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Specifications for Accessible Learning Technologies:
The SALT Partnership

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has been awarded a 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. 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.

The initiative, called Specifications for Accessible Learning Technologies, or the SALT Partnership, is a four-year project 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 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. The US government has also 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: http://www.ed.gov/PressReleases/12-2000/122100b.html.

NCAM and IMS have established 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 University.

Industry partners have committed to serve as early adopters of specifications. With NCAM's 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:

About IMS:

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.


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Last updated Tuesday, February 6, 2001.