The Race Behind the Learning: Making Math Accessible

Handouts Media

Presented at 11:30am in Independence on Thursday, November 17, 2022.



  • Angela Branson, Assistant Director, University of Missouri
  • Darren Gabbert, Access Technology and Innovation Specialist, University of Missouri

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


Making math accessible in higher education is more than a process. And to say there is one right way to approach the task (forgive me) just doesn’t add up. This presentation shares our experience at the University of Missouri making the college Calculus series accessible to a blind student with skills in reading Nemeth Braille. We liken our experience to running a marathon of races, each having various starting gates, track surfaces, and finish lines.


With the knowledge that our student who is blind was pursuing a STEM degree, we embarked to identify best practices for producing accessible educational resources. This involved continual process improvement in terms of efficiency and timeliness. While every semester felt like a race to produce accessible materials, it was really a segment of a marathon that continued into the next semester. We found ourselves asking three questions at the beginning of each semester: Where’s our starting block? Where’s the finish line? And, which path do we take?

Making math accessible can begin in different ways, but nearly all roads lead to MathML. This presentation will introduce and discuss several math accessibility tools, such as MathType with its Microsoft Word plugin. MathType’s comprehensive collection of math symbols and ability to customize symbol pallets will be shown. Mathpix will also be highlighted which allows you to select a block of math content (typed or handwritten), and it converts the snapshot into LaTeX or MathML. Mathpix’s online editor, Snip Notes, will be touched on as a structured method to convert math PDF pages into Word, LaTeX, and HTML formats.

What the finish line would look like was notably influenced by the student’s knowledge and familiarity with Nemeth Braille. Therefore, lecture notes, review sheets, and exams were provided in Nemeth Braille hardcopy and electronically in screen reader accessible MathML.

Only after we gained a clear understanding of possible starting points and had defined the required finish line, could we begin thinking about the process to go from one to the other. The steps leading to the creation of printable Duxbury files with Nemeth Braille will be outlined. Creating and embedding tactile math graphs will also be discussed, concluding with some key elements that contributed to winning the race.


  1. Participants will become familiar with technology tools for providing accessible math content.
  2. Participants will understand the importance of beginning with the end in mind when producing accessible math.
  3. Participants will take away 4 keys to successfully providing accessible math content.

Disability Areas

All Areas, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Angela Branson

Angela Branson is the Assistant Director of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Disability Center. She entered the field of disability 20 years ago as a certified and licensed sign language interpreter, working in K-12 education, at a state advocacy agency, and began working for MU in 2012 as the Deaf Services Coordinator. In January of 2021 she started her current position as Assistant Director working with a graduate and professional student population. Originally from St. Louis, Angela enjoys her amazing family, as well as all things coffee, crocheting and Cardinals baseball.

Darren Gabbert

Darren Gabbert is an Access Technology and Innovation Specialist for the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Adaptive Computing Technology Center. He has provided adaptive technology services on the MU campus for over 30 years. Mr. Gabbert has served as co-PI on projects funded by the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Health. He also collaborates with the College of Engineering to conduct research in robotic assistive technology. Mr. Gabbert has an advanced form of spinal muscular atrophy and has continued to be productive using single-switch scanning as his sole access to technology.