Are there commercial products designed to make math accessible to students with disabilities?
Some students with disabilities require accommodations in order to access math. For example, mathematical notation is inherently visual, so students who are blind are unable to read it. Also, students who cannot fully use their hands are often unable to perform mathematical computations by hand on paper (the traditional way). Some commercial products have been developed to increase access to mathematics content and computation to individuals with disabilities.
Options for students who are blind needing to access math material include:
- Nemeth Braille embossed or refreshable Braille output
- MathML (similar to HTML, but for mathematics)
- simple linear math, written in a single line
Additionally, access to graphs, drawing, figures, etc. is an important component in the learning process. Tactile graphics using a variety of output devices is the traditional method of providing this material to students who are blind.
Below are a few of the vendors who have developed products in this area. Their websites provide a good starting point for understanding the types of products that are available, but inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by DO-IT or its funding sources.
- Design Science has developed a variety of products for making math accessible, including MathPlayer™, which enhances Internet Explorer with the ability to display, enlarge and speak mathematical expressions authored in MathML; and MathType™, a Microsoft Word plug-in that can be used to create standard print, large print, Braille and web-based documents that contain math. MathType can also be used as a math writing accommodation by students who are unable to use pencil and paper.
- ViewPlus Technologies has an array of products for people with print and sensory disabilities, including Tiger® Braille Embossers, which are capable of printing visual text and graphics on the same page with Braille and embossed graphics; IVEO®, which is a self-voicing tactile audio system which provides multi-modal access to graphic materials for individuals who are blind; and Audio Graphing Calculator®, which provides spoken feedback, audio tones and audio cues for audible interpretation of graphs.
- Metroplex Voiced Computing is creator of MathPad By Voice™ and MathTalk™, which enable users to perform simple to advanced math by voice.
- Infty Project is a collaboration of researchers from different universities and research institutes that has produced Infty Editor, a math authoring tool with extensive keyboard support that exports to accessible MathML; and the InftyReader, an optical character recognition program specially developed to accurately scan and digitize mathematical notation. The latter can be used to enable blind users to access mathematical content from print sources.
- Henter Math is creator of the Virtual Pencil™ series of products, software that provides interactive access to math for students who are "pencil impaired" (blind, visually impaired, mobility impaired, or learning disabled). Different versions support various levels of math.
In addition to the vendors and products listed above, there are a wide variety of talking scientific calculators, Braille compasses, protractors, rulers, manipulatives and tactile graphing kits available. Consult the web for assistive technology retailers who carry these products.
Also, "mainstream" software such as Mathematica and Scientific Notebook can make it easier for students with mobility impairments to write mathematics.
For more information on creating accessible math materials consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base article, How can I create math and science materials that are accessible to students with visual impairments?