Advancing Math Accessibility with Google Summer of Code 2014

By Benetech, posted on

This summer, for the third consecutive year, we partnered with Google Summer of Code—an excellent global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for open source software projects. Google Summer of Code provides the students with an opportunity to work on real world, open source software development with a mentor, while the participating organizations and their open source projects benefit greatly from the new talent and collaboration. You can read about our work with Google Summer of Code 2013 on our blog.

This year, we had the pleasure of working with computer science student Joe Maag. Joe helped create an iOS app that aids the transcription of (inaccessible) math images into readable and accessible math notations, to utilize Benetech’s MathML Cloud—an open source conversion tool that creates both images and alternative descriptions of math equations on the fly. This project improves the utilization and usability of Benetech’s MathML Cloud, helping content creators and technology developers deliver accessible math that people with print disabilities can use.

We asked Joe to tell us about his internship experience and some of his takeaways. We’ve shared his answers below. If you’re interested in more technical details about Joe’s project, you can find plenty of those on the Google Summer of Code 2014 website and in the project repository on GitHub.

Many thanks to Joe and his mentor, Benetech Product Manager Adam Bernstein!

Joe Maag

My name is Joe Maag, and I’m a Computer Science undergraduate at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

I was drawn to Benetech for Google Summer of Code because of their commitment and efforts they have made to improve education accessibility. I was particularly impressed with their online image description tool Poet that is used to help make eTextbook images more accessible for those with disabilities. Education has always been very important to me, and with this project I had the opportunity to help improve math education for those with accessibility needs.

I helped create and develop an iPhone app that allows users to translate user-submitted math images into readable and accessible math notations. This math notation can then be read by a variety of accessible devices and software used for different needs. The app can be used to crowdsource the translation of math images, and it allows anyone to volunteer and translate specific or randomly submitted images.

While working on this project, I gained experience in iOS development as well as the process that goes into developing open source software. The app itself has come together really well and I’m incredibly happy with how it has turned out. It was a lot of fun to work on, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Benetech.