Category: Standardisation

ITLET – Culture, Language and Individual Needs

PUBLISHED: May 7th, 2009

At its Wellington NZ March 2009 meetings, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36/WG7 agreed to this new title and the following scope:

IT-related standardisation in support of diverse cultures, languages and individual needs in the field of learning, education and training, and its supporting technologies.

And Terms of Reference:

The responsibility of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36/WG7 is to develop standards ensuring that relevant features and processes of Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training are adaptable to the requirements of individual users. SC36/WG7 standards support the principles and the objectives of the 2006 “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” and follow the principles of “Inclusive Design”.(1)

WG7 also serves as a resource, consultant, and reviewer of relevant activities facilitating a harmonised approach to accessibility within the scope of SC36.

Information technology that adapts to the needs of individual users enhances their learning experiences. Such adaptation may be based on culture, language and/or individual needs.
This adaptability also benefits ITLET developers as it supports ease of internationalisation, localisation, updating and customisation for a variety of purposes.

with the following specification of “Inclusive Design”

(1) Inclusive Design refers to the design of ITLET resources and tools that support the full range of user needs, including needs associated with culture, language, learning approach, age and disability. Inclusive design is a derivative of universal design that achieves the goals of universal design (as referenced in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities) by harnessing the adaptability of digital systems and content to optimize the design for each individual user.

Why does the new title of WG7 better reflect the types of standards we develop?

The former title “culture, language, human functioning activities” incorrectly represented the focus of the working group by placing emphasis on the restrictive concept of “human functioning” instead of on accessibility and “Access for All” and individual needs. WG7 members felt that the title “Culture, language and individual needs” better reflects the focus and underpinning of the area of standards that are developed in the working group as part of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 committee.

The work of this Working Group, i.e., WG7, is focused on two multipart projects, namely ISO/IEC 24751 and a new project proposal on »Human Interface Equivalencies in e-Learning applications».
With regards to ISO/IEC 24751 whose title is Information technology – Individualized adaptability and accessibility in e-learning, education and training, there are currently three published Parts; namely:

  • Part-1: Framework and reference model  (Freely available at ISO)
  • Part-2: “Access for all” personal needs and preferences for digital delivery
  • Part-3: “Access for all” digital resource description

Since April, 2007, there have also been four additional Parts under development within this multipart standard. However, as progress on their development has been very slow, WG7 decided at its March, 2009 meeting in Wellington, NZ to request that these Parts be withdrawn. It was felt that those working on these parts needed more time to understand and integrate all the perspectives into viable standards projects. The following Parts are thus withdrawn.

  • Part-4: Personal needs and preferences for non-digital adptations of digital resources
  • Part-5: Identification and description of non-digital adaptations of digital resources
  • Part-6: “Access for all” digital resource description
  • Part 7: Description of events and places

WG7 has also started work on two new Parts in ISO/IEC 24751; namely:

  • Part-9: ITLET – Access for All personal user interface preferences
  • Part-10: ITLET – Access for All user interface characteristics.

These new parts are based on work and tools developed in the Fluid project. The goal of these new parts is to provide for a user interface experience that adapts to a person’s preferences on how parts of the user preferences should behave. This work is also linked to the W3C/WAI/ARIA project Working Draft (WD) versions of these new Parts are expected to be available for discussion at the next meeting in September 2009.

WG7 has also invited all member countries of SC36 to provide proposals for new additional parts to the ISO/IEC 24751 series of standards.

With regards to the second multipart project, i.e., «HiE’s in e-Learning Applications» this is the former Part 8 of ISO/IEC 24751 which was titled: “Access for all – language accessibility and human interface equivalencies (HIEs) in e-learning applications”. Because of its wider applicability than the existing ISO/IEC 24751 it has been re-issued as a new multipart project proposal with the title of “ITLET – Language Accessibility and Human Interface Equivalencies (HIEs) in e-Learning applications: Principles, Rules and Metadata Elements“. A working draft (WD) version of this standard is expected to be discussed at our next meeting in Umeå/Sweden, September, 2009.

Within learning, education and training, the ability to have access to information is important. It is also essential that the information be communicated to the user in such a way that it is comprehensible and can be used based on the learners’ capabilities, prerequisites, cultural context, and preferences.

In the 24751 Parts there are matching pairs, i.e., one part for identifying the preferences of a user, and the other for matching and describing the resources which corrrespond to the user preferences. This pairing of standard parts allows for personal preferences to be used to turn on or off different accessibility features in the computer, such as sticky keys, mouse cursor speed, contrast etc. However, one of the more interesting features of the personal preferences component is the “Adaptation” of content to match a individual’s personal preference. Some possible adaptations include:

  • audio representation
  • visual representation
  • text representation
  • caption

If a learning resource contains a picture, one person’s preference could be to have a “text preference” of all visual elements, to be able to understand and comprehend the meaning (semantics) of the picture. The textual adaptation of the picture should describe the picture in such detail that the same understanding and the expected value of the picture is understood in both representations. The same goes for images, audio, movies and other formats that have a graphical representations. Other adaptions could be that movies have captioning etc. to meet the individual needs of the learner.

If a picture has a textual representation, this textual representation is then an adaption of the picture.

Both personal needs and preferences and the digital resource descriptions are expressed as metadata. This has the advantage that «just in time accessibility» is easily achievable. For example, if a student is collaborating with a peer student whose individual need is for a textual representation of a picture, she could – while collaborating – provide a textual representation of the picture, describe this as an adaption of the picture and the textual representation of the picture is made available to everyone that is using the same resource, i.e. I have made the resource accessible just in time for my peer student, and for everyone else.

About WG7 new project proposal on «Human Interface Equivalences (HIEs)»

When we are providing alternative representations of the actual contents of a resource it is important that the alternative representations provide the same meaning as the content of the original resource. This is of importance when the alternative representation of the semantic content is in another language or a description of a picture/diagram/illustration.

Based on the expected actions from the understanding of the resource, the accuracy of the contents must be of a given quality. The consequence of misinterpreting information is different if you are taking an exam versus reading a comic strip.

The new work item proposal on “Language Accessibility and Human Interface Equivalencies (HIEs) in e-Learning applications” is addressing the need for semantic equivalent information, and this is different from a mere translation of a resource.

The need for different levels of semantic accuracy depends on the task that is expected to be based on the information in the resource. These are different if the resource is intended for:

  • Information
  • Decision making
  • Commitment

If the resource is used as the basis for commitment, it is important that this is understood by the user, whatever representation the resource has. And the level of semantic accuracy should be such that the same meaning and understanding are ensured. This one of the key requirements of the recently adopted  “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. This standards project will support and comply fully with the requirements of this UN Convention.

Since we are living in a global environment and most societies are multi-cultural we must also provide information in a cultural context to ensure that we have an equivalent semantic understanding of the information, and that the citizens could make a decision based on the information received from any public entity.


Position paper for “The Future of Interoperability Standards – Technical Approaches”

PUBLISHED: September 22nd, 2010

This is my position paper for the ” The Future of Interoperability Standards – Technical Approaches” meeting as part of the “ICOPER Best Practice Network”.


How is the future of interoperability of standards, I think the future is bright – if we need to weare shades – I’m not sure.
As the world of ICT is becoming increasingly more complex, where almost any device is somewhat connected. There is an increasing focus on the need for interoperability. Connected systems are no longer from one vendor, or developed on one system. The ICT infrastructure have grown so big that no vendor or supplier or software company can control it. Therefore interoperability is the foundation of connectiveness of ICT systems, and enable a free flow of information between systems, and users of these systems.

Since the world is becoming increasingly more complex, I think it is premature to have the idea that everything we would like to express or exhange of information could fit in any given model. We need to develop a more pragmatic approach to interoperability, we need to focus on a flexible model, and the tools used for exchanging and processing the information need to have a high tolerance of error processing.

Based on implementations and how the different tools manages errors, hopefully a best practice will evolve.

Categories of standards

To simplify and as an attempt to explain, I would like to distinguish between two different types of standards (There are many others and nuances to these categories.). That I think need a different level, and accuracy of interoperability.

  • Descriptive standards
  • Protocols – Connecting standards

In general the difference between the level of these standards in my view is that “Descriptive” standards have a higher level of human interaction, than “Protocol” standards that are more consumed by machines.

For standards that are closer to the human side of interaction the level of flexibility should be higher. Standards that are to be consumed by computers only, and not to be seen by any human, the level of flexibility should be nil. e.g. http protocol, tcp/ip, etc.


We have several levels of interoperability, and this is connected to my previous position paper on the process of Development of standards. In this position paper I argue that we should harmonise the discussion, when developing the standards. I would argue that we need to look differently at how we specify standards with regard to interoperability.

With semantics I understand the meaning of thing, and this is a requirement to understand the value of the message submitted or shared among different systems. However the labelling of the data should not be important.

To achieve a more flexible interoperability scheme we should look at architectures of information domains. If a information segment belongs to the same architecture or are of the same architectural constructs there should be possible to have some level of interoperability between systems.

Graceful degradation

The future of interoperability standards lies within the possibility to degreade gracefully. To accept errors, to accept user flaws.

We should learn from how the use of HTML and web-browsers emerged. I would argue that the main reason for why the “internet” is a commodity today is that the earlier versions of web-browser managed errors gracefully, was forgiving, and tried its best to meet the intention of the authors of the data. Such a pragmatic approach is the future of interoperability of standards – that is if they are descriptive. However machine to machine communication should not be so pragmatic