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Access to mathematics for visually disabled students through multimodal interaction

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Publication details

JournalHuman-Computer interaction
DatePublished - 1997
Issue number1-2
Number of pages46
Pages (from-to)47-92
Original languageEnglish


Mathematics relies on visual forms of communication and is thus largely inaccessible to people who cannot communicate in this manner because of visual disabilities. This article outlines the Mathtalk project, which addressed this problem by using computers to produce multimodal renderings of mathematical information. This example is unusual in that it is essential to use multiple modalities because of the nature and the difficulty of the application. In addition, the emphasis is on nonvisual (and hence novel) modalities.

Crucial to designing a usable auditory interface to algebra notation is an understanding of the differences between visual and listening reading, particularly those aspects that make the former active and the latter passive. A discussion of these differences yields the twin themes of compensation for lack of external memory and provision of control over information flow. These themes were addressed by: the introduction of prosody to convey algebraic structure in synthetically spoken expressions; the provision of structure-based browsing functions; and the use of a prosody-based musical glance based on algebra earcons.

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