For people with disabilities, whose choice of access modalities is restricted, the process of matching a resource with a user requirement is not a matter of convenience or refinement, but one of utmost importance in ensuring access.
Use of an International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Standard on e-learning will make it easier to match individual user needs in a computer-mediated learning environment with the necessary user interface and resources needed to meet those needs.
Information technology – Individualised adaptability and accessibility in e-learning, education and training, ISO/IEC 24751, is published in three parts:
- ISO/IEC 24751.1:2008, Framework and reference model, provides a common framework to describe and specify learner needs and preferences and the corresponding description of the digital learning resources, so that individual learner preferences and needs can be matched with the appropriate user interface tools and digital learning resources
- ISO/IEC 24751.2:2008, 'Access for all' personal needs and preferences for digital delivery, provides a common information model to describe how a user desires to access online learning content and related applications. It includes how needs and preferences can be ranked for priority, and the use of generic and application-specific needs and preference specifications.
- ISO/IEC 24751.3:2008, 'Access for all' digital resource description, provides a common language for describing aspects of a computer system (including networked systems) to facilitate their matching to learners' accessibility needs and preferences. This part also describes application information scenarios and gives informative implementation examples.
ISO/IEC 24751 aims to meet the needs of learners in the context of 'disability', which it views as a consequence of a mismatch between the learner's needs (or preferences) and the education or learning experience delivered.
For example, an individual who is blind is not disabled when the lesson is delivered in audio. However, an individual who does not have the necessary background knowledge to understand the lesson, or who is listening to the lesson in a noisy environment, is disabled. Thus, the needs and preferences of a user may arise from the user's context or environment, the technical requirements of the user's device, the tools available (for example, assistive technologies such as Braille devices, voice recognition systems, and alternative keyboard, and so on), the user's background, or a disability in the traditional sense.
Given this reframing of the meaning of 'disability', a learning environment is deemed as 'accessible' when learner needs can be addressed or matched.