Last year, NVDA introduced support for reading and interactive navigation of math content in web browsers and in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. To facilitate this, NVDA uses MathPlayer 4 from Design Science. While MathPlayer is a great, free solution that is already helping many users, it is closed source, proprietary software, which severely limits its future potential. Thus, there is a great need for a fully open source alternative.
Some time ago, Volker Sorge implemented support for math in ChromeVox and later forked this into a separate project called Speech Rule Engine (SRE). There were two major pieces to our task:
- One of the things that sets MathPlayer above other math accessibility solutions is its use of the more natural ClearSpeak speech style. In contrast, MathSpeak, the speech style used by SRE and others, was designed primarily for dictation and is not well suited to efficient understanding of math, at least without a great deal of training. So, we needed to implement ClearSpeak in SRE. Because this is a massive task that would take months to complete (and this was a one day hackathon!), we chose to implement just a few ClearSpeak rules, just enough to read the quadratic equation.
Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant. In short, this is a small grant I can put towards a project of my choice, with the only condition being to "live openly" and share it with the world. And I figured polishing NVDA's integration with SRE was a fitting project for this grant. So, in the coming months, I plan to release an NVDA add-on package which allows users to easily install and use this solution. Thanks to Kathi for nominating me and to the Shuttleworth Foundation for supporting this! Watch this space for more details.