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Access to Maths and Science for Print Impaired People

Dominique Archambault
University Pierre et Marie Curie


Access to Mathematics have always been a problem for print impaired people. The problem is not in the understanding of Mathematical semantic, but in the access to the mathematical content through non visual modalities. Indeed the graphical layout helps a lot sighted people to understand the mathematical semantics, while print impaired people need to memorise a whole expression to catch its overall structure, and as well to do calculations. Another help for sighted mathematicians is the possibility to draw lines and graffiti around expressions, which cannot be done with non visual modalities. Unfortunately this situation leads to a lack of mathematical literacy by print impaired people, and consequently prevents them to access to a large range of scientific studies and therefore forbid them a lot of employment opportunities.

Since a couple of decades, a number of projects have been carried out aiming at overcoming the difficulty of accessing mathematical content via non visual modalities. A first series of works dealt with the problem of generating mathematical content in Braille or speech from mainstream formats, and vice versa. Later interactive systems have been designed to facilitate understanding of mathematical content in Braille or speech, and we assist now to a new challenge : doing mathematics, that is providing support to actually perform calculations, problem solving.

In this paper we will discuss the main difficulties encountered by print disabled people to access mathematics, then we will review the state of the art of researches carried out in this domain, and present the current existing technologies that can be used by pupils and students who need to learn mathematics and to people who need mathematics in their work. Finally we will introduce the ICCHP Summer University on Maths, Sciences and Statistics, which aims at providing students with hands on workshop to actually learn to use these tools and assistive technologies.

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