Introducing the Accessibility Metadata Project

Everyone gets frustrated when hoping to find specific information on the internet and a generalized search engine returns thousands of hits instead. But imagine that you’re an educator who is searching content about the Mars rover for your fourth grade science class. You search for ‘Mars rover’ and get 85 million hits. A better search for the phrase ‘Mars rover’ (with the quotes) gets only 6 million hits, and “‘Mars rover’ education” begins to get close, although it covers all grade levels. A group called the Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) set out to create a specification for learning resource metadata and is submitting that to This structured data, enabled by the participation of leading search engines, will make this data much easier to find. The teacher will be able to search content appropriate for the fourth grade within certain time durations and media types.

Now imagine that you’re that same teacher, but you have students who want printed or web content in an audio presentation so that they can listen to it on their portable audio player while on holiday. Or you have children in your class where English is their second language and you are starting a science project; you’d like to find materials with captions in their native language. Further, you may be a special education teacher and would like to find descriptive content available in braille. This is very difficult today, as one has to search in specific locations for each of these content types. What is needed is metadata for accessibility information, encoded in the same microdata formats as LRMI and many other content types.

By developing the accessibility component of the educational metadata, Benetech and our partners will greatly improve the ability for students, teachers and parents to find accessible educational materials that fit the specific learning needs of specific students, including students with disabilities. This will impact students’ abilities to find and use the materials they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. And this accessibility metadata will be applicable to all creative works such as blogs, books, audio, video and many more

A working group has formed from a set of highly qualified individuals and representatives from many leading organizations in education, accessibility, publishing and metadata to bring together the various recent efforts for accessibility metadata into a submission to

Join us as we develop our draft specification for accessibility metadata. We welcome comments on the specification (our first public draft is expected in April 2013) and on the user stories of how people will use and interact with this metadata, both on the web in search engines and in Learning Registries. Examples are also available, showing the proposed properties in content. Sign up for our mailing list (on the right side of the page) to be informed of project updates on the specification and reference implementations.

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