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Accessible e-learning symposium

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Accessible E-learning Online Symposium 09 December 2013


This online symposium invites 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 is to discuss different approaches and applications to address accessibility issues in e-learning contexts, and to explore next steps to further promote the implementation of accessibility in e-learning environments, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

See Participating on how to register and contribute to this Symposium.


  • 15th November 2013: Deadline for papers
  • 2nd December 2013: Author notification
  • 6th December 2013: Final versions of papers due
  • 9th December 2013: Symposium registration opens
  • 16th December 2013: Online symposium event at TBD UTC (times in different locations)


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 realisation 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 recognised qualifications without leaving the comfort of their own home. For 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 extremely difficult, if not impossible for learners with specialised requirements, whereas as staying home to learn could be highly achievable. This is not to say that research and investment in the areas of accessible travel and accomodation should be overlooked, as the digital alternative rarely captures the full impact of a face to face, in-situ learning experience.

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 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 system 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 web 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:

  • Relationships and integration between content accessibility and interface accessibility.
  • Evaluating accessibility of e-learning environments.
  • Accessibility of e-learning environments used in non-conventional contexts and/or by means of non-conventional devices (i.e. m-learning, t-learning).
  • Privacy issues in profiling learners and e-learning environments users.
  • Experiences and examples of accessible MOOCs.
  • Comparisons and analysis of e-learning standards related to accessibility.
  • Experiences and examples of standards implementations in e-learning environments.
  • Different standards, compliance and integration.




You can participate in the symposium in several ways:

  • E-mail before the symposium – sending additional short contributions, questions, and comments to the publicly-archived mailing list RDWG Comments, with subject starting "[Accessible E-learning Symposium]"
  • Phone conference – listening and contributing comments and questions during the symposium. Registered participants will receive dial-in instructions by e-mail.
  • Live captioning - reading the real-time captioning during the symposium. (Transcripts will be provided after the symposium.)
  • Chat – contributing comments and questions during the symposium. Please use a nickname that makes it easy to identify you when you have questions or make comments, for example, use your first and last name as nickname like this: "Firstname_Lastname".

We hope to address all questions and comments raised during the symposium although we cannot guarantee we will get to each one.


Participation by phone is closed; registered participants will receive dial-in instructions by e-mail. Participants are expected to read the papers in the Proceedings above before the symposium.


TBD UTC (times in different locations)

  1. Introduction to topic and symposium (TBD)
  2. Session 1 (TBD)
  3. Short break (TBD)
  4. Session 2 (TBD)
  5. Next steps and conclusion (TBD)


To get notification of updated information on this and other RDWG symposia, see Getting WAI Announcements.


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

  • Justin Brown (Edith Cowan University, School of Computer and Security Science)
  • Silvia Mirri (University of Bologna, Department of Engineering and Computer Science)

Scientific Committee