have you been wondering if anything is happening in the Accessibility
metadata field? I am about to outline what I know of what is happening
and would appreciate your comments.
Sorry if this is a long email - there is a lot to say!
DC Accessibility Community Update - April 2012
You may know that DC Accessibility has been working since 2002 to
provide guidance on accessibility metadata. The needs of people with
disabilities call for more than the simple DC terms because people
often need to know , e.g., not just that this is an image, but that it
is an image of text so they will need some other resource or
modification of this one to access the information contained in the
So step one for DC Accessibility was to have some qualified DC terms
and some new ones to provide the necessary information.
Then it became clear that whereas many had been relying on the W3C
techniques for making resources 'universally accessible', it is simply
not possible to make all resources accessible to everyone. Clearly
metadata was required!
The first step was to describe characteristics of resources that
matter when access is limited (the history etc of this is outlined on
the DCMI website - see http://dublincore.org/groups/access/ and look
on the wiki for a lot more http://dublincore.org/accessibilitywiki).
Then we also wanted to describe the set of needs a person might have.
The University of Toronto was able to run a system within their
university that matched resources to registered user needs, given they
had both information about their users' needs in a dynamic registry so
users could change their profile, and all the necessary resources
specially created for their users. But this would not work in an open
The next step was what is known as 'AccessForAll' metadata - a way of
providing a profile of the needs of users that could be matched to a
way of describing the relevant characteristics of resources.
While this work was going on, within DCMI we were working to provide
something everyone could use to describe their resources to make a
HUGE difference to the discovery process for people with special needs.
We came up with one term that could be added to a DC profile to make a
very big difference - the term 'accessibilty' - and then an AP that
could be used by those who were able to offer more. This work was done
in parallel with other work that was identifying the needs and
preferences of users and preparing for them to be matched
automatically and otherwise by suitable resources allowing content
providers to offer an accessible service - beyond just accessible
resources. This meant moving from working with the almost impossible
'just-in-case' approach to accessibility to a much more practical
While this was happening, the UN was updating its Convention on the
Rights of People with Disabilities and the Web was evolving so people
everywhere were using different devices, in many different contexts,
and starting to have different needs for the same resources, and so
the notion of an 'inclusive information society' was emerging.
In the US, the Federal Government started to think about how people
with special needs could be helped by the cloud. Surely some of the
services they use for adaptation of resources could be made available
And so we moved into a phase in which we are developing the Global
Public Inclusive Infrastructure (http://gpii.org/). There are a number
of well-funded projects to advance this work and, particularly in
Europe, systems are emerging.
So, back to DCMI. It is not yet determined exactly which functional
requirements will be catered for, or how these will be organised. It
is not yet clear how the relevant characteristics of resources
(including services, of course) will be described, but these must
match the needs and preferences of the users. But it is clear that DC
metadata is likely to provide some very good solutions to these
The original DC Accessibility AP was set up to match the goals of ISO/
IEC standard 24751. The terms were not the same but now that standard
is being revised. The DC AP was a response to a description set of an
abstract profile of user needs and preferences. This is a stretch for
some, but theoretically not a problem. Users are not defined by their
access needs and preferences - because these change according to the
circumstances - but their immediate functional needs can be described
in the profile.
So the immediate work for the DC Accessibility Community is to revisit
what has been done already. This means to check that the needs and
preferences of users are well-defined and there is a DC conformant way
of describing them, and to then to provide a well-defined, DC
conformant way of describing the characteristics of resources. This
will enable DC metadata systems, or those compatible with them, to use
the information to help users find resources that will be accessible
to them. It will help those who provide alternative resources and
adaptive services make them available without dependence on the
authors of those resources. We think of cumulative metadata, developed
by crowd-sourcing and paradata (machine-generated metadata based on
usage etc), improving the accessibility of the Web.
If you have questions, comments, ideas, or anything else to
contribute, please share your ideas with us on this list.