Accessing Math Content with JAWS and Fusion – Freedom Scientific
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Accessing Math Content with JAWS and Fusion

JAWS and Fusion enable students to read and study math problems contained in web pages and Microsoft Word documents using both speech and braille. JAWS provides spoken, natural-language descriptions of math expressions using the same terms a teacher would use to explain them in a classroom. This enables students using JAWS or Fusion to read mathematical expressions as their sighted peers do.

If a refreshable braille display is connected, JAWS also shows math expressions on the display using the Nemeth Braille code, a widely used system for reading math in braille. Since Nemeth Braille is exclusive to English, make sure JAWS is configured for one of the English contracted braille output modes by doing the following:

  1. Press INSERT+6 on the number row to open Settings Center.
  2. To apply changes to all applications, press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the JAWS default settings. To apply changes to a specific application, select it from the Applications combo box.
  3. In the Search edit box, type “Translation” without the quotes.
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to move to Translation in the filtered search results in the tree view and press ENTER to move focus to the Translation group. Press RIGHT ARROW to expand the group.
  5. In the Language combo box, make sure English – United States is selected.
  6. In the Output combo box, make sure one of the Grade 1 or Grade 2 options is selected.
  7. Select OK to save your changes and close Settings Center.

Tip: If your student is using a Freedom Scientific Focus Blue braille display, you can press DOTS 1-2-4-5-7-8 CHORD to quickly switch to contracted braille.

Math On Web Pages

JAWS supports reading math content in Chrome, Edge Chromium, and Firefox that is created using MathML without the need to install any additional third-party software applications or plugins. MathML is a language for including mathematical content on web pages, enabling browsers to present math and science equations and formulas as they would appear on paper. Visit the W3 website to learn more about MathML and the tools used to add it to web pages.

When you encounter MathML on a web page, JAWS describes the expression, followed by the message “math content.” If you are using a braille display and JAWS is configured for Contracted Braille, the message “Math” is displayed followed by the expression. If the expression is too long to fit on the display, you can use the panning buttons on your display to view the rest of it. Otherwise, if JAWS is set for Computer Braille, the message “Math” is displayed followed by a message stating that Contracted Braille must be enabled to view math content. Pressing ENTER while focused on the math content opens the Math Viewer where you can explore the expression in greater detail in both speech and braille. Check out the MathML Examples page on the Freedom Scientific website to see how JAWS reads math content.

Note: While not directly related to MathML, those involved with Statistical analysis may want to consider checking out FSCast 183 which demonstrates some accessible tools for doing statistics.

Math in Microsoft Word Documents

In Microsoft Word, JAWS and Fusion supports reading math equations inserted into documents using one of the following methods:

  • Math inserted using the options in the Symbols group of the Insert tab in the ribbon. JAWS does not require any third-party software or plugins be installed in order to read math inserted this way. Check out this article on the TeachUcomp website for instructions on inserting math into Word documents using this method. The Microsoft Support website also contains information on inserting mathematical symbols.
  • Math inserted using the JAWS Braille Math Editor. A braille display that includes a keyboard, such as the Focus, is required in order to use this feature.
  • Math inserted using MathType, available as a purchase from To read math content in a Word document that was created using MathType, the MathType software must at least be installed as a trial on the computer running JAWS. Visit the Design Science website for more details about MathType.

When you encounter a math equation or formula in a Word document, JAWS reads the problem and then says, “Math Content.” You can then press the layered keystroke INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by EQUALS to open the JAWS Math Viewer so you can study the equation in greater detail. See our Native Word Sample Math document for examples of how JAWS and Fusion can enable students to access math content in Word. The math problems in this document were created using the built-in features in Word, so you do not need to install any additional software, such as MathType, to read these examples with JAWS.

Studying Equations in the Math Viewer

The JAWS Math Viewer lets you explore all of the parts of an equation in order to study it in detail. When focused on math content on a web page, press ENTER to open the current math problem in the Math Viewer. When focused on math in a Word document, use the layered keystroke INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by EQUALS.

Once the Math Viewer is open, explore its contents by doing the following:

  • To move between parts of the expression, use the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys.
  • To focus in on a partial expression, press DOWN ARROW.
  • To return to the whole expression, press UP ARROW.
  • To read all the partial expressions at the current nesting level, press INSERT+UP ARROW.
  • To read the current partial expression, press NUM PAD 5 or INSERT+NUM PAD 5.
  • From within the Math Viewer, press ESC or ALT+F4 to exit and return to the web page or document.

Additionally, the contents of the Math Viewer are displayed visually on the screen. As the equation is navigated, the current expression or partial expression is highlighted so a sighted teacher can easily tell what part of the expression is being spoken.

When using a braille display, the entire expression remains on the display as you use the ARROW keys to navigate parts of the expression. However, the cursor (dots 7 and 8) moves to the start of the partial expression that gains focus. Pressing a cursor router over a term in the expression will immediately move the cursor to the specific location and cause JAWS to speak and visually highlight the partial expression as if you moved to it with the ARROW keys.

If you are exploring an expression containing a table, JAWS indicates in both speech and braille the number of columns and rows in the table. When the table gains focus, press ENTER to go into Table Navigation. In Table Navigation, the UP and DOWN ARROW keys move between rows while the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys move between columns. Press ENTER on a table cell to enter Equation Navigation so you can explore the current cell. Press ESC to return to Table Navigation, and then once more to return to Equation Navigation for the whole expression.

Open the MathML Examples web page or the Native Word Sample Math document and try exploring the various math expressions in the Math Viewer. Remember: Pressing ENTER opens the Math Viewer when focused on math content on web pages, and pressing INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by EQUALS opens the Math Viewer when focused on math content in Word documents.

Entering Math Equations using the JAWS Braille Math Editor

If you have access to a braille display that also supports typing in braille and you are familiar with the Nemeth Braille code for entering and reading math content, the Braille Math Editor in JAWS and Fusion enables you to input your own equations, and in Office 365, edit existing equations in Word documents. If you are new to Nemeth Braille, check out this Nemeth Tutorial which teaches this popular braille code beginning with the very basics up through advanced mathematics.

To open the Math Editor, press the layered command INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by SHIFT+EQUALS (plus sign). Focus braille display users can also press DOTS 3-4-6-7 CHORD. Similar to reading math content, JAWS braille output must be set for one of the English Grade 1 or Grade 2 translation settings in order to launch the editor.

When the Math Editor opens, focus is placed into an edit field where you can immediately begin typing the equation in Nemeth braille from your braille display’s keyboard. As you type, a preview pane below the edit field visually displays the equation so a sighted teacher or parent can review it. Once you are finished inputting the math equation, press ENTER or choose the Accept button to close the Math Editor. If you are in Word, the equation you entered is automatically inserted into the document at your current location. The equation is also copied to the Clipboard so you can paste it in other applications.

Opening the Math Editor while focused on a math equation in a Word document displays the existing equation in the editor using Nemeth Braille, allowing you to edit or replace it. After making any changes and pressing ENTER to close the editor, the current equation in the document is replaced by the new or modified equation.

Note: After inserting or modifying an equation in Word from the Math Editor, the blinking cursor (dots 7 and 8) on the braille display always remains at the beginning of the math content, even as you move by character with the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys. If you need to insert another line of math content, first press the END key to move to the end of the current math content and then press ENTER.

While the Math Editor is opened, you have the following additional options:

  • Press CTRL+N to start a new equation.
  • Press CTRL+P to preview the current equation in the Math Viewer. When finished, press ESC to return to the Math Editor.
  • Press ALT+E to open the edit menu where you can copy your Nemeth Braille to the Clipboard using a specific format. MathML is the default format when copying, however, depending on the application where you intend to paste the equation, you can also choose to copy your Nemeth Braille to LaTeX or Braille ASCII. After choosing a format to copy to, paste the equation into the specific application before pressing ENTER or selecting Accept to close the Math Editor as this always copies as MathML and will erase the current clipboard contents.

Desmos Online Graphing Calculator

The Desmos Graphing Calculator is a free online math tool widely used by teachers and students to plot equations and learn math concepts. Use it to plot data, graph functions, evaluate equations, and create classroom activities.

Visit our Desmos Online Graphing Calculator page for an overview and tutorials.