[BlindMath] Inaccessible math books

Godfrey, Jonathan A.J.Godfrey at massey.ac.nz
Wed Mar 3 21:14:37 UTC 2021

Hello George et al.,

Most legislation around the world today focuses on the act of discrimination. Publishers don't discriminate, educators do when they select a particular publisher's products. I'd put software developers and publishers in the same boat.

The ADA s508 doesn't cover every transaction between a disabled person and the world around them. It should cover education and government provided services though.

We are in the throws of developing legislation here in New Zealand that aims to increase accessibility and participation in society by disabled people. As a leader in the blindness community (National President, Blind Citizens NZ) I'm closer to the action than most. From the investigations everyone here is making, no country yet  has explicit laws to say that commercially produced goods or services must be accessible. The UN Convention doesn't even say that all goods and services "must" be accessible to disabled people in that the obligation is to work towards that goal through progressive realisation. What we're pushing for is that no taxpayer money is used on inaccessible products because our government does have an obligation to its citizens.

Many countries already have human rights laws that should prevent discrimination;  these laws  could prove useful for helping see change occur, but as seen in other comments, change will occur because people stand up and complain. Raising a complaint that will have an ongoing impact is not a trivial exercise. Many blind people just don't have the time or energy to undertake the process because they're too busy getting on with life. It is one reason I believe in the work of organisations like my own and the NFB.

The next problem we have is that the education provider often just needs to show that they have provided sufficient "reasonable accommodation". That's going to be very subjective, but the provision of a disability support service putting sticking plaster like solutions together is what we've done for decades; that's not always smart, but it is all too often sufficiently effective to say that what we do today (when it works well) is good enough. I for one say that what we do today is not good enough. This is not an attack on those people doing their utmost to provide the solutions. Rather it is frustration at the inability to beat up on the people that create the problems.

I do hope people take complaints against substandard education providers, but I understand why it doesn't happen as much as it could. Too many people feel they can't bite the hand that feeds them, even if the diet of gruel leaves them under-educated and stuck in an information-impoverished state.

Jonathan G

-----Original Message-----
From: BlindMath <blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of George Bell via BlindMath
Sent: Thursday, 4 March 2021 8:10 AM
To: 'Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics' <blindmath at nfbnet.org>
Cc: george at techno-vision.co.uk
Subject: Re: [BlindMath] Inaccessible math books

I'm taking my life in my hands commenting from the UK.

I see ADA and Section 508 mentioned here, and understand that they are written into American Law.

We have blind lawyers here in the UK, as I'm sure you also have in the USA.

Could one of these guys not be approached with a few very clear cut examples of where the laws have been broken, and asked to consider taking on the case? It would need to be clearly understood that if the case was won, the offending publishers would have to be liable for costs.

Just my 2 cents worth.


-----Original Message-----
From: BlindMath <blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Sean Loraas via BlindMath
Sent: 03 March 2021 17:50
To: Sabra Ewing <sabra1023 at gmail.com>
Cc: Sean Loraas <sloraas at austincc.edu>; Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics <blindmath at nfbnet.org>
Subject: Re: [BlindMath] Inaccessible math books

Yes, I remember you, Sabra. I'm sorry to hear how awful your college treated you and denied you your basic right to access the tools that the other students were using. It sounds like they weren't fulfilling their responsibility under the law to make every effort accommodate you and find ways to make the course accessible,  therefore  violating their own college policies, as well as federal and probably state disability laws by discriminating based on your disability. If this is ever going to improve, and if you want students who come after you at that institution to have a better experience it's important to at least to file a formal grievance with your school, to document that you were denied an 'm taking my equal opportunity to experience the courses as your peers who were sighted. The course was designed and used software and materials that deny access to individals with visual disabilities.  Without a grevience, formal complaint, or law suit there may be no record of this violation if your rights and therefore no pressure for the college to change. Furthermore, students who are treated the same after you cannot site your case to back up their own complaint if there is no record that you had issues with  the way you were treated. It may seem like it's just more trouble to go through in an already awful experience, but at the very least I would encourage you to look up the student complaint process at the school and fill out a complaint to document your experience, so at least there is a record of it that can be used by other students. This can help in showing that there is a pattern of discrimination if your case is not an isolated incident and there are others. You were treated wrongly, and the failure of your college was forced to become your failure, which wasn't your fault, you could have thrived if the tools were accessible. That wasn't your responsibility, but now you have the responsibility to file a complaint so at least there is a chance your terrible experience will have an impact on helping things to change for other students whose rights are also violated. I'm so sorry you didn't have a better experience. There is still an opportunity for you to speak up that what you experienced was a violation of your rights, discrimination based solely on your blindness.

I'm hoping those  here on this list can point Sabra to some resources to help her document the problems she experienced with her institution. Good luck going forward, I hope you can turn that unfair situation around and find a way to make things better for yourself and others. That's the only way to turn this deep rooted bias and discrimination into a win for yourself. Document it so it can be a stepping stone to real change. You don't have to fix it, but don't let your experience be lost, let there at least be a record of it that can be found and used to build a case for change. I hope you see a little hope in that, because I don't think most people understand how devastating and dehumanizing it is on you, which is why ADA and Section 508 must be enforced, because that is supposed to protect you. When we fail to each do our part it results in terrible tragic experiences for real people, with real lives.  Hang in there Sabra. Stay safe! Watch the list for responses with some more resources to help you.

No barriers left standing, untill then, we cannot rest.

Sean Loraas

 Accessibility Technician
 Alt. Text & Media
   Austin Community College
   Eastview Campus
    Office: 2140

(Sent from my smart phone, please forgive any typos I failed to catch.)

On Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 7:52 PM Sabra Ewing <sabra1023 at gmail.com> wrote:

> were you at my college? The community college I went to was very large.
> The person who made my math accessible there was named Shawn. There 
> were still problems with accessibility, especially concerning the 
> professors, especially were programming was concerned. But when I went 
> to a four-year university everything was much worse. They said they 
> had Duxberry there but didn't know how to use it. When I would get 
> code that they didn't even want to give me to begin with, I couldn't 
> even use it because all of the buttons, form fields, and everything were unlabeled.
> You had to go in manually, property by property and make sure that the 
> text and the name property matched. I didn't have time to do that for 
> all of them. And the professor definitely wasn'tGoi going to be doing 
> that. I was stuck with software they didn't seem to have any type of 
> documentation to use it with a screen reader. It really sucks trying 
> to use it. By the end of my college experience I could barely 
> function. I was in an independent study class where I was supposed to 
> write a paper and normally I would've been able to do that without a 
> problem, but by that point, I just couldn't. My paper really sucked, 
> and I had to rally with every single thing I have left in order to improve it enough to be passable.
> I'm still extremely messed up from being at college. I don't think I 
> can ever go to school again. I've had enough.
> The accessibility for programming was especially terrible. You first 
> need a class to learn how to read Microsoft documentation as well as 
> if they even have any for what you are looking for. Then you need a 
> second class about how to use their software, which they make as 
> unintuitive as possible. That goes for their traditional software, but 
> for their programming software it is much worse. Then finally they can 
> have a class about how to write the code, yet they decide to have all 
> three of those classes in one class and surprise, it doesn't work. And 
> also colleges need to stop teaching their students that it doesn't 
> matter if the name and the text properties match. They are the reason 
> that absolute Cooper eats work for a while, don't work, work for a 
> while, don't work, forever. They won't ever just work and stay 
> working. If you were on the phone voiceover does have a way that you 
> can label everything and do the work for free that they should've 
> done, but it only works on your phone, and everything gets lost during 
> an update. I wish they would include a feature where you could do that 
> but add it to someone else's phone. They added a new thing called 
> screen recognition, but whenever I turn that on when something isn't 
> working that makes things even worse so I don't know what that is 
> supposed to be for. It doesn't recognize math either. It just gets everything and jumbles it all up. And it makes the keyboard disappear.
> Sabra Ewing
> > On Mar 2, 2021, at 5:51 PM, Sean Loraas via BlindMath <
> blindmath at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> >
> > 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 student.
> >
> > 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 
> > homework.
> >
> > 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
> > Keller*
> > _______________________________________________
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