Tag Archives: Implementations

Learning Registry Blazes New Trails with Accessibility Metadata

As I announced earlier this month, Schema.org recently adopted our proposal for accessibility metadata tagging that will make it possible for anyone with access to the Internet and a search engine to more easily find accessible content and applications on the Web. (See “Schema.org Accepts Our Proposal!” January 2014.)  Exciting work is already underway that leverages the power that such tagging provides. In the meantime, we are working on reducing the barriers to entry for anyone to tag content with accessibility metadata.

Fostering universal adoption of accessibility metadata

In order for users to feel confident that everyone can really find all (or even most) accessible resources using a search engine there are two hurdles to clear:

(1)    All digital content and applications with accessibility features must be tagged with accessibility metadata whenever such features are present (e.g. image descriptions, tactile images, video captioning, support for screen readers, and the like).

(2)    Major search engines, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex, and vertical search products, such as the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (free.ed.gov) must support accessibility metadata and display the associated information to the user in search results.

This is a chicken-and-egg problem – there is no reason for search engines to support tagging if the tagging isn’t in the content and there is no reason for people to tag content if the search engines don’t support it. How to break that impasse? The first step is to have free, easy tools available that anyone can use to attach metadata to digital content.

EasyPublish: First publicly available tool to support accessibility metadata

The Learning Registry, a leading metadata aggregation platform about online learning resources, has recently enhanced their EasyPublish tool to allow anyone to tag any digital content with accessibility information. This marks the first time that a tool has been made freely available for anyone – includinAccessibility Informationg teachers, publishers, content creators, parents, or students – to take advantage of accessibility metadata tagging, which in turn will make it possible for the average person to easily discover accessible materials using online search engines.  Jim Klo’s note to the developers’ Google group for this project includes a link to the sandbox area for this tool. There you can explore how it works and enter sample data without making your entry live. Or, if you have a resource that you would like to tag for real, you can visit the production site to register content and attach accessibility metadata tags to digital content.  One exciting feature of the Learning Registry is that anyone can describe the accessibility of a resource, even if they are not the original publisher of that resource.

Bookshare automatically puts accessibility metadata into Learning Registry-powered sites

Anyone can put metadata into Learning Registry for any piece of digital content by using the EasyPublish interface described above – it can be done either manually or autoFeature filtersmatically using the API (Application Programming Interface) that the Learning Registry provides. Using the Learning Registry API, Bookshare now automatically submits accessibility metadata for Bookshare books into the Learning Registry. This lays the groundwork for users of Learning Registry-powered sites, such as the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (free.ed.gov), to filter search results for Bookshare titles based on specific accessibility features, such as described images or MathML.

Smith-Kettlewell demonstrates described video tagging

Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute has developed a web-based video description product called YouDescribe that enables anyone to describe YouTube videos on the web.  To enable people with visual impairments to easily discover videos described with the YouDescribe platform, they have tagged their videos with Schema.org accessibility properties.  Now those properties can be indexed by search engines such as Google Custom Search Engine.  Click here for an example search for tutorials about description.

Spread the word

We continue to be in dialogue with organizations such as Google and Archive.org about the importance of supporting accessibility metadata tagging, but we can use all the help we can get. If you feel strongly about the importance of this initiative, please let your favorite search engine, publishers, and websites know how important it is to you to be able to easily find accessible materials on the web, including captioned videos, described images, and more.

Bookshare tags over 195,000 titles with accessibility metadata

Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of accessible eBooks for people with print disabilities, has just added accessibility metadata to its full library of over 195,000 titles. “We’ve had the information on content type, age ranges and available media forms locked away in our database, only useful to the most skilled internet searchers or through the search via our website or API.

Now, with the draft accessibility metadata semantic tags added, powered by microdata and schema.org, we can make this available in a manner that search engines can more easily find this information,” said Gerardo Capiel, VP of Engineering at Benetech. For example, the proof of concept Google Custom Search query below for history textbooks can be constrained to titles whose images have enhanced with rich descriptions by Bookshare volunteers:

Screen Shot of Google Custom Search Engine
You can do this yourself with two searches. The first is to search Bookshare for any titles involving history: that will return over 7,000 hits. The second, with just the titles that have alternative text for images or, better yet, long descriptions, is a search constrained by these mediafeatures: it returns just 14 items that are the higher value.

It was easy to scale this metadata conversion across all of Bookshare’s titles. Rather than requiring editorial work on each web page, these were database-generated web pages. The task was one of adding a few more tags or attributes around existing content. For example, for “World History Ancient Civilizations” above, elements like the title went from

<h1>World History: Ancient Civilizations</h1>


<h1 itemprop="name">World History: Ancient Civilizations</h1>

Other tags, such as

<meta itemprop="accessMode" content="textual"/>
<meta itemprop="mediaFeature" content="structuralNavigation"/>
<meta itemprop="mediaFeature" content="alternativeText"/>

were also added to tell the specific accessibility features of the book. More information on how to add accessibility metadata to your accessible content can be found on the resources page.