Using MathML with JAWS

NOTE: For those of you participating in the live Webinar, the following link opens the documentation in a new browser window Opens a new window.

What is MathML?

A distinguishing feature of mathematics is the use of a complex and highly evolved system of two-dimensional symbolic notation. MathML (Mathematical Markup Language) is a W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendation of a markup language for displaying both mathematical structure as well as content, or meaning. JAWS provides spoken, natural language descriptions of MathML expressions, using the same terms a teacher would use to explain them in a classroom. There is nothing as an end-user that you need to install or add on to Internet Explorer to use MathML. It all happens on the developer side.

What is the Current Level of Support offered by JAWS?

JAWS supports MathML content rendered by MathJax in Internet Explorer. MathJax is a popular JavaScript library used by web developers to provide a consistent look and feel for math content across browsers. Because JAWS relies on MathJax to get MathML, JAWS is limited by the types of content it supports. For example, since MathJax currently does not support elementary math features, JAWS is also unable to render them in the browser. Whenever MathJax does support elementary math, JAWS will also support it simultaneously, with no additional effort or requirements. We are already ready for it when that happens.

This is a beginning, and Freedom Scientific will expand on it as time goes on for sure! The current limitations are:

Actively Explore Math Content with JAWS

When you encounter MathML on a Web page, JAWS describes the equation, followed by the message "math content." Braille users will see the word "math" on the braille display. Our goal with JAWS support is to allow you to navigate the math content by logically grouped elements. For example, a fraction consists of a numerator and a denominator. Both the numerator and denominator may consist of sub-expressions. We give you the ability to navigate between the numerator and the denominator, and then by sub-expression if desired. Pressing ENTER while focused on the math content opens the JAWS Math Viewer where you can study the equation in greater detail by doing the following:

Description of Math Expressions by JAWS

We want the screen reader's description of a given expression to be as close to what a teacher would say in a classroom as possible. For example, x2/-y could accurately be described as, "x to the power of 2 divided by minus y," but a teacher might say "x squared over negative y."

x 2 / - y

Practice with More Examples

EXERCISE: Follow along with the instructor to explore the quadratic equation example on the MathML examples page.

MathML examples page Opens a new window

  1. First, navigate to the line where the quadratic formula is. When you hear JAWS announce "math content," press ENTER to open the JAWS Math Viewer.
  2. Press the JAWS Say Line keystroke, INSERT+UP ARROW. JAWS reads the entire formula.
  3. Press LEFT and RIGHT ARROW to move to the different subcomponents at the current level. Beginning at the left, you should hear the following, each separately:
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to move to the numerator subcomponent. JAWS reads the following:
  5. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the denominator subcomponent. JAWS reads the following:
  6. Press LEFT ARROW to move back to the numerator part of the expression, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponents within the numerator. JAWS reads the following:
  7. Press RIGHT ARROW to move through the different subcomponents of the numerator. JAWS reads the following:
  8. Press DOWN ARROW to explore the subcomponents at the next level. JAWS reads the following:
  9. Press RIGHT ARROW to move through the different parts of the expression. JAWS reads the following:
  10. Press LEFT ARROW to move back to the first part of the expression, b squared, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponents at the next level.
  11. Press LEFT and RIGHT ARROW to read them. JAWS reads them separately as follows:
  12. Press UP ARROW to move out of the subcomponents back to the prior level. JAWS says b squared.
  13. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the right until JAWS says 4 a c, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponent level for this part of the expression. JAWS says 4.
  14. Press RIGHT ARROW to explore and notice JAWS speaks the following items: a c

When you finish exploring with the arrow keys and the keystrokes for say character, say word, and say line, press UP ARROW to move back to the main level. Press ESC to close Math Viewer when you are finished.

Feel free to continue to explore some of the other math equations and expressions on the sample page with JAWS. When you are finished, don't forget to close any open instances of Math Viewer with either ESC or ALT+F4, and close the sample page with ALT+F4 as well.

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