[BlindMath] Inaccessible math books

Sean Loraas sloraas at austincc.edu
Wed Mar 3 00:49:01 UTC 2021

One of the most relevant and relatable discussions I've seen in my many
years following and tapping the collective knowledge that is the BlindMath
List. First, thank you for an engaging and honest discussion. I have never
read opinions and experiences that are so exactly parallel to my own
experience in the fight to provide accessible braille, screen reader and
magnification accessible math content in the hostile front lines of the 7th
largest community college in the country, creating all of our math
materials in house, with a department of 2 full time employees. To address
the fight with publishers, I will just fully concur with everything that
has been said about the greed driven speed at which new editions are
released, and the lack of cooperation we experience from publishers whose
AccessText version is not only not accessible, but in some cases not even
usable in the high paced conversion timelines that we must meet to provide
students with timely materials. I am 100% sure that at least a dozen of us
have created the same materials, simultaneously inventing a dozen wheels
that have already been invented dozens of times before. When we only have
the time and resources to make parts of a text accessible (only those parts
that are assigned, and absolutely necessary) it makes it difficult to share
the incomplete piecewise results with others. Much less have time to
utilize the resources out there that are available for sharing our work. We
would if we could. Almost every semester I am faced with a publisher file
that is practically unusable, and must either take it back to images and
use INFTYREADER, MATHPIX etc...or confront the publisher on several avenues
for a number of weeks to finally get them to locate the "most accessible"
version of the text.  I make it a point to try to engage the publisher with
the reality that their lack of due diligence in providing the most usable
versions of their textbooks has devastating consequences on the academic
performance of  students. When they fail us, we fail our students, and when
we fail our students it is they who feel the failure, even though it is not
theirs. That is what keeps me fighting. When we manage against the odds to
assemble a team for a student who each busts their butt to do their part,
the student has the opportunity that we all take for granted: to finally
prove to their peers, their loved ones, to themselves and the world, that
they can succeed. All they need is access to the tools. They can also fail,
but failure should be on them, and they should have access to the tools
regardless of the outcome. I fight as hard for students who are headed for
failure. They all have the right to access the tools everyone else has. It
is we who must not fail in our fight, but it takes a team that spans
departments, institutions and industries to make those successes. It should
happen every time, but in reality it rarely comes together between
publishers, case managers, faculty, accessible materials production,
administrators and students. Any one of them can derail the student's
success. The only one that has the option, the right to fail is the

Sorry, don't get me started...we fight more than we complain, so when we
get a chance to speak out, WOW!

I will leave it at that. As far as the tools I find indispensable in
converting math textbooks to accessible formats: it's inftyreader and
mathpix, don't ask me to choose. I use them for different situations,
because they both have different strengths. Inftyreader for when you have
many pages of material and are able to meet the high quality standards of
the software, it can perform beautifly. It breaks down as the quality gets
worse and becomes less effective. It is also less useful for small amounts
of material. That's what I need MathPix to do and what it's best for: low
quality, small amounts of math. MathPix is great with bad quality scans,
colors, weird fonts. I'm amazed at its ability to convert mixed text in
math situations like words in fractions and subscripts, and it can work
miracles with low quality. Mathpix is better for when I have a homework
list that jumps through with just a few problems for each section.
Inftyreader is better when I have to do most of the material, like all the
problems, pages, or even just the odds (but only if the quality is there).

Another indispensable tool is Central Access Reader, for it's ability to
make usable MathML without the need for plug-ins or special software. It's
HTML is usable with default browser/screen reader combos on virtually any
platform. I'm worried about it getting out of date and hope someone adopts
it and brings it up to date. Because it's so easy to use: it converts word
documents with either MathType or
Equation editor (or mixed) and creates a screen reader accessible HTML file
with embedded MathML equations that students have almost universal success
reading. Now that JAWS reads MS Word with math, I send students both HTML
for readability (they use the same shortcuts they use for surfing the web)
and MS Word for it's editability...to type in answers and turn in as

Sorry for such a long response but I hope that helps others make decisions
on tools to use. Inftyreader is the most expensive, mathpix is $99/yr for 2
people, Central Access Reader is free from Central Washington University.
For Nemeth in a UEB context only Duxbury and the BANA template. For tactile
graphics it used to be Tiger Designer, but a few upgrades ago, 3 or so
years ago it developed a copy paste bug that made it unusable. Now it's
photoshop and raised line graphics following BANA guidlines.  Good luck,
thank you for all the help I've gotten over the years from BlindMath. Stay
safe everyone.

[ACC logo]

*Sean Loraas*

*Accessibility Technician**|**Alternative Text and Media*

Eastview Campus

*Office: 2140*

*Phone/vm: (512) 223-5270 New!*

Email: sloraas at austincc.edu


*SPRING 2021* *Alt-Text Request Form* <https://forms.gle/GnJMxfvpfjrbYizy8>

*"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an
uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." **- Helen

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