WGBH’s National Center For Accessible Media Awarded $1.8 Million To Develop Access Specs For Online Learning

February 5, 2001

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH National Center for Accessible

Media (NCAM) has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of

Education’s Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships program* to establish an

alliance with industry to make online learning (or e-learning) resources

accessible to people with disabilities.


the SALT Partnership, is a four-year initiative to develop and promote open

access specifications and effective models that will help level the playing

field for learners with disabilities. Millions of permanently or

circumstantially deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision and

mobility-impaired learners and learning authors and providers are increasingly

disadvantaged— at home, at school, in their communities, and in the workplace—

because they cannot fully utilize online learning resources.

NCAM, the research and development arm of the Media Access Group at Boston

public broadcaster WGBH, will lead the project working closely with IMS Global

Learning Consortium, a worldwide coalition of more than 230 educational

institutions, Federal agencies and private companies developing technical

specifications for online learning.

The scope of this problem and the potential of online learning to empower

people with disabilities are reflected in the report recently released by

Congress Web-Based Education Commission, available at:

http://www.hpcnet.org/webcommission. The US government has begun to

address this issue by establishing minimum access requirements, available at:

http://www.access-board.gov/news/508-final.htm. A statement by the U.S.

Department of Education about these new rules is available at:


NCAM and IMS will establish an industry-led Working Group on Accessibility to

identify the features needed to make online learning accessible, and to

specify the resources and technologies needed to implement solutions. The IMS

Working Group will engage leading companies involved in product development,

institutions implementing distributed learning environments, and international

standards organizations. Initial partners include Blackboard, Inc.,

Educational Testing Service (ETS), Microsoft Corporation, Pearson Education,

Sun Microsystems, PeopleSoft, Saba Software, and the United Kingdom’s Open


Industry partners have committed to serve as early adopters of specifications.

With NCAMs help, technology providers will work with publishers to enable and

implement access features within platforms, applications, and content. Blind,

low vision, mobility impaired, deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers will

contribute to identification of barriers and evaluation of proposed solutions.

Specific capabilities which will be implemented into various partners’

products and services include:

  • means to enable alternate presentation in response to learner profiles

  • means to identify and activate accessibility features within content
  • solutions to enable accessibility of text— HTML, XML, PDF and E-books

  • solutions to enable accessibility of multimedia content— audio, video,


  • solutions to enable accessibility of special material— mathematical

    notation, graphs, charts

Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships (LAAP) is a program of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), Office of Postsecondary

Education, U. S. Department of Education.

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 access.wgbh.org.

The IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. is a member-supported worldwide

coalition supported by colleges and universities, the Department of Defense,

the Department of Labor, and industry leading providers of education and

training technology solutions. IMS’ mission is to facilitate the delivery of

internet-based distributed learning to all users and all user environments,

worldwide. IMS develops specifications designed to ensure the creation of

content and learning management systems that permit sharing across

institutions and across technical environments. For more information visit

the IMS Web site at www.imsproject.org.

Contact: Mary Watkins/WGBH

617 300-3700 voice/fax, -2459 TTY


Caroline Oldershaw/IMS