FAQs for How to Change

Select the links below to choose a category and then explore the groups of frequently asked questions which be displayed as you make your choice. 

It is not always possible to make all mathematical and scientific symbols accessible and often several types of technology have to be used. Some students prefer to use Braille to read Maths and others require large print or to have the equations read aloud using a screen reader. 

If possible avoid making your mathematical notation into a picture and try to use MathType plug in with Microsoft Word or MathJax with web pages.

This video shows the use of Math Type by Design Science Inc. in creating formulae and equations used in Powerpoint presentations where can i buy cialis over the counter. It shows the changing colours of text and choosing the font type and style.

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MathJax is an open source web technology that renders mathematics in all modern browsers, tablets, and smartphones. This video tutorial explains how you can use MathJax to display mathematics in your Blackboard course material to easily share mathematical material with your students.

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Good use of Microsoft Word Styles, headings and specific formatting rather than TAB, Spacebar and Enter keys to present a document make it much easier for a screen reader user or someone requiring Braille to work with your learning materials. Text to speech and careful use of colour can also help those with specific learning difficulties and colour deficiencies. All this can also make it easier for you to convert documents into accessible PDFs or Web Pages. If you are using Office 2007/2010 ensure it is backward compatible by saving as a .doc or .rtf as these formats can be read in many other applications such as Open Office.


  • Use Styles. Create headings and subheadings (Heading 1, 2, 3 etc.) using styles, not just bolded, enlarged or centred text. Using headings in a document allows you to create a DAISY digital talking book that is divided into sections; these sections can be navigated by the reader. If you would like to change the appearance of a heading, select Format > Styles and Formatting (Format > Style in Mac). This will change the appearance of all instances of a certain element (e.g. every Heading 1). Make sure Fonts used are readable, preferably size 12/14
  • Use picture descriptions known as ‘alternative (alt) text tags’ for all graphics including graphs and clip art. Insert the image - Right Click on the image, select Format Picture (or select Format > Picture from the menu bar), click the Web tab and enter the description in the box labelled Alternative text. In Office 2007 use the size menu > alt text tab that site. Make sure the text is short but conveys meaning.
  • Do not forget page numbers and create bulleted or numbered lists using the menu button and built in styles not just symbols and spaces.
  • Make sure all tables have headers across the top. If you have one row across the top, you can set this row as a header by selecting the table and choosing Table >Table Properties > Row tab > Repeat as Header Row at the top of each page. Tables should have a uniform structure with no merged cells as these can upset the reading order for someone using a screen reader. Table row and column titles should be concise and if possible provide a summary of important elements.
  • Ensure good colour contrast within charts and images and for text, if this is important for explaining items. Check this by printing out in black and white.

Additional Resources

The Portable Document Format (PDF) developed by Adobe can be made accessible, but it very much depends on how the original document is designed. If it is a poster created in a publishing application, scanned or saved from a Word document and locked down for copyright reasons then saved as PDF, it is liable to act in the same way as a picture. This means the text cannot be read by a screen reader or adapted for easier reading. It is appreciated that the concept of the PDF is to ensure that printed or saved versions of a document remain as the author intends, but there are ways to help the reader who uses assistive technologies or requires different formats of the text and graphics.


  • If you save as PDF from a Microsoft Office 2007/2010 document add ‘alt tags’ to pictures or diagrams (menu - format picture) and these will be carried over as will the use of style sheets with headings or templates, page numbers and tables that have headers with the main information e.g. in a calendar the days of the week would go along the top. These features may not work when you print to PDF – see WebAIM and JISC TechDis links below for further instructions.

  • If you use one of the many free converters when working with Microsoft Word make sure you follow the instructions above and then check accessibility and offer alternative formats in HTML and RTF. Mac OSX users do not need these tools as it is possible to print to PDF, but accessibility may remain an issue.

  • If you save the PDF from a publishing application or it has been scanned and is in picture format make sure you offer an alternative in HTML or RTF. There is also the possibility of adding alternative text and helping the reader to follow the correct reading order in an original PDF by adding appropriate tags etc if you have Adobe Acrobat Professional – see JISC TechDis link below for further instructions.

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional may not be available to staff, but if you are using this application – follow the advice in the ‘Accessibility Setup Assistant’ under the ‘Advanced menu’. Here there are guidelines for tags to describe pictures, structure, form fields and reading flow when magnified. If you need to scan in a document use the Optical Character Recognition offered in the latest versions – use the Accessibility Check with 'Create Accessibility Report' and 'Include repair hints in the Accessibility Report' boxes checked – see JISC TechDis link below for further instructions.

  • Test your document by using Adobe Reader Accessibility Quick Check under the Document menu and the Read Out Loud feature under the View menu. If you have made your document available on-line you can also use the URL with Adobe converter to HTML or text. Offer alternative formats such as HTML and RTF or Office documents in their original format if they are available.

  • MathML tags will be needed if equations and mathematical symbols are to be read by screen reader users. However, it is better to produce documents in other formats such as MS Word with MathType or XHTML and Daisy using MathType and MathDaisy . Internet Explorer with MathPlayer will read these documents.

Additional Resources:

Tactile graphics for science subjects are hard to achieve without specialist support if the diagrams are complex. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has a collection of documents about Tactile Math Graphics.

The RNIB have several pages about making tactile graphics where the user can feel a drawing.  Swell paper comes in many forms and is used to develop raised drawings as demonstrated in the video below.  It is also possible to use computer printers and then heat the results for more complex drawings as demonstrated in a series of videos and documents by the company ViewPlus with their embossers


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When we talk about Twitter and tweets we are really talking about microblogging.  It is similar to blogging in the way that a user publishes information, although in this case the content that they are publishing is generally much smaller. Twitter which allows users to publish 140 character sentences as their posts. Users can follow each other, which means that they are updated whenever someone makes a new post. As this is really just a scaled down version of blogging, features such as rich text editors are not required, which means that microblogging is generally more accessible. The smaller scale also means that microblogs can easily be accessed from mobile devices.


  • If you are using Twitter is has a Captcha when registering. The Captcha system for preventing spam etc is not accessible to screen reader users unless an alternative is offered. In some cases the audio version can be just as hard to use so support may be required for the initial login.
  • Accessible Twitter is an alternative to the main Twitter site that provides a more accessible interface. It still uses the main Twitter service, but is optimised for screen reader and keyboard only users by providing features such as keyboard accessible links.
  • Microblogging has no message threading. This can make it very hard to follow a subject based discussion especially if other messages come in between. There is a search feature but it can bring up many random results.  Be aware of the importance of keywords and context in all messages.
  • Extensive use of abbreviations and contracted language. This can affect readability and issues for those using screen readers.  Try to keep to conventional abbreviations wherever possible.
  • URLs should be recognisable if possible. Try to keep to the full URL if possible, although in many cases a shortened one using a service such as TinyURL  is the only way to complete the message within the 140 characters.
  • Be careful about advice on software tools that interface microblogging sites.  Although you may have chosen an accessible web tool for your microblog, there are many third party software tools that are used to interface with the microblog that are not as accessible.  However, it is possible to use a tool such as Twinbox that works in Outlook which may be easier for some.  Twitterrific and Syrinx are reported to be accessible for MAC, iPhone, and iPod users.

Additional Resources

Graphs vary in their complexity and students with visual impairments may well find it hard to work with those that have many layers of information.  NCAM in USA offer guidance on how to provide access to graphs for users who are blind or visually impaired.

The following resources may be useful for finding products and services that translate charts and graphs into alternative formats: 

  • The CoGenTex Chart Explainer
  • Chart Explainer automatically generates natural-language summaries of charts and tables.

  • ViewPlus Technologies 
    ViewPlus offers a number of products that use audio to interpret charts, graphs and equations.
  • gh LLC 
    gh creates tactile graphics using its LaserLine technology.


Most forums and email lists are very accessible and are an ideal way to reach many students.  However, there are some simple guidelines that can help all users: 

  • Trim messages to only the relevant portion of the conversation to which you are replying. If there is a question, delete all previous messages from your response unless you are linking to sections from each one of them. Most modern e-mail clients provide threading that make it easy for users to get previous content without it being repeated in every message. 
  • Keep subject lines descriptive and succinct, just as you would a chapter title. If replying to a message, reply directly to that message without modifying the subject line. This keeps the mail thread intact. However, if you are a list digest subscriber, modify the subject line to be "Re: " and then the exact subject of the message to which you are replying.
  • Make sure your holiday auto-responders are NOT set to send to the list. If you cannot customise this, please ensure that the word "holiday" or "out of the office" appears in the subject line and the list will filter them out.
  • Keep message signatures to a minimum. Your full page e-mail legal disclaimer and confidentiality notice apparently carries no legal weight, so please don't include it on list messages.
  • Avoid attachments. Many lists do not allow for attachments or have a low limit for the amount of MB, so only send them if necessary. Ensure any attachments are in an accessible and readily supported format. Attachments do not usually appear in list archives.

Below is a video demonstrating how a screen reader user may read emails on Yahoo Mail if they use the NVDA free screen reader with the Firefox browser. 


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This is a huge question and one that could take up an entire website rather than one FAQ answer but there are some easy checks available on Web2Access and the video below provides a good overview from Carly Malone, who is a web analyst for The Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC). The DAC is a social enterprise that helps to make the websites of businesses and organisation accessible to disabled people.

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Podcasts are audio or video files that are created as a series of episodes and distributed over the Internet. Software products are available that automatically maintain all podcasts that you subscribe to by automatically downloading new episodes, or you can manually choose to download or stream a particular episode. A podcast can be downloaded and played on a portable media player, or on a computer using media playing software. Anyone can make a podcast using a computer, free recording software and a microphone.


JISC TechDis offer 8 main points with more information on making podcasts accessible

  • Check at the earliest opportunity whether any of your students are likely to be excluded by the podcast. If so, discuss with each of them how you can take other, equivalent approaches.
  • Record at the best quality you can and exclude background noises.
  • Recorded audio can be replayed and this may benefit some deaf students - consider doing more with audio or being supportive or students who ask to record sessions.
  • Consider using the podcast Show Notes to describe what has happened in the audio in either summary form or full transcript form, depending on the nature of the podcast and its learning value.
  • Severely or profoundly deaf students will not be able to use the audio directly and you will need to engage them in other ways.
  • Be clear about the value of learning in the recording. If you need to provide alternative materials they should offer equivalent benefits, not necessarily identical content.
  • Do not pre-script podcasts in order to create an accessibility 'transcript' - this is likely to significantly limit the benefits of the podcast for others.
  • Good educational podcasting often leads to learning conversations - think about providing other ways into such conversations that may complement the podcast as a source for ideas. 
  •  Accessibility of Audio and video streaming controls. Users who do not use a mouse need to be able to access the controls to play the content and they need to be described so that a screen reader user can understand them. For video, Flash is a widely supported format that can be made both keyboard and screen reader accessible. Audio files embedded in a flash player are a good option for providing this functionality providing keyboard access is available – check by tabbing into the player.
  • Consider the file format of your podcasts. Some file types require certain players to view them. If these are not widely used, then to access your podcast, people will have to install the player before they can get to the content, which adds an extra layer of complexity. MP3 is the most supported audio format and should be used for audio downloads. Flash is widely supported and therefore makes the best streaming video format at the time of writing.   

Additional Resources

Blogs are not hard to make accessible with just a few pointers:


  • The choice of Blog service is important.  The rich text editor used to add content to make the web pages may not be accessible. This means that not all the menu items can be reached using a keyboard or screen reader.  Check this by tabbing around the menus and ensuring that all options can be reached. 
  • Check to see if keyboard shortcuts are available.  Some rich text editors offer keyboard shortcuts similar to those used in Word or any other word processor. These can be very useful to keyboard and screen reader users.  Examples such as Ctrl+B for bold are common place but ways of making lists and adding images via the keyboard may not be so easy.
  • Make sure it is possible to add alternative text to graphics when they are added to a page. If the graphics have words embedded in the picture, please explain these in the content as you will be unlikely to be able to add a long description elsewhere when using a rich text editor.  
  • Multimedia elements will require alternative formats.  Examples of alternative formats are transcripts of audio presentations, text descriptions for graphical representations, captions for video and flash animations etc.  Once again these may have to be part of the blog content.
  • Make sure titles, headings and subheadings are clear.  Good titles help search engines and users, headings and subheadings making scanning text easier and help screen reader users.  Rich text editors have the appropriate features to allow these settings.
  • Keep contrast levels and text sizes comfortable for all Good contrast levels between text and the background colour as well as font sizes 10/12 and above make reading content easier. 
  • Use spell checkers and avoid overly complex language. There may be a spell checker within the rich text editor, but if not the use of Google Toolbar checker or add-on /built in browser spell checkers can be helpful.  Cutting and pasting from a desktop word processor is also an option or try downloading Windows Live Writer, which acts as a desktop application that links to the blog automatically. ScribeFire, as an extension for all major browsers. offers a browser option for blog writing whilst surfing.

Further Resources

There is a very good video on the subject by Glenda Watson-Hyatt who uses discusses the subject under the title of The Left Thumb Blogger


"The JISC TechDis Accessibility Essentials Guide on Making Documents More Readable has been designed to give practical step-by-step information, to enable anyone reading material to amend its look and feel into a style which suits them. These hints and tips will not only be of great use to people who read documents on-screen, but also to those presenting material (for example, via a data projector) in different lighting conditions, or those who work in differing levels of light (for example, while working on a train)."

This animated video shows you how you can check the accessibility of your Microsoft Word 2010 documents. 


This video covers the issues discussed above, between 56s and 4m2s.

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The HESTEM Mathematics Curriculum Innovation project "explored methods to produce flexible and accessible learning resources for mathematics" with a series of guides that are available in multiple formats.  The overview document provides the introduction to subject and is followed by 'how to write LaTeX for multiple output formats, including documenting symbol, structure, style and commands constraints' plus 'how to write Word documents for multiple output formats including style and symbol constraints'. The final group of documents cover practical steps to 'setting up the required software and running the transformations in LaTeX and Word documents'.


There is a website that offers "Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books"  "This website provides both general guidelines that should be followed when describing STEM images and many examples of how the guidelines can be implemented. The guidelines are the result of a seminal 4-year effort encompassing multiple surveys with describers and with students and scientists with vision loss to research preferred practices for description of visual information in textbooks and journals."

The American Foundation for the Blind describe it as a 'Smorgasbord of Techniques' and this is the case with all students.  Note taking may take place with the help of an assistant but it is better if the student can gain independence with the use of their own assistive technology such camera with magnification or a Braille portable device or laptop with a screen reader and Latex.  

This video covers the issues discussed above, between 10m19s and 12m50s.

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"I have a Blind Student in My Maths/Science Class, Should I panic? How to promote inclusion for blind students" Invited speaker session by Donal Fitzpatrick, Lecturer at the School of Computing at Dublin University, at Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate, the 2011 conference of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Session given in Leeds, UK, on Thursday 8 September 2011 at 10.30. For information about ALT go to Made publicly available by ALT under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England and Wales license


There are many different technologies that can be used for note taking from digital recorders, mobile phones to the latest tablets but many blind students use portable braille devices such as those illustrated on the EmpTech site as they can offer other features such as reading ebooks, calendars and calculators.  Other students may use a laptop with magnification and/or screen reader software.  But these tools to not make it easy to copy diagrams or complex graphs and there are times when human support is required. 

The video below has been made in Florida with younger students but it illustrates a wide range of Braille note takers. 


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There are many devices around that can help with reading from a distance but each student with a visual impairment will have their own preferences for the type of support that helps them in each situation and it may be as simple as providing handouts with large print.  

If a student cannot see the board very clearly there may be issues around taking notes independently. It is possible to use a laptop with a portable camera magnifier that can view things at a distance and show the result on the screen or a moncocular that allows the student to look up at items individually.  There is also the option of recording the lecture but that does not account for diagrams, equations etc. The help of a notetaker may be the only option in some cases. 

Providing slides in advance and warning students in adance with links to online informaiton about the content of the lecture can be very helpful and allows a student to change the look and feel of any notes to suit their needs.  It is important to make the slides accessible. 

This is a video that attempts to simulate what a student with a visual impairment experiences in a lecture driven classroom [A maths lesson]. Note: The sound is not intended to be low, it's just not a terribly good audio recording because of the camera used.


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"Visually impaired students have difficulty in extracting information from displayed notices.  Departments should ensure that any information posted in this way is sent electronically or given verbally to students who cannot read the notice boards.  Always check that students can access their student email and the web without any problems.  The first few weeks can sometimes prove difficult if students are waiting to receive new equipment.  A text only version of the departmental web site is usually more accessible for visually impaired students. " (Swansea University Guidance)

Here is one person's view of what it is like to be visually impaired with a reduced visual field.  You only need to view a few seconds of this video to realise how restrictive it can be when navigating around things or reading signs and notice boards. 

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This is an enormous subject as it very much depends on the type of practicals but the main points are covered by the Open University Inclusive Teaching guidance and the SENDA compliance guidance provided by the University of Plymouth although written in 2002 has some useful checks.  

The video below shows an example of a Talking Balance for measuring items with audio feedback to assist blind students. 

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There are many resources to help you make a conference, meeting or presentation accessible and they are being collected on the eAccess+ wiki under the title of Accessible Events

The following pointers are adapted from those provided by The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education - Think about:

  • Well-lit areas, adjustable lighting.
  • Obstacle-free environment (i.e., free of protruding objects that cannot be detected easily).
  • Large, tactile directions for equipment, lifts, and cloakrooms
  • Dog runs in the hotel or convention center (or an area near the outside entrance) for guidedog  users.
  • Appropriate accommodations in guest rooms.
  • Choose well-lit and easily accessible meeting rooms.
  • Control background noise to the greatest extent possible.
  • Choose a meeting room with good acoustics and an auxiliary sound system, if possible.
  • Provide alternative formats for printed materials (handouts, overheads, etc.) disseminated at the meeting, such as raised print, large print, Braille, audio, online versions or CD/pen drives.
  • Discuss with each presenter, prior to the meeting, the importance of developing a presentation that will be accessible to all participants.
  • Instruct the presenter(s) to include only the key points of the presentation on overheads or slides. Be sure they are completely legible, with large print and sharp, contrasting colours. In addition, ask the presenter(s) to limit the number of overheads or other visual aids used in the presentation and to allow adequate time for the audience to read the visual aids.
  • Ask the speaker(s) to accompany conference materials, including presentations and handouts, with a complete verbal description. If slides, overheads, videos, or other visual aids are used, the speaker must describe them orally. Ask presenter(s) to provide a copy of presentation materials well in advance to allow for large print or Braille transcription.
  • Instruct the presenter(s) to speak in well-paced and well-modulated tones. It is particularly important for presenters to monitor their rate of speech and not speak too rapidly. At the beginning of the presentation, tell participants with disabilities that notes will be available in appropriate formats.
  • Check for the special needs of presenters with disabilities. Special needs may include ramping or podium requests, a reverse interpreter, an orientation and mobility specialist, or guide for a person with limited vision.

The Sensory Access in Higher Education. Guidance report 2009.ECU London provides some useful decisions that may help management make access to areas on the campus easier to achieve.  But for those teaching STEM subjects there may be specific issues affecting access to science laboratories, field trips and other test situations. 

The Geography Network have provided some useful pointers:

Lectures and laboratories

An essential component of the fieldwork experience are the lectures and laboratory sessions that precede, accompany and follow the study activities in the field. Among the things you can do to make lectures more accessible to visually impaired students are:

  • Ensure that full advance notice is given and that physical access to the lecture or lab venue is easy.

  • Ensure that visual aids used in a lecture or presentation are either directly accessible (e.g. large text format) or that some alternative is made available (e.g. in digital format on a floppy disk, or on a Web site).

  • Describe the contents of any visual material (e.g. table, graph, map) displayed on screen or board.

  • Pace the presentation so that visually impaired students can keep up in terms of (say) braille or PC note-taking.

  • Use a digital recorder to record the lecture, which they can transcribe at their leisure later — remind staff to reserve a front-row seat if a visually impaired student requests one.

  • Use a braille typewriter or laptop computer to take notes.

  • Use a peer note-taker — i.e. a student who will share their class notes with them. (The university disability unit may be able to provide free carbon paper to student helpers to provide this service for visually impaired students in their class.)

  • Bring their guide dog into class rooms (if they have one) — allocate a suitable seat so that the dog is not in other students' way. (This is especially important in laboratories, where the possibility of accidents may be greater.)

For laboratory work, the following additional issues are also important:

  • Provide suitable additional task lighting for non-blind visually impaired students.

  • Ensure that appropriate safety procedures are in place, and that visually impaired students have been trained in their observance. (See your local health and safety representative for professional advice on the use of laboratories by visually impaired students.)

Most commercial magnification software offers colour changes and sometimes screen reading that can help students with low vision access STEM subjects. However, the software may not display all web pages in the way you want if you need to work with complex sites that have Mathematical and Science based formulae.  Watch this video to see AbilityNet Consultant Johann De Boer demonstrating screen magnification software He explains the impact page layout and design can have on web users with low vision


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Steve Maddox described in MSOR Connections Vol 7 No 2 May – July 2007, (PDF download) how the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of Nottingham investigated several ways to produce mathematical Braille from LaTeX files, and chose to use the Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT).  It was not always ideal and the paper discusses some of the issues that arose. 

The video below illustrates Duxbury Braille Translator working with Maths and graphs. 

This video covers the issues discussed above, between 2m17s and 3m4s.

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Complex diagrams are often described in writing or by an assistant working with a blind student, but there are times when a tactile graphic that can be felt - developed with raised film or specialist paper - swell paper, may be more helpful.  The RNIB provide guidelines about tactile graphics as it is not always easy to make your own diagrams if there is a considerable amount of fine detail.  

The video below gives a brief view of how a tactile drawing of complex leaves may look and then as raised tactile shapes with braille labels.

This video covers the issues discussed above, between 48s and 1m17s.

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AbilityNet Consultant Johann De Boer demonstrates screen magnification software. He explains the impact page layout and design can have on web users with low vision.


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The range of tools, devices and technologies that can help students who have visual impairments is enormous and RNIB have a wide range,  So much depends on the task being undertaken and the way in which the resources provided for the student are presented - whether they are accessible and easy to use.   JISC TechDis have a series of supporting guides and the video below provides an overview of some of the technologies available, including items that are free.  


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Listen to the podcast (identical content but without video).

View the Xerte toolkits version (video with accompanying transcript).

Download and Read the transcript.


Show notes - taken from JISC TechDis website

General background

Tools to try

Free software tools to support visually impaired learners with descriptions (unzip and start with the StartHere file) – download bundle.

MyVisBar – a collection of VI specific tools collated by Regional Support Centre Scotland NE and now curated by Soffed


There are issues with reading equations in different browsers and sometime upgrades to browsers impact on the ability of the screen reader user to access the Maths equations as has been noted by JAWS users with Internet Explorer 9.  W3C has more information about MathML notation

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It is often the case that it is the screen reader technology that reads out items on the screen rather than magnification that causes issues.  

There are ways of making some of the more complex screen reading sofware packages such as JAWS, Window-Eyes and SuperNova work by adding scripts and mapping them to the menus.  This is a task for an expert and often the user of the software will be aware of forums that have information on the subject.  If not the companies who support the technologies will be able to to help.  In this case Sight and Sound, Window-Eyes and Dolphin Access Computers

Approach JAWS Scripting Introduction YouTube video

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Approach (Accessibility) Ltd. have put together three short videos to show their JAWS menu system designed to help blind and visually impaired people use computers. Approach staff have been scripting JAWS using advanced scripts for over ten years. This introductory video explains the benefits of using the Approach menu system.

One of the methods for building webpages with mathematical expressions that blind computer user's screen readers can read is the use of MathSpeak.  The 'mechanism creates the necessary HTML/XML tags for visually-impaired and blind users to use their current screen-reading tools (e.g. JAWS and Window-Eyes for Windows) to read HTML and MathML/XML pages that contain math expressions, to read them in a spoken language.

This markup is not displayed in the browser. Only the MathML visual markup, or a PNG image, or a LiveMath Plug-In interactive image - whatever the author intended, is shown.

This is an example of a simple integral using a PNG:

 integral from lower limit negative 1 to upper limit 1 of integrand  x to the 2 power plus 3x plus 2 dx Stop MathSpeak

The "MathSpeak This" function makes it possible to hear the expression read during the creation/editing process.  The company provide several examples of the plugin required


It is a tough call to expect a blind student to create statistical analyses and accompanying graphs for a sighted audience, without any assistance from sighted support staff or colleagues. However it is being made possible through the BrailleR Project developed by Jonathan Godfrey at Massey University, New Zealand.  
Most software such as  Statistica or GenStat is inaccessible to screen reader and braille users.  Minitab and SPSS require specialist scripts and are still hard to access. Stata and SAS offer some options but the open source R environment for statistical computing and graphics offers the best option according to Dr. Godfrey "R works for blind people without special scripts or modifications. We run it like the sighted run it."

InftyReader is an Optical Character Recognition application that can be used with a scanner to capture scientific symbols and convert them into LaTeX, MathML and XHTML.   There is also an editor that allows those authoring complex Science symbol based documents in an accessible format that can be read using ChattyInfty which is a specially designed screen reader for this task. Below is a YouTube Video showing InftyReader in use. 'InftyReader Automatically Converting a BMP Math Image to MathML


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T3 Tactile tabletPeter Chevins and Adela Nacer from Keele University have produced a very helpful set of slides that cover several strategies that can be used when "Teaching Biological Science to Blind Students" they show the use of tactile diagrams using the T3 Tactile tablet alongside other strategies for supporting their two students. 

Setting the agenda for Inclusive Assessment: is a short auditing tool intended to support the activity of reviewing assessment strategies with a view to establishing inclusive practice. The approach highlights six key points of engagement, as a set of targeted questions, at the following levels:

  • Institutional level
  • Programme level
  • Academic staff level
  • External examiner level
  • Student participation level
  • Assessment level

Each of the six sets of questions are structured in such a way as to help to identify the elements of the framework necessary to establish inclusive assessment. 

JISC TechDis has a section on Inclusive E-assessment.  but much of the work on e-assessment has come under the banner of web accessibility.  There are commerical programs that provide frameworks for developing online assessments but as discussed in a CETIS Sig with JISC TechDIs accessibility is not guaranteed.   This page (despite having been written in 2006) has some very useful considerations. 

This is the HTML version of the Accessible e-Assessment: What We Need to Think About (PowerPoint format - 72Kb) given by Sharon Perry, CETIS.

  1. Overview.

    This presentation is just a very brief overview of some of the issues that need to be taken into account when considering e-assessment. There is a lot to think about and the issues range from strategic all the way down to the nitty-gritty of the technical implementations. This is not something one person can achieve but needs a consolidated approach across the academic, administrative, and technical sectors.

  2. Technical Considerations.
    • Font size, background colour etc - i.e. the basic technical considerations. These conditions apply to all software. If a student can access and use the software, this will go a long way to ensuring accessibility but there is still a lot more that needs to be considered.
    • Will assistive technologies work with the VLE or assessment software? Although this is something that may need to be addressed by vendors, it is important to check that assistive technologies actually work in the expected way when using such software before the student attempts the assessment.
    • Conformance to W3C, IMS, and other accessibility and assessment guidelines will also help in ensuring that the software is technically accessible but there is still a lot more to be considered.
    • Use of mouse, multimedia, or other potentially inaccessible format or hardware - Not all students can use a mouse or access multimedia formats, such as Flash, movies, sound, or images. Not all students may have speakers or headphones. Therefore, alternative formats, exercises or ways of accessing the assessment will need to be provided - e.g. captions on sound, keyboard as well as mouse access, alt tags on images etc. But if providing such alternative formats will invalidate the assessment then an alternative but equivalent way assessing the learning objective will need to be found, which may not necessarily be online.
  3. Pedagogical Considerations.
    • What are the learning outcomes? Is the learning objective being tested rather than a student's manual or technological skills? (Unless, of course, that is the whole point of the assessment. In which case, alternative but equivalent ways of assessment may need to be found).
    • Is the learning objective actually being tested? Or is using e-assessment just a way to show off and play around with the technology?
    • Is e-assessment the best way? Non-electronic assessments may provide a better assessment experience and may also be more beneficial to certain students. For example, a dyslexic student may find writing a long essay difficult but may be able to produce a video instead.
    • Do all students have the same opportunity to succeed uk kamagra? All students should be given the same opportunity to engage in the assessment regardless of disability, learning style, preference, or technology. If an e-assessment is intrinsically inaccessible and reasonable adjustments cannot be made, then an alternative equivalent means of assessment should be provided. For example, an exercise where major airports have to be dragged and dropped onto a map would be inaccessible to a student who is blind. However, a multiple choice alternative could be offered.
    • Is the assessment valid and engaging (and accessible)? Yes it can be. But taking the easy way out and just catering for the lowest common denominator is not an option. For example, creating a text only based e-assessment is likely to be uninteresting and, although it may be accessible to some people, may be inaccessible to people with cognitive disabilities, or those who prefer to have images or interactive content.
  4. Strategic Considerations.
    • Policies - departmental, institutional, etc. Ensure that any e-assessment (or alternative equivalent) assessment is in line with department and institutional policies. Is there any Quality Assurance?
    • "Gradebook" facilities - Some VLEs and other e-learning software allow a student and teacher to access a "gradebook" which hold the student's marks and any feedback by the teacher. This is important for the student to see which areas need improvement. However, it also needs to be accessible (but this will probably be down to the vendors to address).
    • Interoperability - with assessment software can improve accessibility if the vendor has tried to make the software accessible. The use of question banks could cause accessibility problems but may also provide alternative equivalent assessments.
  5. Practical Considerations.
    • Student consultation - If you are aware that a student has special requirements, talk to the student about what assessment requires and what the student requires. If the student needs to use any assistive technology, ensure that the use of it will not invalidate the learning outcome and test it before the student takes the assessment. Otherwise consider an alternative means of assessment.
    • Extra time - Some students will need a longer time to complete an assessment than others. Therefore, time-outs should be extendable or not used if possible. Special provision may need to be made (in the software or physically) for students who need to have longer than the allotted time for taking a test.
    • Physical considerations - Not really under the remit of e-assessment but it could have a bearing if the assessment is taken under exam conditions. Students who use screen readers or other assistive technology may need to take the assessment in a separate room. Likewise, students who need to take frequent breaks or who cannot sit for long periods of time. Special chairs, computer equipment, or desks may also need to be provided.
    • Timing of assessments - Again not quite under the remit of e-assessment, but some students with disabilities or taking medication such as M E who have to undertake several assessments in a day, may find it too tiring. Students may only be able to take exams at certain times of the day when they feel at their strongest.
    • Security - If students use their own computers because of the way in which their assistive technology is set up, this could cause problems with security if the student has crib sheets hidden away on the computer. There has been a long discussion about this on one of the forums.
    • Information - Assessment details should be made available to students in plenty of time so that any adjustments or alternative arrangements can be made.

This can vary hugely depending on the type of examination, the accessibility of the examination paper and the skills of the examinee in terms of technology use as well as the type of visual difficulties.  An accessible electronic copy of the examination allows the examinee to use their magnification and screen reading assistive technologies.  However, it will still take longer for the student to navigate around the examination questions and fill in answers not forgetting issues with inaccessible diagrams, graphs etc. .  

Being realistic about exam adjustmentsThe use of amanuensis, extra time, large print options and alternative formats must all be considered months before the examinations are taken. If 50-100% extra time is offered then rest breaks must be taken into account.  Further information can be found on the Open University Inclusive Teaching website.