When I was in San Diego two weeks ago, I met with Bob Mathews, from Design Science and he mentioned a product called MathPlayer that they produce to help the visually impaired. The player reads mathematical text aloud, and you can alter the way it reads certain functions aloud (for example, you may prefer close parens or you might like it to just say parenthesis). The program understands the need to know whether a portion of a fraction is the numerator or the denominator, it understands that you would need to know when the argument of the square root ends, etc.

I asked Bob if he could find a way to share the demo that he showed me and he has put some time in to create a web page to demonstrate the product’s capabilities (thanks Bob!). You may want to open the Audio portion in a separate window so that you can still see the text that it was set up to read.

You can download the MathPlayer (free) on the Design Science website and play with it yourself. The voice is pretty mechanical-sounding, but Bob told me that if the listener has paid for an upgraded voice, it is pretty realistic.

Our college paid thousands of dollars to have a math book printed in braille last year for a blind student. With all the materials available on the Internet, we might have been able to use MathPlayer and JAWS to read the notes from one of the free online sites. There is also a possibility that the “read aloud” option may be available to read a book file provided by the publisher in the future. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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