Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Producing Braille and Audio Graphs of Mathematical Equations

Graphit is a graphing calculator program you can use in conjunction with a braille embosser to produce braille graphs of mathematical equations. It isn't a hand-held graphing calculator, but for anyone who is looking for a quick and easy way to enable blind students to see graphical representations of an equation, this is a solution.

Graphit features one command Braille output of graphs from typed complex equations. Graphit also provides an audio representation of the graph on your speech synthesizer through a single keystroke. Other features include:

  • Control the size and specific information contained in the graph.
  • Supports algebraic, trigonometric, exponential and logarithmic equations.
  • Menu driven interface for easy setup and use.
  • Support for Blazer, VersaPoint Duo and Inferno embossers, among others.
  • For use with IBM Compatible PCs (with Graph It PC only) and Freedom Scientific notetakers with the exception of the Braille Lite M20 and M40.

Freedom Scientific Blind/Low Vision Group
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Toll Free: 800-444-4443
Phone: 727-803-8000
Fax: 727-803-8001

NASA Converts Graphs into Sound

NASA has released an innovative Open Source software suite that may forever change how blind and vision-impaired users "see" complex graphs.

The Math Description Engine Software Development Kit at is a reusable software library that generates text, sound and visual representations of graphs found in both math and science applications.

Visually-impaired computer users access these alternative text and sound descriptions through the use of a screen reader and standard computer speakers.

The software determines the key characteristics of a graph "on the fly." Using this determination, it builds natural-language text descriptions that enable visually-impaired users to view spatial relationships through sound alone.

Designed with both flexibility and ease-of-use in mind, the SDK (Software Development Kit) allows web and software developers to adapt the MDE's graph descriptions to a variety of applications. Some key audiences who might benefit from the MDE SDK include, but are not limited to:

  • developers of education products and support tools
  • special needs education researchers
  • assistive technology researchers and vendors
  • the accessible-web community
  • sonification researchers
  • organizations with websites containing graphical data displays.

The MDE software library was created by NASA's Information Accessibility Lab (IAL), under the direction of Dr. Robert O. Shelton, a blind mathematician. The IAL's mission is to develop technologies that increase accessibility to NASA's vast library of outreach products and to release these same technologies to the public for further application and development.

The MDE SDK is currently available for download under an Open Source license. Click this link to visit the NASA site to learn more about the program and how you can play an integral role in developing the future of accessible graphing technology.

To learn more about the MDE SDK or MathTrax, please email Terry Hodgson at

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