Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Create An Accessible Formula Sheet

In several of my math, statistics, and data science classes, the professor will provide a formula sheet for quizzes and exams, or encourage students to make their own. Many of these formula sheets are difficult to read, because there is lots of information printed on one page or there are lots of small symbols to keep track of. Since these sheets are often difficult to make accessible, I’ve worked with my professors to learn how to create an accessible formula sheet that I can access with assistive technology or read with low vision. Here are eight different ways that I have created to display accessible formula sheets for low vision, many of which can be used by students of all ages and for all subjects, elementary school through college.

Zoom in on a PDF with Guided Access enabled

For an elementary statistics class, the formula sheet was provided in a high-resolution digital copy for all students, and students were required to print the formula sheet before taking the final exam. My professor gave me permission to pull up the PDF copy on my iPad and use Guided Access to ensure I couldn’t access any other resources. From there, I was able to zoom in/out using the pinch-to-zoom gesture on the formula sheet, or use the Zoom magnifier if necessary.

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Copy the formulas into Microsoft Word and use Immersive Reader

My friend (who at the time had very little usable vision) would copy equations and formulas into the equation editor in Microsoft Word and have the text read back to him using a screen reader. They liked this method because it was quick and easy to do, and worked well with their favorite screen reader- JAWS. I’ve also used the equation editor to import formulas in Microsoft Word, but to make them easier to read, I decided to use the Microsoft Immersive Reader function instead, which can be accessed in the “View” tab.

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Write with high-contrast markers on cardstock

My first discrete math professor did not like students to have typed formula sheets, and instead would encourage us to handwrite formulas. I got permission from the professor to write out formulas with high-contrast Sharpie markers on cardstock paper so that the markers wouldn’t bleed through. I would put 4-7 formulas on each page depending on the length of the formula, and the professor approved of my modified formula sheet.

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Display one formula at a time with PowerPoint or similar program

Another friend who frequently used screen magnification to access assignments typed out formulas for their college algebra class in Microsoft PowerPoint, with one formula on each slide. The presentation was displayed on a separate computer, and they found it easier to focus when there was only one formula on the screen at a time. They had memorized the order of the formula sheet, so it was pretty easy to flip between slides.

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Have the formula sheet on a separate monitor

For one of my data science exams, the professor projected a short formula sheet onto the board for students to use for reference. Since I had trouble seeing the board, the same formula sheet was broadcast to my computer in the computer lab so that I didn’t have to look up. Font size wasn’t an issue, since the formula sheet was already in large print on the board, I just couldn’t see it due to the bright lights in the classroom distracting from the projector.

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Use a video magnifier or CCTV

Whenever I take tests in the testing center for students with disabilities, I receive a printed small-print copy of the formula sheet for the exam, unless I had another formula sheet approved. In these cases, I use the video magnifier or CCTV to magnify my formula sheet and exam. If I was allowed to use personal technology, I would use my Eschenbach SmartLux, which is a smaller video magnifier, but students are not allowed to use personal assistive technology in the testing center.

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For multiple classes, create a formula sheet with Microsoft Sway

I had to use the same formula sheet for three of my data science classes. My professors had me create a Microsoft Sway document that incorporated pictures of formulas with alt text, code snippets, and typed out formulas in large print. We chose to use Sway because it can be accessed from any device and works well with my assistive technology, plus we could embed additional documents as needed. It’s worth noting that these classes had an open-book policy for exams and that we were allowed access to the internet as well.

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Add tactile symbols to a large print copy

A different friend who is a dual media user modified a large print formula sheet for their chemistry class, adding different textured dots and lines. For example, subscripts would be written with a red dot in front of them, while superscripts would have a blue line in front of them. The bold text on their formula sheet was raised so that they could feel the print as needed. They didn’t use any fancy products other than plastic raised dots, and I was super jealous of their super-readable formula sheet.

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Final thoughts

Having access to an accessible formula sheet during a quiz or exam can be the difference between getting a 9 and a 99 for a grade- and trust me, I’ve gotten both of those grades before. I hope that this post gives students and teachers lots of great ideas for how to create an accessible formula sheet!

Eight different high tech and no tech ways to create an accessible formula sheet for students with print disabilities