This essay highlights the relevance of Zome in teaching mathematical concepts to students who are visually impaired. More generally, it describes my experiences as a mathematician who cannot see. I'm posting the abstract here; the complete essay can be found on my Web site.

### Abstract

This essay outlines some of my experiences as a mathematician who cannot see. Note that I transitioned to being a Computer Scientist during Graduate School. However I strongly believe in the edict Once a mathematician, always a mathematician!

— my training in mathematics continues to influence the way I think.

I've been unable to see since the age of 14, which means that I've studied and practiced mathematics predominantly in an eyes-free environment. This essay is my first conscious attempt at asking the question What is involved in doing mathematics when you cannot see?

I hope that some of the experiences outlined here will prove insightful to mathematicians at large. At its heart, mathematics is about understanding the underlying structure inherent in a given area of interest — and where no such structure exists — to define the minimal structure that is needed to make forward progress.

The general perception that mathematics might be hard to do in an eyes-free environment probably traces itself to the common view of mathematics as a field where one performs copious calculations on paper. I'll illustrate some of the habits and abilities one evolves over time to compensate for the lack of ready access to *scratch memory * provided by pencil and paper when working in an eyes-free environment. In this essay, I hope to demonstrate that mathematics in its essence is something far bigger. By being bigger than calculations on paper

, not being able to see rarely if ever proves an obstacle when it comes to doing mathematics; the challenges one needs to overcome are primarily centered around gaining access to mathematical material, and communicating ones insights with fellow mathematicians. Thus, a large portion of this essay focuses on solutions to the challenges inherent in mathematical communication.

The experiences described in this essay have influenced the software I have built and use on a daily basis; it should be of interest to:

- Emacspeak users wishing to understand why things look like the way they do in Emacspeak.
- Students with visual impairments who are entering the field of mathematics.
- Teachers working with visually impaired students.
- And the generally curious mathematician who wishes to view the world from a different perspective.