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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

Accessible E-Learning
Online Symposium 16 December 2013

Page Contents


This online symposium invited researchers, tutors and trainers, providers of online learning, developers of Learning Content Management System (LCMS), and users with disabilities, to explore new and on-going e-learning experiences and research and analyze past experiences related to the design, creation, and usage of accessible e-learning. The goal of the symposium was to discuss different approaches and applications to address accessibility issues in e-learning contexts, and to explore next steps to further advance the implementation of accessibility in e-learning environments, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).


Text Transcript of the Symposium

Text transcript of the online symposium on 16 December 2013.

Contributed Extended Abstracts


Learning and education are the enablers of social and economic change, with attainment of learning often dictating an individuals ability to enter professional careers and maintain a comfortable lifestyle. As with many aspects of modern society, the landscape of higher education has been significantly impacted by the coming of the internet age. For centuries traditional learning environments were locked in the physical foundations of buildings and places, requiring students to attend in a time and a place. With the realization of the internet age learners can still access the curriculum of any number of higher education institutions, but now via the Web, at a time and a place convenient to them.

E-learning systems provide comprehensive mechanisms for managing the presentation of curriculum and content, allowing instructors and students to interact synchronously and asynchronously from any part of the world that has a viable internet connection. Students can attend high quality institutions, receiving accredited and recognized qualifications without leaving the comfort of their own home. For some learners with disabilities this is of paramount importance, as their local home and work environments are likely to be highly tailored to their specific needs, particularly in terms of physical access, transport and assistive technologies. Travelling to learn may be difficult for learners with certain specialized requirements, whereas online learning — whether from a workplace, other educational setting, home, or mobile environment that is already customized — may be highly achievable. While it is equally important to ensure accessibility of transportation and of educational environments, there is a great opportunity to ensure that e-learning is accessible from the design stage forward.

Overcoming the physical location and access issues in terms of attainment of learning goes partway to a solution for fully inclusive education options for disabled learners, but it is an incomplete progression if the digital web interface is itself not accessible. How e-learning systems are designed, how their interfaces function, how communication is handled, how assessments take place and what form the learning content takes all impact on the accessibility of these systems by students with disabilities.

The research literature in the field of e-learning is both broad and comprehensive, though the intersection between e-learning and web accessibility is less well developed. This symposium seeks to combine the benefits of nearly two decades worth of accessibility research with nearly three decades of e-learning research so as to inform e-learning accessibility for the coming decade.

More in-depth background and discussion in RDWG wiki on accessible e-learning.


The objectives of this symposium are to explore:


The Accessible E-Learning symposium is organized by the W3C WAI Research and Development Working Group (RDWG). For information about RDWG, see the RDWG FAQ. If you have additional questions, contact Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C Staff Contact).

Symposium Chairs

Scientific Committee

Scientific committee will be announced here in the coming weeks.