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April 30, 2003

IMS Releases Draft Specification to Improve Accessibility of Online Learning

Spec developers seek public commentary

Boston, MA. IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS) and WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) today announce the release of a Public Draft of Accessibility for Learner Information Package (LIP) — a specification they have collaboratively developed through a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education's "Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships" (LAAP) program.

The specification is a model for describing and recording user preferences for content, display, and control of interfaces for online learning, useful for a wide range of users including those with disabilities. The goal of the collaborative effort is to create a framework, adoptable by small and large eLearning developers and content providers around the world, which serves all users by making learning materials easy to access from any and all "points of entry" (school, home, office, library or while using mobile devices) after an initial, one-time recording of preferences by the user.

Depending on the user's choices, a learning system built according to the Accessibility for LIP specification will allow users with disabilities as well as users with situational challenges, such as a noisy environment, use of older hardware, or low bandwidth, to customize and personalize settings if the standard settings of a learning system are not ideal for them. Some of the preferences that might be chosen by learners include:

  • Display: Learners can indicate that they would prefer materials in a format that can be read by a screen reader, that any audio alerts should have a visual notification option, or that they prefer to have an overview of the content before diving into the details.
  • Control: Learners can save settings for voice recognition, onscreen keyboards, or other input devices.
  • Content: Learners can choose to "read" a video (through captioning) rather than or in addition to hearing it, or indicate unacceptable color combinations (such as red/green) that may be indistinguishable for them.
In addition, the new specification proposes a simple model for recording authorization of accommodations for testing or assessment.

"Accessibility for LIP will permit learning systems to give each learner the educational material they need, in a style that will be effective for them," said Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). "I am excited to see this work released and look forward to using tools that are built with it."

The Public Draft of the IMS Accessibility for LIP is a set of four documents — both technical and narrative in nature. The full document set: Accessibility for LIP Information Model, Accessibility for LIP Best Practices and Implementation Guide, Accessibility for LIP XML Schema Binding, and Accessibility for LIP Use Cases, is available for public review and comment. Those interested in providing feedback or suggestions may comment on any or all of the documents.

Public comment on the documents will be accepted for six weeks — from Monday, April 28 through Monday, June 9, 2003. Accessibility for LIP is available free of charge from in a fully accessible HTML version and in a downloadable PDF version. Following the public comment phase, the project team will incorporate revisions and submit the document set to the IMS Technical Advisory Board for a vote on a final version, which will also be made available at no charge from the IMS web site.

The Accessibility for LIP work was supported by funding from LAAP and the efforts and financial support of the following organizations: Department of Education, Science and Training (AUS), Educational Testing Service (USA), IBM (USA), Industry Canada (CAN), Open University (UK), Sheffield Hallam University (UK), Thomson NETg (USA), UK eUniversities Worldwide (UK), and the University of Toronto Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (CAN).

About IMS

The IMS Global Learning Consortium develops open technical specifications to support distributed learning. All specifications developed by IMS are available to the public without charge through the IMS website. IMS is a non-profit organization supported by a worldwide consortium that includes 50 Contributing Members and 60 Developers Network subscribers. The IMS in Europe foundation supports activities among European members. Information about IMS specifications, on-going activities, and membership is available at the IMS website

Media Access Group at WGBH

The Media Access Group at WGBH, with offices in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, is a non-profit service of Boston public broadcaster WGBH. The service group includes Descriptive Video Service®, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to viewers who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, as well as The Caption Center – the world's first captioning agency – founded in 1972. The third branch of the Media Access Group, the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. Members of the Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields. For more information, visit

WGBH Boston

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Its best-known productions include NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, This Old House, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH also is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards — even two Oscars. For more information visit


Caroline Oldershaw, IMS Global Learning Consortium
608-233-3277 voice

Mary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH
617.300.3700 voice/fax
617.300.2489 TTY

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