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Standards Working Subcommittee: Math in EPUB

2018 February 28
by Charles LaPierre

The Math in EPUB group has been working diligently to figure out how to best display digital math in EPUB files. Currently, math is often displayed using MathML, a computer language representation of math that can be visually displayed on a webpage or inside an EPUB book. MathML has the potential to be accessible so a student can explore the equation with their computer or ebook reader to better comprehend the math equation. However, not all ereaders and reading systems can support MathML.

In December, 2017, the Math in EPUB group proposed adding a short text description in addition to MathML to digital files with math images so when a reading system or ereader is unable to support the MathML, a student using a screen reader would still have access to the alt-text and be able to understand the math image being displayed.

Unfortunately,  internal testing revealed that this solution did not work in all cases, forcing the group back to the drawing board. Co-chair Neil Soiffer was able to create a more robust method for embedding the MathML inside the EPUB which looks even more promising than the original approach. We are now conducting internal testing and will be reaching out to our publishing partners for additional input. We hope to soon announce a feasible work-around to this problem of displaying math in EPUBs accessibly.

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