Individualized Adaptability and Accessibility in E-Learning, Education and Training
In 2008, the ISO/IEC (International Standards Organization/International Electrotechnical Commission) released the initial version of the AccessForAll (AFA) standards. AFA is based on the AccessForAll 2.0 work undertaken at the IMS Global Learning Consortium, along with the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto. For those familiar with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, AFA is similar in its approach. It sets out guidelines for developing adaptable learning content that matches how different learners learn, often creating the same learning experience in multiple forms.
The goal of AFA is to match learning content to the specific needs of each learner and this concept is not new. Where learning content is involved, web accessibility audits might include recommendations to provide multiple versions of the same content, so a wider range of people can access the content depending on their individual needs. Here are some examples:
- If instructions are presented as a list of ordered steps, providing a multimedia version demonstrating those same steps would make the content more usable by more people.
- Providing alt text for an image is a text adaptation for visual content.
- Adding captions to a video in the UDL context does not imply that the learner has a hearing-related disability in the traditional sense, but rather that the learner, for whatever reason, is unable to hear. For example, one might be learning in a noisy environment and unable to hear the audio clearly, or may be working on a system that does not have speakers, or may be working in a place where quiet is required.
In terms of evaluating web accessibility based on AccessForAll, it may be too early to start making AFA recommendations, given very few systems have yet implemented the standards. AFA is a rather complex set of standards, given the range of potential needs and preferences and the variety of ways content can be presented. The following is an overview of the three standards that make up AccessForAll.
- Part 1: Framework and Reference Model
- This part of AFA provides common language for describing users’ personal needs and preferences on the one hand, and describing characteristics of digital resources on the other. This part of the standard provides the framework for additional parts, described below.
- Part 2: “Access for all” Personal Needs and Preferences (PNP) for Digital Delivery
- Personal Needs and Preferences describe the needs of the learner. For example, a learner may require text alternatives for visual elements, or require audio alternatives to textual elements, or require sign language alternative to spoken audio, and so on. PNP does not specifically define needs based on disability, but rather learning needs within particular contexts. A person may define multiple PNPs that are applied in different situations.
- Part 3: “Access for all” Digital Resource Description (DRD)
- A Digital Resource Description describes the characteristics of learning content. A DRD can include a range of information on a particular piece of content, including the form of the original content as well as the adaptations of the content that are available. This information is used to match content adaptations with learners’ specific needs as defined in their PNP profile. If, for instance, a learner specifies they require text alternatives with visual elements, the AFA compliant system would identify visual elements in the content, and if text alternatives are available and described in the DRD for that piece of content, it would append or replace the visual content with equivalent text.
Watch the following video for a demonstration of AccessForAll in ATutor and AContent. AFA enhanced content is easily created in either system, and easily moved between the systems.
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The AccessForAll Standards can be downloaded from the ISO website, for those who wish to investigate further: