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The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award
Letter of Recommendation Form
Thank you for your support of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards program.
Please complete the form below to submit your letter of recommendation in support of the award nominee. Recommendations cannot exceed 800 words. You will not be able to submit your recommendation if the maximum word count exceeds 800 words.
Please note that recommendations should come from someone other than the person who nominated the candidate.
Please note that required fields on this form are indicated by an asterisk (*).
* Nominee Name:
* Your First Name:
* Your Last Name:
* Your State:
* Your Phone Number:
* Your Email Address:
* Your Relationship to Nominee:
Please enter your letter of recommendation in the text area provided below:
Brian Richwine Senior Accessibility Strategist, Learning Technologies Indiana University email@example.com (812) 650-2897 April 13, 2023 Dear Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee, I am writing this letter to wholeheartedly support Neil Soiffer's nomination for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. As someone who has worked with Neil in various contexts, I have witnessed firsthand what an amazing gift his commitment and dedication to the blind and print-disabled community is. His tireless efforts in advancing accessible technologies for mathematics, chemistry, and STEM subjects have had a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals with disabilities. I first encountered his work in 2007 when as an assistive technology consultant we used the MathPlayer software that Neil authored while working with Design Science. The MathPlayer tool provided braille and spoken math output that was unambiguous and customizable to a wide variety of listeners. It was a giant leap in making possible independent access to electronic STEM content. From the start, MathPlayer worked with Microsoft Word and some Web browsers to provide speech text and braille to assistive technologies (including screen reading software). Since then, Neil has persistently endeavored to enhance the capabilities of technologies that facilitate access to electronic STEM materials. In the 2010s, he collaborated with Lois Frankel, Beth Brownstein, and Eric Hansen from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop the ClearSpeak math speech style. This innovative speech style was engineered to generate synthetic speech for math content that closely resembled the names and structure students would typically hear in their classrooms. The ClearSpeak style represented a significant improvement over the technical and often harsh-sounding MathSpeak grammar. By offering students synthetic speech that used the same natural sounding terminology and phrasing used by teachers in classrooms, it both increased acceptance of math speech as an accessible tool and increased the listener’s comprehension by reducing decoding effort required. Neil's latest contribution, the open-source MathCAT (Math Capable Assistive Technology) project, continues to demonstrate his expertise and passion for making STEM content more accessible to everyone. He has designed a flexible tool that has significantly improved speech and braille output. He designed MathCAT from the outset to be compatible with a maximum range of assistive technologies and applications, enabling more accurate and flexible spoken and refreshable braille presentations of mathematics and chemistry. Neil's work in the W3C's MathML Working Group, as well as his involvement with the NIMAS 3 working group and the MathML in DAISY working group, reflects his deep understanding of the needs of the blind community. His long-standing commitment to developing and promoting accessibility and technology standards has been vital in ensuring a more inclusive digital landscape for all. In addition to his extensive work on standards and development, Neil has shown an incredible willingness to share his expertise with others. He is patiently accessible and generously contributes to the community via a wide variety of email lists and working groups. Neil Soiffer's numerous contributions to the field of accessible technology for mathematics and STEM subjects have been transformative for students and professionals with disabilities. His devotion to advancing the quality of spoken output and braille navigation of complex mathematical expressions is unparalleled. It is an honor to nominate Neil for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, and I sincerely hope that the NFB will recognize his incredible impact on advancing the independence of individuals who are blind or have print impairments. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information. Sincerely, Brian Richwine
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