Accessibility of Mathematical Equations with Screenreader

I have previously blogged about Mathematical Equations in Moodle where I showed how to use MathJax Filter to display mathematical equations in a Moodle page. However, testing equations with screenreader we found that even when we had used MathJax it was not correctly read out.

You can see the page we have tested here:

A screenshot of a Moodle page with equations
Moodle page with equations

Our testing showed that:

  • Windows Narrator worked well with Edge browser
  • NVDA did not work with Chrome, Firefox or IE

After some desk research I found that MathPlayer free software allows NVDA to read math equations. Read the article How to Read Math Expressions with a Screen Reader on a Windows Computer to find out more.

This is how the page section with the equation was read by NVDA on Firefox before installing MathPlayer. Basically the screenreader did not “see” the equation. It did read half that was in the page though.

one-half
collapsed separator separated list of length 1
Use the   link    Moodle MathJax filter guide   here to help you.

After installing MathPlayer it was read as:

x
equals
times
the fraction with numerator
the square root of
144
and denominator
2
times
times
open paren
y
plus
12
close paren

MathPlayer Logo

I am not 100% sure this is what is expected by a screen reader user as there seems to be too many “times” than how I would have read the equation. After installing MathPlayer, I could get NVDA to read equations on Chrome, Firefox and IE.
However, Perkins School for the Blind eLearning recommends Firefox browser use. If you have been able to get screenreaders to work well with math equations please let us know. We are keen to learn.

3 Replies to “Accessibility of Mathematical Equations with Screenreader”

  1. Thanks for your share on the JISC list – I hadn’t yet thought about how to represent formulae in learning materials I’m developing. Both TTS and ReadAloud plugins make mistakes with forumulae at https://www.mathjax.org/#samples NVDA does a lot better, but it doesn’t handle (a) well – it reads it as “uh parenthesis” rather than “a, parenthesis”, which would be confusing. Maybe, if the maths allow, a different letter could be used instead of “a”?

  2. You are correct that NVDA requires either the MathPlayer and/or Access8Math extension (https://addons.nvda-project.org/addons/access8math.en.html). You won’t need any type of add-ons for the JAWS, VoiceOver or ChromeVox screen readers. However, MathPlayer in NVDA provides the richest math experience, and you can change the speech rules as needed. There are some testing results at https://msf.mathmlcloud.org/ although they are getting sort of old now.

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