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Out And About: CSUN Edition

2016 April 28

The DIAGRAM Center and the DIAGRAM Center Community made quite a strong showing at CSUN this year, so much so that we want to dedicate this section of the Digest to what we did, what we learned and why we love the CSUN conference!

Stevie Wonder with Mara Hinter, Betsy Beaumon, Lisa Wadors, Brad Turner, Glinda Hill and Charles La Pierre.

Tactile Graphics Solutions from 2D to 3D: CSUN 2016 Pre Conference Session

By Lisa Wadors, Bentech

At CSUN, Lisa teamed up with Gaeir Dietrich, California Community Colleges and Kaela Parks, Portland Community College to discuss Tactile Graphics Solutions from 2D to 3D.  This pre-conference session looked at a large variety of tactile solutions from the very low tech use of wiki stix to higher tech solutions involving 3D printers.  The goal of this working session was to provide participants with hands-on exploration of a variety of tactile solutions and to identify the right tools for their students. In addition the participants were able to see a 3D printer in action, learn how to optimize the usefulness of tactile learning objects in colleges and universities, and gain exposure to emerging resources and best practices.

Sprinting Towards Accessible Math

By Sue-Ann Ma, Benetech and Charles LaPierre, Benetech

Sprint participants discussing math while others hack away creating solutions. On Tuesday, March 22nd, the DIAGRAM Center, in partnership with OERPUB and OpenStax, and with funds from Kathi Fletcher’s Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship, hosted a one-day hackathon in San Diego. As some of you may recall, this same partnership and funding gave rise to the idea of MathML Cloud just a few years prior. Following on the successes of that collaborative hackathon, we decided to host a follow-up one-day event with the goal of bringing together technical industry and accessibility experts to identify and begin designing open source solutions in efforts to address the next round of challenges regarding digital math accessibility.

It was a pleasure and a rare opportunity to have so many brilliant minds in the same room in addition to a few who joined us remotely from abroad (Alan Harnum and Abi James)! The day was filled witA picture of Sina and James and a laptop with the BAM demo on the screen.h engaging conversations about different implementations of similar work (e.g. semantic tree structures), exploring new technologies such as machine learning for math, using synthesizers to ensure proper reading of math by TTS engines, and many other riveting conversations along with one good-natured argument.

The first of three prototypes that resulted from the day was produced by an all-star team comprised of Sina Bahram, Gerardo Capiel, Ross Reedstrom, Jason White, and Charles La Pierre. The team produced “BAM” (Bundling Accessible Mathematics), a web-based tool produced by the that allows users to switch to their preferred mode of accessing math content on the fly (e.g. use your AT to read MathML versus PNG with alt or SVG with alt).

Derek, Jamie, Volker, Josh, James and Kathi discussing the ClearSpeak rule set.The second prototype that resulted from the day was produced by another amazing team involving Volker Sorge, James Teh, Derek Riemer, and Neil Soiffer. The collaboration connected the open source tools and resources: NVDA, Speech Rule Engine, and the recently released ClearSpeak rule set. And by the end of the day, the team was able to demonstrate NVDA reading MathML using the ClearSpeak rule set.

The third one arrived the next day courtesy of Alan Harnum, one of our virtual attendees, who emailed us saying,

“I was inspired enough by the atmosphere to hack together a tiny demo using MathJax and D3″

Overall, I think the atmosphere for the day can best be described as fun, but intense. Everyone was eager to help produce something amazing and once ideas were identified, it was just a matter of sitting back and enjoying all the bright lightbulbs going off around the room. Sprint participant, Jamie Teh hit the nail on the head when discussing the sprint after dinner when he said,

“Having those people in the room meant that we could come up with a solution that was much more compelling than if I had just sat down by myself”

We agree with Jamie and want to extend a big thank you to all of our volunteer participants for helping move the needle towards making digital mathematics more accessible for all: Jacob Alexander, Sina Bahram, Gerardo Capiel, Kathi Fletcher, John Gardner, Markku Hakkinen, Alan Harnum, Wendy Holden, Abi James, Wunji Lau, Daniel Marques, Joshua Miele, Ross Reedstrom, Derek Riemer, Murray Sargent, Neil Soiffer, Volker Sorge, Marshall Sunnes, James Teh, Ender Tekin, and Jason White!

If you would like to learn more about any of the ideas discussed or pursued during this event, feel free to visit the Math Sprint website.

Accessible Images and Beyond: DIAGRAM Center +

By Sue-Ann Ma

This year at CSUN, the DIAGRAM Center community appeared in full force once again – leading the charge towards accessibility by presenting on dozens of sessions, among other conference events. While we would have loved to write about the plethora of wonderful presentations, this blog will focus on sessions that were explicitly about DIAGRAM or DIAGRAM products.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, our very own Anh Bui, set the tone by kicking off with the session: “Accessible Anh Bui addressing the crowd at her session.Images and Beyond: DIAGRAM Center +”. The session was so hot that it literally became a fire hazard and individuals from the overflowing room were asked by conference staff to leave midway (apologies)! If you weren’t able to hear the complete overview of our new DIAGRAM+ award, we welcome you to learn more by watching the rerun of the CSUN session, to be posted shortly on the DIAGRAM Center’s webinars page or to download the presentation PowerPoint slide deck here.

In addition to Anh’s session, DIAGRAM Center staff were also involved in a couple of product-related group sessions. Despite being scheduled late Friday afternoon, our back-to-back sessions “Discovering Accessible Math that Works with Your AT: Math Support Finder” and “Diagrammar Use Cases: A Framework for Making Images & Graphics Accessible” both drew an active CSUN crowd. During the math session (by Sue-Ann Ma, Sina Bahram, Joshua Hori, Neil Soiffer and Volker Sorge), the group unveiled the newest tool in our DIAGRAM Center repertoire, Math Support Finder, which aims to help educators and end-users find the combination of technologies required to read digital math accessibly. This was followed by a recap of some of the best-in-class tools available today, such as MathType/MathPlayer, WIRIS, and Pearson TestNav, and eventually concluded with a look ahead to cutting-edge, web-based solutions being developed by the MathJax Consortium. The PowerPoint slides for “Discovering Accessible Math that Works with Your AT: Math Support Finder” can be downloaded here, and the slide desk for “Diagrammar Use Cases: A Framework for Making Images & Graphics Accessible” can be downloaded here.

The second of the two panel sessions was about Diagrammar (by Sue-Ann Ma, Becky Gibson, Markku Hakkinen, and Charles La Pierre), a concept that opens the doors to integrating various text options and interactive modalities into the digital (EPUB3) reading experience. The session began by introducing the Diagrammar concept, followed with IBM and ETS sharing how this new framework might be used in the corporate world or for educational testing, and wrapped up with reports about how this technology has been received by early testers as well as both challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Diagrammar Focus Group highlights

By Sue-Ann Ma

Focus Group Participants discussing Diagrammar in the Benetech suite. Also on Wednesday, March 23rd, The DIAGRAM Center hosted two small focus group sessions on user interaction for Diagrammar. The goal of these sessions was to receive early input from end-users, educators, and technology partners on how we might present accessible image alternatives to users and instructors reading a digital e-book. For example, how might we connect an image to additional text descriptions, personal comments from a teacher, or a (2D or 3D) tactile graphics file? Our brief 30-minute sessions taught us that overall, people love options, but what’s considered the best access mode or accessible alternative differs by individual. Thus, the best thing to do when designing this digital reading experiences is to alert users to available options and provide them with the ability to adjust the setting per their individual preferences. If you are interested in learning more, the full results from the focus group session are available for download as a Microsoft Word Document here.

DIAGRAM Office Hours

By Amaya Webster, Benetech

Community is a huge part of what DIAGRAM is about, and as such, we take every opportunity we can to engage and Community members hanging out at the Office Hours event.interact with our community members. We love the CSUN conference because so many of us are there and while we love hearing everyone, we love getting together face to face even more. The Office Hours are a time when we can catch up, exchange ideas, demo what we are working on and just have fun together. At least 60 community members crowded into the Benetech suite on Thursday March 24, for pre-dinner snacks and drinks and conversation on diverse topics such as the use of web components, the future of synchronized speech mark up, and how teachers are getting trained to use iPads.

CSUN Highlights from DIAGRAM’s Technical Lead 

By Charles LaPierre

  •  A new company Fronteer , which makes course material accessible by using OCR and machine learning to convert course materials (PDF’s, scanned images, Word Files, etc.) into accessible ePub documents.  I was thrilled to learn this will also convert images of math into accessible MathML.  This software that connects into a Learning Management system and converts the materials as it gets added to the system while providing feedback to the professors and university administration on how well they are doing and ways to improve their course materials to make them born accessible.  Benetech will be reaching out to explore this work further.
  • Pearson showed off an impressive demo of convertinPearson employee explaining the demo.g real-time Nemeth Braille into MathML.  The software had both an editing area where a student would input Nemeth Braille and simultaneously be converted into MathML (Both presentational and content) then displayed so that a teacher could review the work immediately.  The student could also navigate through the MathML via MathJax to self review and correct any errors.
  • Tactiles were demonstrated primarily with swell paper.  There were a number of sessions demonstrating the advantages of this some included 3D printed holders that could position the iPad and conductive paper allowing a user to feel the tactile and press certain areas that would coincide with a hotspot area on the iPad which would speak to the user describing what they are pressing.
  • ViewPlus demonstrated a few interesting technologies using a camera and tactile images with a smart pen in order to discover more information about the specific area the user was touching.  They also demonstrated a cool way to make charts or other complex diagrams accessible by scanning and OCRing an image then manually editing and creating hotspots where a student could explore using a tactile representation of that image on a touch tablet that would load that enhanced marked up file describing the various hotspots areas the teacher previously marked up.
  • Benetech also hosted two UI/UX user feedback sessions to have participants play with some User Interface implementations of Diagrammar where a webpage with a number of images would have additional buttons appear under the image that the user would click on in order to obtain additional information such as a simplified description, extended long description, tactile map with tour, or a 3D file representation of the image. Three users test out Diagrammar during the feedback session. The participants were using their own equipment and assistive technology to explore the user interface then provide feedback on what worked and what features they would want to have.  The results were fairly consistent in that customization was paramount.  Also a default rendering and replacement of the image with their preferred choice was an interesting request.  In line small descriptions seemed like the preferred choice where user driven linking to longer descriptions on a separate rendered page seemed like the best alternative for this type of extended media, as long as the user was told what they were linking to and could get back to the same location they left.

Final Words

By Amaya Webster

This was my first time at CSUN and all I can say is thank you to all of the people I met, learned from and was inspired by, which was basically everyone. It was a truly amazing experience and I can’t wait until CSUN 2017! Were you at CSUN? If so, we want to hear from you! Did you give a session? Did you take pictures? Did you film video? Did you particularly enjoy something? Let us know so we can include it in our next DIAGRAM Digest issue. Feel free to send comments, stories, pictures, video, etc. to or to me directly if your prefer. I hope to hear from you!

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