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IMS ACCLIP is a public draft

The IMS Accessibility for the Learner Information Profile has entered the public draft stage. Barring some very unusual happenings, the document will provide the basis for a means of storing learner's preferences for how they want or need to access learning content.

Compared to the base document that has been out for a while, there are a few changes. Most notably, there is the introduction of a new 'accommodation' element within the 'eligibility' element, separate from the 'accessForAll' element where all the other access preferences are.

There is a good reason for 'accommodation's rather separate place, as it neither stores preferences, nor information about the learner per se. Instead, it is a place for administrators to store information about the kinds of accommodation a particular learner needs when interacting with a specific learning object.

Because it is not intended to be under the learner's control, the separate place within the LIP makes it easy to control different peoples' access to different parts of the LIP record; learners still have full access to their 'accessForAll' preferences, but not 'eligibility - accommodation', and the reverse for administrators.

The 'accommodation' element is particularly important for assessment, because some accessibility technology can simply defeat the objective of specific kinds of tests. A dyslexic person, for example, may normally use a spell checker, but would not be eligible to do so when taking a spelling test. The 'accommodation' entry in that learner's LIP can store that particular exception for that particular test, and no more. Each new learning object with an accessibility restiction needs a new entry.

Not that the 'accommodation' element is all about preventing the use of accessibility technology; it is also the place to store more procedural information like the fact that a learner who needs a screen reader should be put in a separate room when taking an exam, to prevent disturbing others.

While this is all sensible stuff, it also demonstrates that not all e-learning accessbility issues can be solved by just allowing the learner to store functional preferences, and entirely avoid other people's judgments of the learner affecting the way they interact with e-learning material. Still, the very clear separation between 'accessForAll' and 'accommodation' makes it clear what is going on.

Perhaps more importantly, the fact that the 'accommodation' element is the only exception to the learner controlled, functionally defined nature of the ACCLIP work is actually quite remarkable. Quite a few other systems for storing information (electronic or otherwise) about accessibility needs have gone down the path of storing other people's judgments about what a learner can and cannot do, which is inevitably highly controversial and often inaccurate and out of date.

Other changes to the ACCLIP don't add much completely new functionality, but implement it more cleanly. 'Context', for example, is now all-encompassing. This means that all your access preferences, including preferred language, can be defined in context specific sets that are completely independent of each other.

The ACCLIP documents can be found on the IMS website.

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