42 Formulas

Math or Science formulas in open educational resources can be challenging to deliver in a way that is accessible to people with vision impairments. Non-scalable images of mathematical content cannot be sufficiently enlarged or navigated by low-vision users and are not accessible to blind users at all.

What Are Formulas?

Formulas include: Math equations or science formulas

File types: LaTex or MathType

Before You Begin

Who Are You Doing This For?

This work supports students who:

  • Are blind or have low vision
  • Have a form of cognitive disability,
  • Have a physical disability

The following content is a derivative of Equations: Images vs. MathML from Accessibility and Usability at Penn State, http://accessibility.psu.edu/equations.

What Do You Need to Do?

There are several ways to handle equations from images with ALT tags to MathML. Having access to an equation editor such as MathType or MathMagic can streamline processing and converting equations considerably. These tools are similar to equation editors found in the ANGEL HTML Editor and Microsoft Office.


Math ML is a text-based XML markup language designed for math equations. Browsers that support MathML are able to translate the XML into a formatted equation. Since MathML with MathJax can be rendered in many systems, including HTML, Sites at Penn State, ANGEL and Drupal, it is considered the best choice for accessibility.

Information about creating and viewing MathML is available on that page.

MathML may vary from system to system and the content can change rapidly.

Image with ALT tag

A safe option to create an image of an equation (or export it from an equation editor) and then insert the image into a document with an ALT tag.

Note: ALT tags can be written in Nemeth MathSpeak for students who have learned that system.

{\displaystyle m={\frac {m_{0}}{\sqrt {1-{\frac {v^{2}}{c^{2}}}}}}}

View the ALT Tag

ALT= “m equals begin fraction m sub 0 over begin square root 1 minus begin fraction v sup 2 over c sup 2 end fraction end square root end fraction”


LaTeX is a math markup language familiar to many in the science and math community, but unfortunately it is not currently supported by screen reader technology. However, it is fairly simple to convert LaTeX to an image or MathML in most equation editors.

For example, in the UBC Wiki you can insert a piece of LaTeX code using the <math> tag:

m = \frac{m_0}{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^2}{c^2}}}

The equation should appear fully formatted. Make minor adjustments as needed.

Audio Files

User testing with students have indicated that it would helpful to have an audio file of the formula or equation. The audio file would be placed beside the formula or equation and would allow the user to hear exactly how the formula or equation is interpreted.

Additional Resources

  • In 2012, Portland Community College departments took a closer look at making math accessible to blind students. Read more about the math accessibility study on our website: http://www.pcc.edu/access.
  • The DO-IT project from the University of Washington provides guidance on creating accessible math content.
  • The AccessSTEM website provides guidance on creating accessible science, technology, engineering and math educational content.


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