What grade did your screen-reader get in Arithmetic?

Handouts Media

Presented at 8:00am in Penrose 1 on Thursday, November 17, 2022.



  • Brian Richwine, Senior Accessibility Strategist - Learning Technologies, Indiana University Bloomington
  • Mary Stores, Accessibility Analyst, Indiana University

Session Details

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


It is widely stated that eText with accessible math can be read independently by readers (e.g. Jaws, NVDA, VoiceOver, etc.) with blindness by using text-to-speech. However, most screen reading software lacks the capability to speak even basic algebraic expressions accurately and unambiguously. Readers using only text to speech will be misled and placed at a serious disadvantage by the broken promises made by most of the current technological solutions. Come to hear how common screen-reading programs fare at reading basic math.


Many technologies, media formats, and corresponding workflows exist for creating accessible electronic mathematical content. For example, it is widely stated that web pages with math expressions encoded in MathML can be accessed independently by readers with blindness by using speech from a screen reading program. However, it’s not generally known that most screen reading software (e.g. JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, etc.) lacks the capability to speak even basic algebraic expressions accurately and unambiguously. Readers using only text to speech will be misled and placed at a serious disadvantage by broken promises provided by most of the current technological solutions.

The presenters will layout the case for why speech access to electronic math content is important and go over the common technologies for preparing accessible math content. Then they will demonstrate both where the technology works along with the many surprising places where it does not work.

A case will be made for people to pool resources to determine an effective path forward for addressing the issues. A plea will be made for people to encourage AT vendors to take math access with speech seriously by working with math accessibility experts so their tools rise to the promise of being capable of speaking math content accurately, unambiguously, and consistent with established math speech grammars. We will open the floor for discussion and brainstorming of ideas for moving the industry forward.


  1. Many screen reading programs lack the ability to speak even basic math content accurately.
  2. Screen reader developers should use established math speech grammars to render speech text accurately
  3. We must highlight tech shortcomings to avoid false expectations & to provide effective accommodations

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Uncategorized, Web/Media/App Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Brian Richwine

Brian has a BSEE from GMI Engineering & Management Institute (now Kettering University). He has worked with assistive technology, alternate media, and web/IT accessibility at while supporting the accessible use of learning technologies (LT) at Indiana University for 22 years.

Mary Stores

Mary Stores has worked at the Assistive Technology and Accessibility Centers for over 20 years. She is currently an accessibility analyst. She has her JAWS and CPACC certifications.

Mary enjoys living in this time of technology advances. 20 years ago, she never would have thought that people who are blind could take pictures. However, thanks to the smart phone and a book from the National Braille Press, she was able to learn how to successfully take pictures of quite a few things to share with her friends.