A solution for MathML that works in all user agents does not currently exist. The techniques presented on this page will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.
Support for rendering of native MathML markup is increasing but workarounds may still be necessary in some support scenarios.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I prefix the MathML tags?
No, it is not recommended to use prefixes with math tags (e.g.,
Not all combinations of assistive technologies and user agents are XML aware, so even if they support MathML markup they may not support prefixed markup.
The use of unprefixed tags is also recommended as it ensures compatibility between both HTML and XHTML syntaxes (XML prefixes are not supported in HTML).
- Should I use the ARIA
No, it is strongly advised not to use the
mathrole with MathML markup. In many cases, using this role will cause the MathML markup not to be accessible to users.
- Why aren't natural language descriptions advisable?
Consider the simple equation presented in Example 1 above. A reasonable natural language description might be "the square root of a over b". But consider that there are two ways that this statement could be interpreted:
- to take the square root of the value a and then divide the resulting value by b.
- to divide a by b and then take the square root of the resulting value.
A user who cannot see the visual presentation of the equation is not going to be able to determine which is the correct interpretation with only the description to go by. MathSpeak takes the ambiguity out of the equation by clearly breaking down the components of the equation in a way that doesn't leave ambiguity.
- Is MathSpeak the only option for describing MathML?
No, but it is an openly documented format. Although some MathML applications take slightly different approaches to voicing equations, MathSpeak is a good reflection of the typical grammar.
- Should I use the verbose, brief or super-brief syntaxes?
The different levels reflect the expected age and proficiency of the user. A math book geared towards younger users, or users new to the topic, would typically employ the verbose grammar. More advanced users already proficient in math and familiar with the grammar will likely find the verbose syntax a nuisance, so either the brief or super-brief grammars can be employed.
Although a benefit of native MathML support in XHTML content documents is the ability to provide voicing based on the markup, user agents capable of such voicings are still not widespread. MathML still presents the most accessible option in user agents that do support it. (Recent testing from the DIAGRAM Center showed that only 7 of 25 EPUB reading systems were capable of rendering MathML markup.)
As MathML rendering support is expected to grow now that it is being re-integrated into the Chrome
browser, the best option for providing accessible math equations is to use MathML markup. An
alternative text description can be provided in the
Alternatively, a less robust solution is to provide an image of the math with a sufficiently descriptive alternative text (and extended description for more complex equations). It is not required to include the MathML markup as shown in Example 3, but integrating the native markup can help transition to accessible MathML later when support improves.