IMS Global Learning Consortium and WGBH Boston Publish Guidelines for Creating Accessible Online Learning Technologies

September 19, 2002

Boston, MA. September 19, 2002. A groundbreaking collaboration among international players in the online learning field has resulted in a set of guidelines to educate the eLearning community about the challenges that people with disabilities face in accessing online education, and to provide solutions and resources to solve them. Major support of these efforts is provided by the Learning Anywhere Anytime Partnerships program* of the U.S. Department of Education.

“IMS Guidelines for Creating Accessible Learning Technologies” is a joint publication of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, and the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), the research and development division of the Media Access Group at WGBH Boston, a U.S. public broadcaster with a thirty-year history of developing access solutions for mass media.

The IMS Guidelines are available on the Web in a screen-reader friendly format as well as in PDF and are expected to be an invaluable resource for a broad range of stakeholders in online education, including educators providing online learning materials, developers of learning software such as learning management systems and educational software, and educational publishers, content authors, authoring tool developers and parents, advocates and students with disabilities themselves.

Users will find the IMS Guidelines a comprehensive source on accessibility, which includes principles for accessibility in online learning, accessible delivery of text, audio, images and multimedia, using XML for accessibility, and legal issues for accessible distance learning. Developers, including educators, will find methods for developing a wide range of accessible tools including:

– asynchronous communication and collaboration tools

– synchronous communication and collaboration tools

– interfaces and interactive environments

– testing and assessment

– authoring tools

Key contributors to the Guidelines include representatives from the following organizations: Blackboard (USA), Centre for Educational Technology Interoperability Standards (UK), Department of Education, Science and Training (AUS), Educational Testing Service (USA), Industry Canada (CAN), Open University (UK), Sheffield Hallam University (UK), UK eUniversities Worldwide (UK), and the University of Toronto Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (CAN).

* The Guidelines were developed as part of the Specifications for Accessible Learning Technologies Partnership at the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media. Funding is provided by the Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships (LAAP), a program administered by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), part of the Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.

About NCAM

NCAM and its fellow access departments at WGBH (The Caption Center and Descriptive Video Service®) make up the Media Access Group at WGBH. WGBH, Boston’s public broadcaster, pioneered captioning and video description on television, the Web and in movie theaters. NCAM is a founding member of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). NCAM works with standards bodies and industry to develop and implement open technical standards for multimedia, advanced television, and convergent media that ease implementation, foster growth and lay common groundwork for equal access to new technologies. For more information, visit the Media Access Group’s Web site at

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of nearly one-third of PBS’s prime-time lineup and companion online content as well as many public radio favorites. WGBH is a pioneer in educational multimedia (including the Web, broadband, and interactive television) and in technologies and services that make media accessible for people with disabilities. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards…even two Oscars. In 2002, WGBH was honored with a special institutional Peabody Award for 50 years of excellence. For more information visit

About IMS

The IMS Global Learning Consortium develops open technical specifications to support distributed learning. Its mission is to facilitate the delivery of online learning to all users and all use environments worldwide. IMS is supported by worldwide consortium, which includes more than 50 Contributing Members, over 100 Developers Network subscribers, and a Web community of users. All specifications developed by IMS are available free of charge through the IMS Web site ( For more information concerning participation in IMS and its activities visit

WGBH Contact

Mary Watkins

Media Access Group at WGBH

617 300-3700 voice

617 300-2489 TTY

IMS Contact

Caroline Oldershaw