I think I found another reason to not love the Mac, math m l

macOS and Mac Apps

hey guys. ok I probably shouldn't have named this post what I named it, I'm not even sure that I have a clue what I'm talking about. What is more I'm still going to be a mac guy, it just really hurts me to keep finding these accessibility draw backs that Apple could probably fix pretty easily and it would make the mac that much more awesome. Any way let me get to my issue.
So I'm having to give my boss advice about doing math as a blind person. Specifically how the profs in our university can make their math stuff accessible. Now this is something I do not know anything about what so ever because I have never been a math person and I finished all of the math I needed in school before I lost my sight.
Any way from what I have read math ml is the best option. Is this right? Can someone give me a dumb down explanation of what this is exactly? I have red lots of things about it, but they are all pretty difficult to understand for me. My main concern is this. From what I understand voice over users do not have access to math m l. Is that right? I would love to be told that I'm wrong about this. I really do want to love the mac.



Submitted by Chris Norman on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You can use Latex I believe... I don't know anything about it, but it seems to be good from what I have heard others say.

Sorry I can't be more specific, but I know next to nothing about maths myself.


Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just took a cursory glance at some MathML with VO (I never delt with it before, but only heard about it.). I went to this site:
Just make sure to set the rendering type to MathML first. And it actually seems like VO does recognise the formulas, it switches to all punctuation when reading them and you can interact with it to review it closer. iOS also has some MathML support afaik, and you can also use chrome with chromevox to read it if VO's implementations turns out to somehow be lacking.

Submitted by Tree on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hey any info is welcome. I know nothing about it myself. My boss is about to send this request for like thousands of dollars to put accessible apps on all of the public computers on the university. She wants to know what the best options for math are and this is the one chance. I will check that out.

Submitted by synthesizer101 on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MathML is a presentation system. If you have heard of Daisy (used to mark up books and other materials), MathML is the effort to extend this into the mathematical arena. LaTeX is a writing system. It enables people to write complex mathematical expressions (and other formatting and character options). Both are useful, but MathML will require that whatever entity produces the materials use it. LaTeX, however, can be learned by any person and is completely free and open source. If I can provide any more information, let me know.

Submitted by Khalfan Bin Dhaher on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thank you for this very useful post. I am learning from everyone here.

Submitted by Tree on Thursday, July 10, 2014

You know I think your right Piotr Machacz. I have read so much about it today and the entire subject of math is so over my head. I can swear I read several places that voice over did not support it. But as you say those problems do sound like they are reading correctly. I know so little about math that I was not sure about other problems. I don't know how such math problems read. Looks like I was wrong and I need to take one step closer to loving my mac again. Does anyone know why I get a message saying that my browser does not support some features when I switch the rendering type to MathML?

Submitted by AbleTec on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tree, u really should get in touch w/Chris Hofstader at chrishofstader.com. This is an area that interests him highly & at which he's quite good. Chris is a friend of mine, but I get no financial rewards, etc. for any referrals.

It's an area that's highly important. Another individual whom you might be interested in contacting is Prof. Richard Baldwin at dickbaldwin.com He's a mathematics professor, I believe, & is quite interested in making STEM accessible to us.


Submitted by Aaron C on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi. LaTex is definitely the way to go. MathML can be read by VO, as has been noted earlier, but when you're teaching and learning, you need the ability to both create and read math. MathML has the draw back that it's not nearly as easy to read as LaTex. Using an application called MathType, folks can create formulas right in Word using LaTex, and on Windows at least, it's fairly accessible. There are also, as was noted earlier, a few open source options available.

Perhaps what's even more important, however is the fact that you will likely find that most if not all math professors have at least a basic knowledge of LaTex. I think there are two reasons for this: 1. it's one of the fastest and most complete ways of authoring math, and 2. it's so darn easy to learn.

When I was taking advanced math in college, I always had my professors just send me the LaTex originals of their assignments, and I was able to read them directly, no assistive tech required, aside from a basic screen reader.

You might find some helpful info here: http://access2science.com/indexMathLanguages.html



Submitted by synthesizer101 on Thursday, July 10, 2014

I use LaTeX quite frequently. There are thousands of various programs for using the system, and if one isn't accessible (last time I tried texmaker, it didn't work), you can always try another one. I use the tools in the MacTeX package, which includes everything. If you don't intend to use all of this you can always go with something lighter, but I can say that this works quite well. You can find this package at http://www.tug.org/mactex/

Submitted by Tree on Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm going to check out LaTeX and I might let my boss know about it, but right now she is mainly interested in mathML. So from everything I am reading you have to use internet explorer with a plugin called math speak, in order to use MathML with jaws. Is this right? It seems a little strange that we would have access to MathML just with voice over if jaws users have to use a plugin. Sorry I'm going to look up LaTeX and I am not trying to ignore your recommendation of it.

Submitted by Khalfan Bin Dhaher on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi everyone.
I'll be taking introduction to statistics this fall. I'm not very good in mathematics, but at least I can do it to complete the university's requirement.
Are there good accessible iOS or Mac apps? Any suggestions?

Submitted by Tree on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ok I started this whole topic saying I was ready to start not loving mac. Well I have done a one eighty and now I am hating windows more then ever before, which is saying quite a lot. What all of you guys have been telling me is right. the newest internet explorer versions do not support the math player plugin thanks to micro suck being ok with sucking. My boss and I just had a fifteen minute "bitch fest" about this. Those are her words by the way, I'm just quoting, hope nobody is offended by "bitch fest". Ok so I am definitely looking into the LaTeX option now. The problem is some creators of content use LaTeX and some use MathML. Is there any way to gain access to mathML on windows with up to date software? This really really really makes me mad, the whole thing. It gets to a larger issue that has really killed me since I started doing this job. People create an accessible option for something, like math or PDF's. Then we all have to work really hard to advocate for this service. We tell everyone to use MathML or tagged PDf's. We have to educate them about these things and they have to go out of their way to implement them in their content, and often they do. And then what happens? Some tech power house like Microsoft or apple decides they don't give a nano bits worth of a crap about assistive tech and they just drop support for something really important. Thats bad for blind users it really sucks, but we can often find an alternative solution. but what about all of those people out there who have gone out of their way to support accessibility? All of those people who have taken the extra time to create MathML. We have to tell them, O yeh you know that thing that we have been pushing you to do for years and years now, that thing that you have centered your content around, that thing that you have taught your employes to do, that thing that you have given talks on and have championed for? well that is crap now and you just need to forget all about it. We know we told you that you should buy windows machines, put internet explorer on them and this third party plugin then your school would be good for blind people doing math, but now you need macs. What is more we know you have spent hundreds of hours creating mathML content but you have to learn this other standard now and oh yeh, buy the way all of that content you created is worthless now. Well I don't know about you but if I was someone creating content and every few years you told me I had to drop the efforts I was making and exchange them for new ones, I think I would get pretty fed up with that. It takes years for the majority of people to adopt an accessible method and buy that time the method may be worthless. And I'm not just looking at Microsoft when I say this. Its true that I was very wrong at the start of this and that Apple might be the best when it comes to math, but it has its own examples of this exact same thing. Take tagged PDF's. I have already tried going on about this issue on this sight and I didn't get much response, so I won't go into it too much, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record. Hear at my university we try and educate profs about tagged PDF's. We are trying to get them to take this extra step for blind people. But what does it look like when one of those profs comes to us and says, "You mean that all of this extra effort I have been doing doesn't matter at all for blind people using a mac? Why would I bother tagging everything if apple does not support tagged pdf's with preview? We have to tell them, o yeh that is right and now that you mention it you know that tagged PDF that you have gone out of your way to create, well don't even open that in preview because it will strip out all of the accessibility features destroying all of your extra work. You know what, if I was a prof and I heard all of that I might just say screw tagged PDf's. The whole thing just makes me sick.

Submitted by Chelsea on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi Tree,

I love your rant!!

Yes, I agree with everyone here that LaTeX is the best option right now for blind people doing math on computers--it's easy for end users to learn, most professors are already using it, you don't need special software if you are just reading code to obtain information, and it can be found on the Internet as well--Wikipedia is notoriously good for this. Oh, and it takes one less beginning step out of Braille production, so getting the professors to use it is almost a bonus.

I use TexShop on my Mac as an editor, and it has gained stability over the years and OS releases. I'm not too sure about converting LaTeX to MathML, though it might be straightforward if you know the terminal well.

I'm currently on a project to help windowEyes and Word work together with MathML, so there still may be hope for Windows users in the future.

Submitted by Tree on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Haha I'm glad you liked my rant Chelsea, was afraid it might put people off .Sometimes I just get fed up and I have to do some preaching. Ok so I have a few questions about LaTeX. How easy is it for a blind person to take a LaTeX problem and make since of it? I was looking at the link that you pointed me to Aaron C and one prof seems too think that reading problems in LaTeX is not practical, although I am not sure they had blind people in mind when they said that. Hear is what they have to say.
There seems to be some confusion regarding LaTeX and MathML here. I'd like to help straighten that out, if I may. The confusion is with regarding their roles.
LaTeX is an input format. It is how we mathematicians write our articles, books, webpages, and anything else where mathematics is involved. (And often anything where mathematics isn't involved.) It is not designed to be read as-is. It is intended to be processed into a suitable output format and then read.
If anyone thinks that they can read LaTeX and understand what is going on, then I have a few documents I can post samples from which will soon disabuse you of that notion. Of course, very simple LaTeX can be read. Something like x^2 + y^2 = z^2 is fairly easy to understand, but try something more complicated like
\sum_{m = 2 \over m \text{prime}}^{\infty} \frac{1}{m^s}
and you'll see what I mean. And that's fairly simple compared to what can be written. When you realize that LaTeX (or rather, TeX) is completely programmable, then you'll see that you can find absolutely anything in a LaTeX document.
MathML is an output format. It is not designed to be written directly, but it is designed to be read. Of course, one needs a suitable renderer: a browser for the sighted and something like MathPlayer for those who want their mathematics read aloud, but then the same is true of any output format. As it is an open standard, it is a reasonable task to design a program to render MathML in to any desired medium
Am I missing something? as I have already said I am not a math person and I don't really understand any of this.

Submitted by synthesizer101 on Thursday, July 10, 2014

First, LaTeX is not new; it's been around for at least two decades.
Second, for statistics, I would recommend the R software for mathematical work. It is a little like programming, but I found it very useful. Disclaimer however that it is going to be complicated and uses a CLI exclusively.

Submitted by Chelsea on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi Tree,

What the professor said is true: Depending on how high one wishes to go in mathematics, then the LaTeX, like the Nemeth Braille, or any representative code, really, will get more complicated. What level of "blind people" does your job involve? College students?

It is true that when you get to something like vector calculus or quantum or summations that LaTeX gets very tedious to read and go through. I usually have to take whatever file I'm given and go through it word by word and write down all the math in Nemeth Braille. but I like nemeth, and math in audio of any kind has never really worked for me.

If a professor and I know that we are going to be exclusively working on a document that doesn't need to compile, I'll often ask for most of the formatting commands to be omitted; it makes the code go slightly faster. I've even had grad students who wanted to help me with math over email and they just started typing in LaTeX right there in the email program. It was great!!

So, in answer to your question, yes, the average blind person may find LaTeX difficult to learn at first. Without sounding harsh and pedantic, though, when you are a blind scientist or mathematician, you take every open window and find a way to squeeze through it. If something will give me access to the math and help me communicate with sighted peers, I learn it. LaTeX has some similarities in structure and syntax to Nemeth; they are both fairly logical systems. And frankly, if the logic seems weird to you after a while, maybe math isn't the best fit. I'm not trying to discourage anyone...quite the opposite! Someone taking a simple college algebra course may not need to go through the trouble of learning LaTeX, but someone wishing to enter the sciences as a profession would do well to learn it as early as possible. I just don't know what demographic you're working with. And if anyone has questions about science and math in college, please feel free to ask me.


Submitted by Aaron C on Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hi. I actually disagree a little bit with the above. I really haven't found LaTex to be all that difficult. Even the example you posted only took me ~30 seconds to grock:

\sum_{m = 2 \over m \text{prime}}^{\infty} \frac{1}{m^s}

Is The sum as m goes from 2 over m-prime, to infinity of 1 over m raised to s.

Took a lot longer to write that than it did grock.

I also agree that the formatting commands can be an obstacle to understanding.

Submitted by Tree on Thursday, July 10, 2014

First of all let me say thank you to everyone who has offered help and info. I am not a math person, and that is putting it very lightly, so all of this stuff is a giant and confusing rabbit hole for me. So yes I am working for a university and the math would be college level. However, what I am trying to figure out right now might be simpler then I have made it. So we are about to give the higher ups a proposal for assistive tech that should be put on to every university computer. My boss was wondering how blind people and people with Dyslexia do math and what programs they use that we should put onto the computers. Since I know nothing about doing math as a blind person I wanted to understand what methods were out there. My question is really a simple one though. What should we put onto computers to make it where the average blind person will have the tools they need to get access to math. It sounds like there might not be a simple answer to this, but I appreciate all the info.

Submitted by Tree on Friday, July 11, 2014

You guys have definitely won me over on LaTeX, not that I ever had an opinion in the first place. I have one last question. Is there one LaTeX app that you guys think is the most commonly used and is the most accessible? either or on mac and windows. If you guys were going to put apps on computers to make math accessible what apps would you choose? Thank you so much for all of the great feedback.

Submitted by Aaron C on Friday, July 11, 2014

I don't think I can pick just one, because it really depends on your users. However, I would refer you to the BlindMath mailing list, where there are several people who are more familiar with this topic than I, and are currently involved with this on an evryday basis, where I haven't been involved with things for a couple years. However, some software to consider would be MathType, Duxbury Braille Translater, and InftyReader.

The mailing list is at http://nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/blindmath_nfbnet.org

Submitted by Brother J. on Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Although I do not know how necessary or not necessary it is, there is a Safari extension called mathjax. It claims to make mathML accessible to VoiceOver but I never checked for a date of release. Perhaps it is still necessary or perhaps it is outdated and VoiceOver includes this or better functionality.

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Friday, October 6, 2017

This thread is about three years old. I'm curious what new developments have taken place. What software ultimately was installed on the college computers to make them accessible? How are stem students faring with reading and writing math these days; particularly how are both advanced level math scholars doing as opposed to liberal arts majors who just want to get through their math requirements. Are their new apps or new browser support for Math ML or other math reading/writing systems?
Personally I'd like to see an app like the old Henter-Joice virtual pencil that let one work problems on an iPAD in the same way that sighted people use a pencil. Anything like that exist? And is there any sort of course one can take, like a MOOC or something from iTunes U that is completely accessible for brushing up on basic college math?
I also work at a college and would like to make sensible recommendations especially for my blind students struggling with math. And suggestions on how sighted tutors can work with blind students would be helpful as well.

Submitted by Tree on Friday, October 6, 2017

Hi Deborah,

I'm afraid I don't have much of an update to give. I knew very little about accessible math options back when I first made this post, and I am just as ignorant now, because I have never consumed math content as a blind person. I really can't' remember what we settled for back at that job; that was three jobs ago for me. All I really remember is that we recommended windows machines not Macs, which I think is the right reconmendation for every aspect of computing, not just accessible math.

It's pretty funny for me to see this post again. Reading it I am reminded of how hard I was trying to kling to the Mac and pretend that it was not a lost cause. I can give the personal update that this once hardcore Mac user is now a full time Windows user, and much better off for it.

I test accessibility for another university now, and I recently tested a lot of content from a basic statistics course. This course used a Pearson product called My Math Lab for it's tests and quizzes. With JAWS and NVDA, My Math Lab was usable from my testing, but not ideal. It goes without saying that Voice Over is not supported by My Math lab, and I never waist my time testing with Voice Over. The professor also made some math problems with something called Math type. The math type formulas I looked at read amazing well with NVDA, however, I do not know if it is accessible to make math content with Math Type as a blind user.

I'm sure there have been a lot of changes in the accessible math world over the past three years, I simply don't know much about the topic.