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Friday, February 10 2023 Schedule

Noon Eastern Friday Sessions

Proposal Title: Configuring Tables for Accessibility


Elizabeth Pyatt, Penn State University

Presentation Summary

In addition to equations, many STEM courses use data tables to convey information critical for students to access and comprehend. Unfortunately, many of these tables are built inaccessibly making it difficult for students with both visual disabilities and cognitive differences to navigate them effectively. This presentation covers some different guidelines for creating accessible tables: 1) Avoiding the use of merged cells, 2) providing an accessible title for a table and 3) properly labeling rows and columns.

After a discussion of these guidelines, the second half discusses ways to remediate or re-design inaccessible tables. Instead of focusing on “automatic repairs.” The session will focus on how to think about underlying information structure in order to understand how to re-present the information in an accessible manner. We will introduce common examples of inaccessible tables, particularly those with merged cells, and provide recommendations of how they may be restructured. Suggestions may include splitting the original table into multiple tables, consolidating content across table cells, converting some tables to hierarchical lists and using styles to preserve some styles of the original table while presenting content more accessibly. In extreme cases, a designer may be using tabular formatting to provide information that is actually a list or some other structure. 

Finally, the session will discuss when tables can be used to provide an accessible long description for objects such as charts or diagrams. Any time a design team has access to the original data set, it can be used to provide accessible information for anyone having difficulties processing a chart or diagram image.

Key Points

  • Review WCAG 2.2 guidelines for accessible tables.
  • Provide examples of the redesign of inaccessible tables. 
  • Discuss when tables can provide effective long descriptions of charts and diagrams.

You can reach Elizabeth Pyatt at LinkedIn

Proposal Title: MathCAT: an Open Source Library for Generation of Speech and Braille


Neil Soiffer, Talking Cat Software

Presentation Summary

MathCAT (Math Capable Assistive Technology) is an open source library that converts MathML to speech and braille. It also supports synchronized highlighting of the displayed math and speech along with navigation of math expressions. MathCAT was implemented as a replacement for MathPlayer which is no longer being developed. The primary goal of MathCAT is to make it easy for all assistive technology (AT) to incorporate state of the art speech and braille generation into their software so that math is universally supported.

MathCAT has many options that AT and/or users can set. These include the language to use for speech/braille, the style of speech, control over the amount of pausing, and the relative rate of speech for math.

The design of MathCAT centers around an idea currently being discussed for MathML 4: author intent. Some math notations are ambiguous. For example (3, 12) can be a point, an open interval, or even the greatest common divisor. If the author includes that intent in the generated MathML (or it is added by a remediator), MathCAT will use it. If there is no author intent, MathCAT applies heuristics to infer the intent. This results in a design where there are two sets of rules: one to use or infer author intent, and another set of rules that transform the intent into language-dependent speech. Braille (at least Nemeth and UEB) is mostly syntactic rather than semantic; braille generation skips the inference step.

MathCAT is written in Rust and currently has interfaces to C/C++, Python, Java, and JavaScript. Rust is a type safe and memory safe highly efficient language. On a 7th generation Intel i7 processor, generating both speech and braille takes ~4ms for a moderately sized MathML expression. Over 1,400 tests (and counting) ensure correct spoken and braille output.

Key Points

  • Incorporating good math accessibility into AT should not be a problem
  • If authors express their intent, good speech generation is easier
  • Testing, testing, testing

You can reach Neil Soiffer at LinkedIn

1:00 PM Eastern Friday Sessions

Proposal Title: Making STEM Outreach Activities Accessible to and Inclusive of Neurodiverse Learners


Scott Bellman, University of Washington

Eric Chudler, University of Washington

Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

Presentation Summary

Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners (NNL) is an Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) project funded by the National Science Foundation (grant #DRL-1948591). It is directed by the University of Washington Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) program in collaboration with the UW Center on Neurotechnology (CNT). NNL provides hands-on experiences in neuroscience disciplines, networking opportunities, and resources to high school and early postsecondary students identified as “neurodiverse” learners—those with academic challenges related to conditions such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autism spectrum disorder, and Tourette syndrome—and disseminate findings to teachers of courses that are related to neuroscience and, more broadly, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The goal of NNL is to enhance student interest in and skills to successfully pursue STEM fields, as well as empower educators to serve these students more effectively. Most of the activities were originally designed to be on-site, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, project leaders pivoted to an online format with amazing success in terms of student engagement and other positive outcomes. More recently, some activities have been presented on-site as well.

Presenters in this session will share successful online and on-site practices employed by NNL and evidence of impact on student participants. They will emphasize practices that can be replicated by other STEM educators, lessons learned, and useful resources. Consult the NNL web site for more information about this project, descriptions of its activities, and links to resources.

Key Points

  • As a group, students in any classroom are neurodiverse.
  • Universal design (UD) can be used as a framework for addressing the needs of neurodiverse students.
  • Specific practices that can make any STEM courses more accessible and inclusive of neurodiverse students. 

About Scott Bellman

You can reach Eric Chudler at LinkedIn

You can reach Sheryl Burgstahler at LinkedIn

Proposal Title: Math & STEM Content Made Accessible in an eLearning World


Louis Shanafelt, Texthelp

Presentation Summary

Times like these call for new and different measures, especially for students that struggle. While these changes won’t occur overnight, there are steps that all educators can begin taking now, in addition to many supports that can make teaching in a blended learning environment much easier. For starters, professors and higher education institutions must adopt a digital first strategy when it comes to instructional materials. Creating digital content is important. It is much more likely to be accessible than its paper based equivalent. Moving towards digital materials means being inclusive of all learners, giving them multiple ways to understand concepts and express their learning.

It’s no secret that due to the complexity of math symbols, the plethora of worksheets in circulation, and the requirement for students to “show their work,” it has been difficult, if not impossible to create a digital equivalent. Until now…

Equatio is Texthelp’s STEM tool that helps to level the math playing field for students, educators, and disabilities services departments by making it easy to create math that is both digital and accessible. It provides simple, easy access to nearly all forms of existing math. In addition to reading math aloud, users can also use EquatIO to easily convert inaccessible print or digital math documents into their accessible equivalent to be used with many existing Assistive Technologies.

To conclude the session, attendees will learn how Equatio Mobile can now scan full page documents instead of scanning one problem at a time which will allow instructional designers even more opportunities to create content as well as save them ample amounts of time. This will allow for easy access to once inaccessible materials and open the accessibility door for many challenged learners.

Key Points

  • Participants will be able to demonstrate at least 3 ways of creating digital and accessible math.
  • Participants will be able to describe a process for converting physical print-based documents to digital.
  • Participants will play the role of students and answer math problems using the mathspace web application 

You can reach Louis Shanafelt at LinkedIn

You can reach Rachel Kruzel at LinkedIn

2:00 PM Eastern Friday Closing Session

The ATHEN Executive Council will end the conference with a closing session titled, "Moving Forward". This is a facilitated discussion amongst all attendees, providing an opportunity to share new knowledge, ask additional questions, and brainstorm realistic steps one can take at their organization starting the next workday.