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IMS release specification for storing accessibility preferences
What once started as the "disability" placeholder in the Learner Information Profile (LIP) has grown into a fully fledged specification for storing access preferences. With it, learners can specify how they'd like interact with e-learning content in whatever context they find themselves.
What the spec does is capture and store preferences for things like screen readers, captions for video or audio, colour schemes and font size for webpages or other text. As all of these preferences are organised per context, it also enables things like specifying full graphics when accessing material via a PC, but no graphics when accessing the same material via a mobile phone.
In use, the idea is that a learner's preferences are recorded once, and then be made available via the Accessibility for Learner Information Profile (ACCLIP) record to all software applications that need it.
The main advantage of using something like ACCLIP over present solutions is that it can store specific configuration details of all accessibility mechanisms through a single interface. At present, that needs to be done by trawling through the options of a lot of different programmes. And then again when anything in a learner's preferences changes, or a newer screenreading program or VLE comes along.
Unusually for an IMS spec, it has actually been implemented before the spec itself had been fully released. The Canadian Government's Web-4-All project was developed by the University of Toronto's Adaptive Technology Resource Centre to enable everyone to use publicly accessible web terminals. Using the ACCLIP spec, a user's preferences are recorded once by a special wizard and stored on a smart card. The moment the user sticks the smart card in a terminal, the terminal will reconfigure itself according to the user's needs.
Though the main application of the ACCLIP spec is likely to be in accommodating people with specific needs, it is emphatically meant for everyone. Someone who takes a training course in maintaining lorries, for example, may want to access the course material with the full graphic bells and whistles when sitting behind a PC, but just hear an audio version when quickly reviewing the same material when her eyes and hands are busy working on a lorry.
Many uses of ACCLIP, however, presuppose not only that the VLE has a notion of an ACCLIP record and what to do with the preferences in it, but also that the VLE has some way of knowing what the accessibility characteristics of the content are.
Running a series of web pages through a screenreader, for example, is not a problem, but a bit pointless when those pages mainly consist of a series of diagrams without proper captions.
Part of the answer is getting content providers to provide proper alternatives, but that still needs to be coupled to a specific learners preference for one alternative over another.
For that reason, the same team that developed the ACCLIP is already busy developing the Accessibility for Meta-Data specification. With that, the accessibility capabilities and limitations of e-learning resources can be recorded, so that VLEs can make better decisions about how to show a particular piece of content to a particular learner.
The ACCLIP specification can be downloaded from the ACCLIP pages on the IMS website.
More information about the Web-4-All project is available from the Web-4-All pages at the University of Toronto
Source: the "IMS releases specification to improve accessibility of online learning" press release
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