Linear Access to Mathematic for Braille Device and Audio-synthesis

Lambda is a three-year research project started on 1 September 2002 with the financial support of the European Union Information Society Technologies program, with the objective of creating an integrated system for writing and reading mathematical texts for the use of blind students. The project consortium, with 14 partners including EBU, wants to be mindful of the various aspects of the problem (related to Information Technology, mathematics and education), as well as of the needs of users in each country.

The problem

Information technologies have largely improved the educational opportunities of blind students. However, there are still serious access barriers regarding the study of scientific subjects which use notations other than conventional text. Difficulties in accessing scientific and mathematical materials put young blind people at a disadvantage and have severe effects on their cultural and professional training. This excludes them from scientific studies and forces them towards other, mainly literary subjects. This is no longer acceptable in a modern society. The most significant requirement is for secondary school students to perform mathematical exercises as rapidly and efficiently as their sighted classmates. Likewise, teachers who do not have any knowledge of braille (usually those in conventional schools) are asking for most suitable tools with which they can get involved directly in learning processes.

With Lambda, students in secondary schools and universities will have the possibility to benefit from a powerful and flexible mathematics writing system, which is compatible with the most popular standards. This will give them the essential facilities to produce scientific and mathematical digital materials independently.


The Lambda system is based on the integration of a linear code, which can be immediately converted through MathML, and of a mathematical editor designed to meet the educational needs of both students and teachers. The whole system is flexible and entirely configurable. There are different mathematical braille codes in different countries. Lambda allows for the customisation of the braille code to meet the local standard. At the same time it ensures portability by its foundation in the MathML standard code.


    1. Developing an editor for writing mathematical expressions in a linear, powerful and effective way, allowing active manipulation (writing, reading, computation) through braille peripherals and/or speech synthesis.

    2. Defining a linear mathematical code (Lambda Math Code) directly derived from MathML, built for optimal use through braille peripherals and speech synthesis, and automatically convertible into a MathML equivalent version in real time and without any possibility of making mistakes.

    3. Providing a conversion system that can manage the most frequently used mathematical formats (LaTeX, MathType, Mathematical) through MathML.

    4. Providing clear access to sighted people too, so as to ease educational relationships between teachers in conventional schools and universities and blind students.

    5. Providing a translation program to print both produced and imported mathematical texts in 6-dot braille, in line with major European national mathematics codes.

For more information on the Lambda project, please visit