Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Series: Start Now, August 2021

Explore Desmos: Accessible Online Scientific and Graphing Calculators and more!

Math is fun (it really is!), and having tools that are both accessible and powerful make it even MORE fun! For many years, blind/low vision students needed to use specialized calculators in order to fully participate with their peers in math and science classes. However, as technology increased by leaps and bounds, these specialized calculators remained relatively unchanged.

Now, accessible technology had caught up with the Desmos online calculator. Desmos is free, and it is being integrated into more and more school and college programs.

Desmos and high-stakes tests

College Board

  • The Desmos online graphing calculator is built into the calculator-allowed sections of digital College Board tests. From Practice—Calculator Details.
  • In digital testing, the Desmos calculator is noted as a “Universal Tool” and is available to everyone, whether they request an accommodation or not. From: Types of Digital Accommodations.
  • If a student is granted the accommodation of a calculator on portions of the test where calculators are not typically allowed, that student will have access to the Desmos four-function calculator. From Practice—Calculator Details

International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP)

NWEA MAP® Growth

Smarter Balanced

State Assessments

What kind of accessibility does Desmos offer?

WCAG 2.1 compliance

  • Desmos calculators are WCAG 2.1 compliant, and the levels of accessibility for each criterion are the highest level available, according to Desmos’ Accessibility tool spreadsheet.
  • Desmos meets WCAG compliance requirements for the purchase and use of accessible teaching and learning materials under Maryland law at COMAR section 13a.06.05.02.

Accessible spoken equations

  • Desmos has made its equation tool, MathQuill, accessible to users of screen reading and screen magnifying software.
  • From the Desmos accessibility webpage:  
    • The text “cos(x)” is spoken as “cosine open-parenthesis x close-parenthesis”
    • “Stddevx” is read aloud as “standard deviation of x.”
    • The screen reader voices additional cues to indicate a student’s location within an expression. (Numerator or denominator, superscript or subscript, baseline, etc.)  

Graphing component utilizes audio synthesis

  • Desmos Audio Trace
  • “Audio trace mode allows someone to explore a graph by sound rather than sight.”

System requirements

Calculators available from Desmos

Desmos training materials

More accessibility for Desmos tools is needed

  • Desmos provides a rich source of free classroom activities, including an entire Math curriculum for grades six through eight.
    • Only certain portions of the Desmos 6-8 Math Curriculum are accessible
    • “The lessons in our curriculum make use of our accessibility features, including dynamic narration for interactive elements. Where a lesson or interaction isn’t accessible for a vision-impaired or blind student, we offer guidance on an alternative approach. Most of Math 8 lessons and a small percentage Math 7 lessons include custom accessibility, and we are working to apply custom accessibility to the rest of the curriculum.” From Desmos Curriculum FAQs
  • Only 37 classroom activities are accessible for screen reader users, and these may be accessed on their own page for accessible Desmos classroom activities
  • Additionally, Desmos offers teachers free accounts with which they can create and share classroom learning activities, but many of these are unlikely to be accessible.
  • Educators should note that Desmos classroom activities that are not screen reader accessible, are not in compliance with Maryland law COMAR section 13a.06.05.02.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *