Accessing digital documents with mathematical content for people with visual impairments

Photo of Dragan Ahmetovic

Event Date

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Dr. Dragan Ahmetovic, Scientist, Università degli Studi di Torino in Turin, Italy


James Coughlan





Accessing scientific content within digital documents is often challenging for people with visual impairments. Text information can be easily accessed by the means of assistive tools such as refreshable braille displays or screen readers. However, mathematical formulae or graphs are difficult to translate into an accessible form while preserving the expressiveness of the original format. Providing accessible content is a burden left to document authors, which requires substantial time and effort. Document authors are also frequently unaware of the need for document accessibility, and they may not have the required know-how to create accessible documents. Thus, scientific content is rarely provided in an accessible format, which creates a barrier for access to STEM education and employment for people with visual impairments.  


At laboratory "S. Polin" of the University of Turin, Italy, our research focuses on assistive technologies to enable the access to digital documents with scientific content for people with visual impairments. I will present two of our most recent works: Axessibility is a LaTeX package for generating PDF documents in which mathematical formulae are accessible to people with visual impairments using braille displays or screen readers, without requiring the author to add accessible content manually. AudioFunctions.web is a web-based system that enables blind people to explore mathematical function graphs, using sonification, earcons and speech synthesis to convey the overall shape of the function graph, its key points of interest, is accurate quantitative information at any given point.


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