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Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

August 11, 2003

MathML and Accessibility

Recently, I joked that, whatever my efforts to make these pages Accessible, no Screen Reader in existence could handle MathML.

I was just joking, right? The W3C designed MathML with accessibility in mind. And everyone, including the W3C recommends it as the format for putting math on the Web accessibly. Theoretically, this makes sense. The alternative (rendering each equation as a GIF image) is almost the definition of inaccessibility. It doesn’t even rescale when you rescale the text. On the other hand, MathML, being a dialect of XML, should be infinitely manipulable with technologies like XSLT.

Surely someone has put the pieces together. After all, T. V. Raman (one of the original members of the MathML design group) is the author of ASTER, which converts TeX/LaTeX to audio.

Well, apparently not. There was a certain amount of optimism back in 2000. The University of Toronto had two projects going, MAB, the MathML Audio Browser, and an XSLT stylesheet to convert MathML to AFNL.
Neither project has posted an update in years, and none of the other projects I was able to track down via Google has gone anywhere either.

So right now, the recommendation to use MathML for accessibility is just … wishful thinking. I’m using it because it’s the only sensible was to put math on the web. But accessible? Not for the foreseeable future.

Posted by distler at August 11, 2003 12:47 PM

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