The Accessibility Metadata Project is working to make accessible content discoverable, so that quality educational resources on the web can be found and the right content made available to a student’s needs. Read below for a general background of the project.

Led by Benetech, with significant contributions from participants in IMS Global’s Access for All and the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) groups and funding from the Gates Foundation, the Accessibility Metadata Project has developed a common metadata framework for describing or “tagging” the accessibility attributes and alternatives on the web. Once a critical mass of content has been tagged to a universal framework, it becomes much easier to parse and filter that content, opening up tremendous possibilities for search and delivery, as well as easily discovery of other accessible adaptations.

The Accessibility Metadata Project is the byproduct of two efforts. LRMI, which has been adopted into schema.org, had considered accessibility metadata as part of their charter, as can be seen in their FAQ. This would have increased the scope of the LRMI effort to be even more ambitious and might possibly have delayed the project. Also, while it is important to facilitate accessibility for learning resources as the highest need, this metadata is useful for all content types, which was a larger scope than LRMI was responsible for. At the same time, the accessibility working group within IMS Global, called Access for All was working on a framework for specifying both digital resource information and personal preferences. This accessibility metadata project brought a subset of the most important attributes of Access for All into a proposal for broad adoption within the schema.org framework, with the hope that this will enable rapid adoption.

The root of the project was the announcement in 2011 of Schema.org, a project by Bing, Google, Yahoo! and later Yandex to create a standard way of tagging online content. While not directly connected, Schema.org created the opportunity for projects like the Accessibility Metadata Project by establishing a standard markup schema for general web content and then encouraging specialized communities and industries to extend this schema to meet their needs. It is the hope of the Accessibility Metadata Working Group that the metadata schema developed by this project will be incorporated into Schema.org and become the de facto standard for tagging accessibility information for educational resources and other content on the web.

This project seeks to leverage the efforts of the other groups, utilizing learning registries, learning registry indices for learning resources and the common terms registry from the accessibility efforts. Papers describing these efforts and the unification can be found in IMS Global’s Efficient and Descriptive Learning Object Metadata: An Essential Component of K12 Instructional Reform and LRMI’s Content Developers Guide to the Learning Resource Metadata Inititiave and Learning Registry. Building upon these earlier efforts will facilitate more rapid adoption, as this developing infrastructure can be used, rather than creating it fresh.
IMS Guidelines for Developing Accessible Learning Applications also gives an overall view of accessible learning applications.

Working Group Information

The working group first gathered in late December and began work in earnest in January 2013. The work of the group is all publicly available, and can be found in our wiki. Some of the information, such as the properties and examples, exist in the source form with version history here. There are also links that go deeper into the related efforts, such as Access for All and the other standards that influenced our efforts.

Schema.org information

The A11Y Metadata proposal was officially submitted to the W3C schema.org process on Monday, April 15, 2013. Details of the submission can be seen in the email to the W3C public vocabs list. The detailed proposal can be seen at the W3.org site. Discussions are encouraged, using both our Google Groups discussion and the W3C public vocabs list. Both are monitored, but the Google Groups is preferred, as all working group members subscribe to it.