Math Graphs for the Blind

If I had to produce tactile graphs for the visually-impaired, or have such a student produce a graph for me, I think I would spend an hour to create one of these velcro and wool yarn slates for the blind.

I stumbled across this Touching Slate “toy” in MAKE Magazine’s current issue and realized that this simple slate solves a key problem in teaching higher-level mathematics to visually-impaired students: How can a teacher or student quickly produce graphs of functions to share during a class, study session, or exam?  I think you could use yarn of different thicknesses in order to put multiple functions on the same graph.  With several of these easy to produce slates, you could have several pre-made graphs for exams, lectures, on-the-fly questions, etc.

Here’s a one-minute video with instructions for making the slate.

For other resources to create graphs for the visually-impaired, you should also check out Tactile Maps and Graphics, and for those of you who need to teach Calc III, you should check out Andy Long’s function machine or make friends with someone who has a 3D printer (the Industrial Technology department on our campus has one now).

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ADA and Hyperlinks

You know how sometimes you let a question linger in the background until one day you decide to just deal with it?  This is one of those questions that rose to the top because I knew that I should know the answer definitively before the MCC Math & Technology Workshop started.

Here’s the question:  If you’re making a hyperlink and you leave the title or alternate tag blank, will the text-to-speech readers automatically just default to the text you’ve linked to?  For example, suppose your hyperlink is on the words “brief twitter guide”.  Without any extra tagging, will this get read aloud as “brief twitter guide” or do I have to retype it into the secondary tags?  Obviously, creating a hyperlink to text like “click here” would really suck for visually impaired users unless you included alternate titles and alternate text.  So the question is really whether the alternate or title tags are redundant when you already have good hyperlink practices.

Image showing hyperlink example as described above.

The answer (from @suburbanlion) is that it is just redundant.  If the original hyperlink is descriptive in the same way the alt tag would be, there is no need to do both.  He provided me with a great resource to check on these types of issues, Dive into Accessibility (Day 14 covers adding titles to links), although it is a little old.

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MathDaisy 1.0 for Accessible Math

Last year, I posted about a product that could read math for blind, sight-impaired, or learning disabled students.  With the release of MathDaisy 1.0, it’s just gotten a LOT easier to produce accessible materials.  I’ve got thousands of pages of math materials built with MathType in Microsoft Word.  With MathDaisy, I can now just save these files in the MathDaisy “daisybook” format, give it a little time to produce, and then the produced file can be opened in a player (like gh player) and be read out loud to the student.

Before you read any further, you’re going to want to see just how easy this is.  As you know, I’m super busy right now with my dissertation, and don’t have extra time to mess with much else myself – but my friend Bob was nice enough to make me a short video to show me how MathDaisy works.  Invest five minutes of your time to see how MathDaisy works.


Want to use it now?  Once you’ve got the software set up, it should be pretty easy.  Here’s what you will have to do for software installation:

  1. You need to have MathType 6.5 (or use only the upgraded equation editor in Microsoft Office 2007).  For older files, you’ll want to first convert all the equations to the newer MathType 6.5 format using the Format Equations feature of MathType.
  2. Install the DaisyTranslater into Microsoft Word (30.5 MB download).
  3. Install MathDaisy 1.0 (a 30-day free trial is available if you want to play first)
  4. Install one of the two compatible readers to be able to play the produced files (gh Player or DolphinEasyReader)

Here’s what the student will have to do for software installation:

  1. Install one of the two compatible readers to be able to play the produced files (gh Player or DolphinEasyReader).

Got that done?  Just save your files as a DaisyBook and off you go!

Bravo to DesignScience for getting us some real help with making math accessible!  In my opinion, this should get them a nomination for the 2010 ICTCM Award for excellence and innovation in using technology to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics.

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Site for Teaching Math to the Visually Impaired

I want to point you to a collection of resources for teaching the visually impaired. The site Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students is put up by Susan Osterhaus, who has been teaching math to the blind and visually impaired in Texas for almost 30 years.

I have never even heard of many of the techniques and materials she refers to on the site, like [Read more…]

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Assistive Math Technology Product Matrix

Design Science has built a great resource to use if you need to find out what kind of math accessibility your software has, to find out which accessibility software you might want to buy, or to compare different systems in general. Check out the Design Science Assistive Technology Product page.

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