Project Overview

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Weekly Meeting
Schedule: There is no future call scheduled yet. The next call will be Wednesday, December 4, 9:00AM PST (California), 12:00PM EST (Ontario, New York), 5:00PM in London and Madrid and 6:00 PM on the continent, 4:00 AM in Australia. Since various parts of the world are changing from daylight savings time, I am including a link to an authoritative time zone source.
Conference call: +1-866-906-9888 (US toll free), +1-857-288-2555 (international), Participant Code: 1850396#
Etherpad: The link for the piratepad for today is (12/4/2013)
IRC: #a11ymetadata (although more of the collab seems to happen in the etherpad)

The goal of the call will be a review our progress with the properties that are now available on (or will be shortly), future process and the properties that did not make into 1.0. We'll also discuss our process as we go forward.

The public site is and our twitter hashtag is #a11ymetadata.

Accessibility Metadata Project

General Project Description

Benetech proposes to lead a working group focused on drafting standards specifications for accessibility metadata for educational content. These standards will complement the work of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), which is developing metadata standards related to educational content. The use of LRMI does not currently including accessibility information in their efforts. 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.
After developing the specifications, the working group will submit them to for inclusion alongside LRMI. Benetech will also create a reference implementation, where we demonstrate how this metadata can be effectively used by incorporating it, when possible based on publisher cooperation, into the content of our Bookshare program. Bookshare is the world's largest source of online accessible materials for people with print disabilities. The reference implementation will therefore have the potential to both make a large number of accessible materials more easily searched and discovered, as well as serving as a guide for others who want to incorporate accessibility metadata into their collections. Benetech will also submit a payload of Bookshare accessibility metadata to the Learning Registry.

Project Description

Benetech proposes to develop standards of accessibility metadata for educational content, with input and support from a diverse working group, for submission to This builds on the ongoing work of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), which began Phase 2 of development in March 2012. Current LRMI efforts do not include information about the accessibility of resources for people with disabilities. Including accessibility in the metadata standards for educational materials will greatly improve the ability of teachers, students, and parents to find appropriate formats of educational materials that fit a particular student's accessibility needs and allow him or her equal access to instructional materials. Working with the Gates Foundation and Creative Commons, Benetech proposes a six-month project to develop accessibility metadata standards to be submitted to at the conclusion of Phase 2 of the LRMI. IMSGlobal, created a rich set of metadata properties for accessibility information in the Access for All effort (we based our effort on version 3): their work will be used as a base of understanding and a set of accepted terms that cane be reused as the intellectual base.  In addition to Creative Commons and IMS Global, we will work with key partners such as the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and the National Science Digital Library to build a consensus about accessibility metadata for educational materials. Furthermore, we will develop a reference implementation by incorporating the metadata tags on Bookshare titles and by submitting a standalone payload of data to the Learning Registry.


As the wealth of educational content on the Internet grows, it is crucial that educators are able to easily discover the content they need to illustrate key concepts, meet core curriculum requirements, and serve student needs. Metadata allows search engines to more effectively comb the vast array of information about educational content available online and return results based on defined categories of information. The LRMI is already in the process of developing metadata for educational content, but their efforts to date do not include information about the accessibility of the materials for students with disabilities. This is crucial to students who need their classroom materials in formats such as digital Braille or DAISY so they can use the materials with their assistive technologies. The LRMI is currently in Phase 2 of developing their recommendations for educational metadata, and this is a perfect opportunity for Benetech and others in this field to develop accessibility standards that will be included with the final specifications.

Developing Accessibility Specs

During Phase 2 of the LRMI, Benetech will convene a working group that will focus on developing the accessibility component for learning resources metadata. This will complement the work already under way by the LRMI and will greatly improve the discoverability of accessible educational materials. In addition to drafting specifications for metadata on accessibility for educational materials, we will solicit feedback from partners both within the working group and outside of it and will incorporate this feedback into the final metadata specifications. After finalization, Benetech will submit proposed specifications to along with a letter signed by members of the working group stating their support. During the months after submission, Benetech will engage in a dialog, as needed, to drive successful adoption by This may include answering questions from, liaising with Working Group partners and others, addressing comments, or altering the specifications.

Supporting Adoption

In addition to submitting a joint letter to encouraging the inclusion of the accessibility metadata in's standards, Benetech will undertake two main activities to encourage use of accessibility metadata and demonstrate the implementation.

Best Practices Guide

Benetech will author a best practices guide describing how to use accessibility metadata most effectively. This guide will be jointly developed with the working group and will be promoted through Benetech's and partners' networks in the accessibility community and in the mainstream through industry groups such as the AEP (Association of Educational Publishers) and the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum). The guide will inform other organizations that create and distribute accessible materials about how to implement the metadata standard and improve the discoverability of their learning resources.

Reference Implementation

Benetech will also generate a reference implementation demonstrating the use of accessibility metadata. This reference implementation will add human readable accessibility metadata tags to both Bookshare and to a payload of metadata we will submit to the Learning Registry. Depending on publisher cooperation, wherever possible we will include metadata elements from the LRMI version 1.0 specification along with the corresponding accessibility metadata.  Bookshare is the largest online source of accessible materials in the world, and we provide over 150,000 titles in accessible formats to over 200,000 members. Through our implementation, we will make this wealth of accessible content more easily discoverable by those who need it. We will also generate high-level publicity for the use of metadata and lead the way for other providers to use metadata with their materials.

Working Group and Partners

Benetech will convene a group of leaders in the field of educational resources and accessibility to participate in the working group. We expect the following organizations to play a central role in the project, either as members of the working group or as key resources, as will other partners we identify during the project period:

  • American Printing House for the Blind (APH): American Printing House for the blind hosts nearly 900 images in its Tactile Graphic Image Library, which are freely available to educators. Benetech will work with APH to research how accessibility and other LRMI metadata can help with the discovery of APH hosted accessible images in the Learning Registry.
  • Association of Educational Publishers (AEP): The Association of Educational Publishers supports publishers of supplementary instructional materials. The AEP is one of the co-leaders of the current LRMI initiative and working closely with them will be crucial as we develop accessibility specifications.
  • Creative Commons: Open Educational Resources will be of greater importance in the years to come, and the needs of students with disabilities should be taken into account as we develop these resources. An unencumbered CC-licensed metadata standard for accessibility information will be useful for publishers of OERs and other CC-licensed materials to indicate the accessibility of their works, and possibly encourage the community to identify and revise vital non-accessible OERs. Creative Commons also has experience developing specifications within the framework, which will be valuable to the working group's efforts.
  • The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI): The 15-element Dublin Core Metadata Element Set is one of the most well-supported standards on the web today, due to its simplicity and adaptability to a wide range of media. DCMI continues to refine and extend its work, and many other groups use DCMI's essential elements and best practices as the foundation of their own metadata work.
  • The National Science Digital Library (NSDL): The NSDL serves as an online portal for STEM educational materials. NSDL catalogs its collections using a Qualified Dublin Core profile that is extended with education-specific metadata elements from other standards to help teachers find appropriate STEM materials. STEM is a focus area for Benetech's Literacy Program and the NSDL's expertise with metadata tagging and combining multiple metadata standards would make for a fruitful collaboration.
  • National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM): NCAM is a leader in the field of accessibility and a partner in Benetech's DIAGRAM Center project on accessibility of images and graphics. They have been involved in both LRMI and work with assessment consortia and will lend insight to the project.
  • seeks to enhance the usefulness of search engines by specifying markup that webmasters can use to alert search engines to structured data on their pages. Releasing our metadata work via will give web publishers a simple, standard way of indicating accessibility information to search providers. As this is more widely adopted, it will become possible for search engines to provide advanced display and search options for accessibility-specific criteria.

Implementation and Results

The Outcomes and Milestones Chart in Appendix A details specific milestones in the project. Activities will fall into three outcomes: convening and coordinating with the working group; drafting the specifications; and creating a reference implementation based on the specifications.
After organizing the working group, Benetech will lead the drafting and revision process of the specifications, with significant input from partners. We expect a high level of participation from others in the field. External factors may limit participation, however, and Benetech will work to make sure that we have multiple potential participants representing a wide range of constituencies. This will help make sure that we have a robust and representative group, even if some partners do not fully participate. Initial outreach indicates that partners are interested in participating.
Following finalization of the specifications and the submission to, Benetech will create a reference implementation using Bookshare data and will submit accessibility metadata to the Learning Registry. A timeline for completion of milestones can be found in Appendix A.


Benetech identified two potential risks for successful completion of this project. The first is lack of participation in the process by necessary partners. To reduce this risk, we conducted initial outreach to key partners before proposing the project. Although we have not formally convened the working group, we are confident that we will be able to assemble a critical mass of participants. The second risk is potential disagreement about the specifications and the inability to reach an agreement endorsed by a majority of the working group. Benetech's leadership of the group will focus on overcoming this risk by clearly defining the priorities for successful delivery and by building feedback into an integrated recommendation wherever possible.


Upon completion of the project period, Benetech will have submitted specifications to and a created a reference implementation. This will complete the project.

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