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There are several ways to handle equations from images with ALT tags to MathML. Having access to an equation editor such as MathType or the online Wiris equation editor can streamline processing and converting equations considerably. These tools are similar to equation editors found in Canvas.


Math ML is a text-based XML markup language designed for math equations. Browsers which support MathML are able to translate the XML into a formatted equation. Since MathML with MathJax can be rendered in many systems including HTML, Sites at Penn State, Canvas and Drupal, it is considered the best choice in terms of accessibility.

See below for an example of an MathML Equation. Information about creating and viewing MathML is available on that page.

Sample MathML with MathJax Support

m= m 0 1 v 2 c 2

Image with ALT tag

An alternative is to create an image of an equation (or export it from an equation editor) and then insert the image into a document with an ALT tag.
Note: ALT tags can be written in Nemeth MathSpeak for students who have learned that system.

An example in HTML is given below.

Equation Image

m equals begin fraction m sub 0 over begin square root 1 minus begin fraction v sup 2 over c sup 2 end fraction end square root end fraction

View the ALT Tag

ALT= "m equals begin fraction m sub 0 over begin square root 1 minus begin fraction v sup 2 over c sup 2 end fraction end square root end fraction"


LaTeX is a math markup language familiar to many in the science and math community, but unfortunately is not currently supported by screenreader technlogy.

Fortunately, it is fairly simple to convert LaTeX to an image or MathML in most equation editors. In MathMagic and MathType, to import LaTeX.

  1. Copy a piece of LaTeX code such as
    m &= \frac{m_0}{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^2}{c^2}}}
    into an equation editor’s main editing window.
  2. The equation should appear fully formated. Make minor adjustments as needed.

Technical Symbols in Unicode

In some cases, an instructor may wish to use Unicode text to insert a symbol into text as in the examples below:

P ⊃ P ∨ Q (P implies P or Q)

In this case it is important to ensure that screen readers are configured to output these symbols.
NOTE: VoiceOver for the Mac includes support for many symbols. JAWS typically needs to have its Symbol (.sbl) file adjusted.

Caveats to Text Equations

Even if the text of an equation is properly encoded as Unicode text, it may not be well-interpreted on screen reader because of layout elements such as superscript and subscript.

This is one reason why MathML is theoretically a better option if it can be implemented.

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