is mathematics. It is the fact that maths is a symbolic language rather than an alphabetic one that gives rise to the challenge of how to represent maths online. The WWW was invented with hyper-text in mind, it is fundamentally based on alphabetic languages. That said since the earliest days of the WWW people have been devising ways of encoding maths in web pages. However, most of these were not adopted because they were accessible to disabled people and that has been a long-standing challenge. There is no one way of encoding maths in web pages that is optimally accessible to all disabled people and a lot depends on the level of maths being considered, the type of access modality the disabled person prefers to use, and the authoring tools that were used to create the maths in the first place.
To cover the challenge of presenting maths online or in electronic media such as Word documents is a subject that needs more discussion than is appropriate for a simple blog post. So I propose to address this by pointing to two published articles I have written on the topic.
Martyn's Publications on Access to Mathematics
Two articles written by Martyn Cooper (the first with co-authors) are given here in reverse date order. The first of these needs to be paid for unless your institution's library subscribes to the publication.
Cooper, Martyn; Lowe, Tim and Taylor, Mary (2008). Access to mathematics in web resources for people with a visual impairment: Considerations and developments in an open and distance learning context. In: Miesenberger, Klaus; Zagler, Wolfgang; Klaus, Joachim and Karshmer, Arthur eds. Computers Helping People with Special Needs. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (5105/2008). Berlin: Springer, pp. 926–933.