*Steve Noble, Accessibility Research Consultant (Guest Author)*

Next week I'll be presenting a webinar hosted by EASI--Equal Access to Software and Information. I'll be discussing the results of two research studies where middle-school students with learning disabilities used eText containing MathML with assistive technology. Using MathML, students were able to use the same assistive technology in math class as they did for all their other subjects. Furthermore, these studies indicated improved academic performance in mathematics for students using digital instructional materials created with MathML.

The webinar will be held on Tuesday June 17 at 11:00am Pacific time (2:00pm Eastern). To register for this free webinar, go to http://easi.cc/clinic.htm#june and click on the link for the June 17 webinar.

For some helpful suggestions on how to get accessible math materials for use by students at your school, please see * What can you do to help promote math accessibility?*

*Steve Noble is a research consultant with a core focus in mathematics accessibility and assistive technology, and served as a researcher for the University of Kentucky's MeTRC research project. Currently he continues to serve on grant-funded research projects with both Bridge Multimedia and ETS, and previously served as Director of Accessibility Policy for Design Science.*

Academic publisher De Gruyter has announced that they and their publishing partners will produce new ebooks in the EPUB 3 format. This follows closely on the heels of the recent Elsevier EPUB 3 announcement and confirms our belief that many more publishers are moving to EPUB 3. This is significant because, unlike proprietary ebook formats, EPUB is a public standard and version 3 requires MathML to be used for all mathematical equations in order to enable the math to be accessible, searchable, and interoperable. These announcements will likely motivate educators to adopt EPUB for their classroom materials. Also, scientists and engineers will start to appreciate the reflowable text of ebooks and this will hasten the end of their long love affair with PDF for scientific and technical papers.

These announcements by major academic publishers will also accelerate the development of EPUB support in authoring systems such as word processors and technical publishing tools. Since MathType has been producing MathML for many years, it will be an important tool for authoring math intended for publication in EPUB 3 format. Many publishers are already using our MathFlow tools to handle math in their ebook production workflows. Finally, MathPlayer's math-to-speech functionality will be used to make math in ebooks accessible to people with print and learning disabilities such as blindness, low vision, and dyslexia.

*Below is a guest post from Eliot Kimber, the main developer of DITA for Publishers. DITA is an XML standard for documents, well known for its architecture, which promotes modularization and re-use of content.*

The DITA for Publishers (D4P) project provides a general Microsoft Word to DITA transformation framework. This framework makes it relatively easy to generate DITA documents from styled Word documents.

Upcoming D4P release 0.9.19 includes support for getting MathML from Word documents where the MathML equations are stored as text content as generated by the MathType plugin from MathType equations.

This makes it easy for you to use MathType in Word and produce DITA documents that include the equations as MathML markup, rather than as images. You can then use the MathML support in XML editors, such as OxygenXML's integration with MathFlow, to edit the equations in the DITA source.

The DITA for Publishers project includes a domain for including inline MathML in DITA content. In addition, DITA 1.3 will include a standard domain for including MathML, either inline or by reference to separate XML documents.

To get your MathML into your DITA from Word, you need to set up the Word-to-DITA style to tag mapping with the details of the tagging to use for the MathML. You must specify the name of the element to contain the <m:math> element and, optionally, a parent container that represents the equation the MathML produces.

When you convert MathType equations into MathML in the Word document, the MathML goes into text with the character style name "MTConvertedEquation". The D4P Word-to-DITA transform treats each converted equation as a single paragraph with the paragraph style "MTConvertedEquation", where the paragraph contains a single <mathml> element.

You can then use this style name in your style-to-tag map to put the appropriate wrappers around the MathML markup.

For example, to use the D4P markup, you would create a style map entry like this:

<style styleName="MTConvertedEquation" containerType="d4p_display-equation" tagName="d4p_MathML" level="1" structureType="block" topicZone="body" />

Which will result in markup like this:

<d4p_display-equation> <d4p_MathML> <m:math xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" display="block"> <m:semantics> <m:mrow> <m:mfrac> <m:mrow> <m:mi>d</m:mi> <m:mi>x</m:mi> </m:mrow> <m:mrow> <m:mi>d</m:mi> <m:mi>t</m:mi> </m:mrow> </m:mfrac> <m:mo>=</m:mo> <m:mi>J</m:mi> <m:mo>.</m:mo> <m:mi>X</m:mi> <m:mo stretchy="false">(</m:mo> <m:mi>t</m:mi> <m:mo stretchy="false">)</m:mo> </m:mrow> </m:semantics> </m:math> </d4p_MathML> </d4p_display-equation>

To generate the DITA 1.3 markup you would use this style mapping:

<style styleName="MTConvertedEquation" containerType="equation-block" tagName="mathml" level="1" structureType="block" topicZone="body" />

Which would produce this markup:

<equation-block> <mathml> <m:math display='block'> <m:semantics> <m:mrow> <m:mfrac> <m:mrow> <m:mo>−</m:mo><m:mi>b</m:mi><m:mo>±</m:mo><m:msqrt> <m:mrow> <m:msup> <m:mi>b</m:mi> <m:mn>2</m:mn> </m:msup> <m:mo>−</m:mo><m:mn>4</m:mn><m:mi>a</m:mi><m:mi>c</m:mi> </m:mrow> </m:msqrt> </m:mrow> <m:mrow> <m:mn>2</m:mn><m:mi>a</m:mi> </m:mrow> </m:mfrac> </m:mrow> </m:semantics> </m:math> </mathml> </equation-block>

The support for MathML in the D4P Word-to-DITA transform is generic in that the MathML markup could come from any source. The transform is implemented as a two-phase process. The first phase generates an intermediate file (the "simple wordprocessing markup") file and the second phase converts the intermediate file into DITA using the style-to-tag mapping.

In the intermediate file the MathML is just normal MathML markup. This means that the MathML could come from other sources, such as from Word's built-in math markup language or from the MathType equations in other ways, once they are available. The D4P Word-to-DITA transform is completely extensible so if you needed to you could customize the MathML generation process in whatever way you required.

Using the DITA Open Toolkit, you can render MathML to HTML and to PDF.

To render MathML to HTML, you can use the D4P math domain plugin to add MathML support to the base Open Toolkit HTML processing. The generated HTML can include references to the open-source MathJax Javascript library, which renders MathML in any Javascript-aware browser. The D4P math domain HTML plugin also supports both the D4P-provided MathML integration and equation elements as well as the DITA 1.3 MathML integration and equation elements (The D4P-specific MathML and equation domains will be made obsolete by DITA 1.3 and the MathML support currently in DITA for Publishers will be built in to a future version of the Open Toolkit).

To render MathML to PDF using the Open Toolkit you are dependent on the XSL-FO engine you use. Both Apache FOP and Antenna House XSL Formatter support direct rendering of MathML included in the FO file. FOP requires the separate JEuclid libraries (from the Apache JEuclid project). Antenna House's support is built in.

The RenderX XEP product does not provide direct rendering of MathML, so you would need to generate images or SVG from the equations and then reference those from the FO. This wouldn't be that hard to implement (e.g., using either the Design Science MathFlow Document Composer or the JEuclid library).

*Eliot Kimber is an independent consultant at Contrext Solutions focusing on DITA information analysis, markup design, and system implementation for Publishers. Eliot is founding member of the DITA Technical Committee, a founding member of the W3C XML Working Group, a co-editor of ISO/IEC 10744:1997, HyTime 2nd Edition, and a participant in the development of many other SGML- and XML-related standards. Eliot is also the founder and main developer of the DITA for Publishers open-source project. When not creating new DITA specializations, Eliot likes to skateboard, study Aikido, and feed his flock of urban chickens.*

Elsevier, the world's largest publishing company, has just announced that they are going to produce all new ebooks in the EPUB 3 format. This is significant because, unlike proprietary ebook formats, EPUB is a public standard and version 3 requires MathML to be used for all mathematical equations in order to enable the math to be accessible, searchable, and interoperable. We believe that many more publishers will follow Elsevier's lead in adopting EPUB 3 and it will also motivate educators to adopt EPUB for their classroom materials. Finally, scientists and engineers will start to appreciate the reflowable text of ebooks and this will hasten the end of their long love affair with PDF for scientific papers. Expect to see many more scientists at the beach or the coffee shop, mobile device in hand, catching up on their reading!

This announcement will also accelerate the development of EPUB support in authoring systems such as word processors and technical publishing tools. Since MathType has been producing MathML for many years, it will be the tool of choice for authoring math intended for publication in EPUB 3 format. Many publishers are also using our MathFlow tools to handle math in their production workflows already. As more publishers move to producing EPUB 3, we expect this part of our business to grow rapidly. Finally, MathPlayer's math-to-speech functionality will be used to make math in ebooks accessible to people with print and learning disabilities such as blindness, low vision, and dyslexia.