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Return to SENDA? Implementing accessibility for disabled students in virtual learning environments in UK further and higher education

11. Glossary of terms and acronyms

Accessible design
Ensuring content and presentation of an educational product/experience enables participation by every student, regardless of browser settings or assistive technology. Also known as Design for All or Universal Design.

The degree to which a product or services is barrier-free for all users.

A specification recently produced by IMS (q.v.), which introduces accessibility elements in its Learner Information Package (LIP)

Action on Access
Action on Access is the national co-ordination team appointed by HEFCE (q.v.) and LSC (q.v.) to support their Widening Participation strategies for England.

Advanced Distributed Learning
US Federal Government initiative, overseen by the US Department of Defense; produces SCORM (shareable courseware object reference model - q.v.) standards.

Aviation Industry CBT (computer-based training) Committee
International association which is developing guidelines for the aviation industry in CBT and related training technologies. Like ADL’s SCORM, the scope of the specifications has moved beyond its originating sector, and AICC works with IEEE (q.v.), IMS (q.v.) and ADL (q.v.) to produce guidelines and recommendations.

Adult Learning Inspectorate
Reports on the quality of education and training received by adult learners and young people in England; responsible for inspecting all publicly funded work-based training for people over 16 and learning for post-19s.

Association for Learning Technology
Professional and scholarly association which seeks to bring together all those with an interest in the use of learning technology to promote good practice in the use of learning technologies in education and industry and facilitate collaboration between practitioners, researchers, and policy makers.

Assistive technology
Devices, tools, hardware or software that enable people with disabilities to use a computer. Examples include screen readers (also known as speaking browsers), screen magnifiers, alternative keyboards or input devices, voice recognition software.

British Educational Communications and Technology Agency
UK government lead agency for ICT in education.

BRITE initiative
Supported by Scottish Executive and Scottish Further Education Funding Council; offers regional training facilities at the Scottish ACCESS Centres to support staff from the FE sector to facilitate the distribution of (and support for) assistive technology workstations for FE Colleges in Scotland.

Computer aided instruction

Communication and information technologies

Computer based training. Refers to any form of training involving interaction between user and computer; may be web-based, or offline with CD-Rom, for example.

CEN – Centre for European Normalisation – is the European Union committee which promotes voluntary technical harmonization in Europe in conjunction with its European partners as well as worldwide bodies. ISSS - Information Society Standardisation System – works in e-learning interoperability in Europe, looking in particular at issues of internationalisation, localisation and copyright issues.

Centre for Educational Technology Interoperability Standards; represents UK higher and further education institutions on international learning technology standards initiatives.

Educational shop window for purchases of software, data, information, training materials and other IT related products. CHEST negotiates license agreements for use by the educational community. It also produces a VLE comparison grid at for Blackboard, FD learning environment, Granada LearnWise (Granada Learning) Teknical Virtual Campus, WebCT and Wizlearn.

Computer mediated communication

Operating in a way defined by a standard

Operating in a way defined by a specification

A cascading style sheet is a web page derived from multiple sources with a defined order of precedence where the definitions of any style element conflict. CSS gives more control over the appearance of a Web page to the page creator than to the browser designer or the viewer. In general, the web page creator's style sheet takes precedence, but it's recommended that browsers provide ways for the viewer to override the style attributes in some respects.

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
Dublin Core is an open forum developing web-based metadata standards for a wide range of purposes. The DCMI metadata element set, based on extensive international consensus, is intended to facilitate the discovery of web-based resources. Most of the 15 elements have commonly understood semantics akin to a library catalogue card.

HEFCE funded project that ran from 2000 to March 2003. Developed an online learning package aimed specifically at academic staff and examined the issues faced by disabled students in higher education. The project was a collaboration between the Universities of Salford, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and UMIST.

Disability Discrimination Act

UK Department for Education and Skills, the government body with ultimate responsibility for all sectors of education.

DfES E-learning Strategy Unit
The UK Department for Education and Skills has an E-learning strategy covering pre-school right through to adult learning.

Disability Rights Commission
Non-departmental public body with general remit to promote equal opportunities for disabled people; oversees implementation of the DDA (q.v.) and SENDA (q.v.).

Document type definition
Specification that accompanies XML (q.v.) documents and defines the mark-up that identifies topic headings and hierarchies and how each is to be processed. By mailing a DTD with a document, any location that has a DTD ‘reader’ will be able to process the document and display or print it as intended. For XML to accessible, the DTD must incorporate accessibility options.

Dyslexia, dyspraxia
There are a number of specific forms of learning disability that affect people’s ability to read and/or write. Guidelines on developing web material for individuals with these kinds of learning disabilities are at

European Design for All e-Accessibility Network
Raises the profile of Design for All/Universal Design across the European Union and emphasizes its importance in achieving greater e-accessibility. Formed as a result of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, one of EDeAN’s tasks is to establish links with appropriate education channels to embed Design for All best practices in new curricula.
European Union portal gathering information on the use of multimedia technologies and the internet for education, training and lifelong learning in Europe. Part of the EU eLearning Action Plan, managed by the Multimedia Unit of the EU Directorate of General Education and Culture.

e-government interoperability framework, which sets out the standards web developers need to implement to ensure all the public sector information systems can work together.

Frequently asked questions

Further Education Resources for Learning
Information service for UK Post Compulsory Education sector. Aims to support individuals and organisations in making effective use of ILT (Information Learning Technologies). Ferl is funded by the Learning and Skills Council and managed by BECTa.

Further education
All education after the age of 16 that is not higher education (q.v.). Courses are provided in a range of general and specialist institutions – FEIs - and are mostly technical, professional and vocational.

Higher Education Funding Council for England
Promotes and funds teaching and research in universities and colleges of higher education in England.

Higher Education Statistics Agency

Higher education
Academic education above A-level and its Scottish equivalent, as provided by universities and colleges of higher education - HEIs

Hypertext mark-up language
The fundamental language of the web; HTML mark-up symbols or codes are inserted in a file intended for display on a web browser page. The mark-up tells the web browser how to display a web page's words and images for the user. Each individual mark-up code is referred to as an element (but many people also refer to it as a tag). Most elements come in pairs that indicate when some display effect is to begin and when it is to end.

Information and communication technologies.

A University of Aberdeen project 1999-2001 ‘to develop a systematic method of integrating disability issues within the mainstream of institutional practices for the direct benefit of the total learning environment of students with disabilities’; has produced online resource pack for educators and administrators.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
One of the principal global accredited standards bodies. Its Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) (q.v.) oversees e-learning standards.

ILT (1)
Information and learning tehcnology.

ILT (2)
Insitute for Learning and Teaching
Professional body for all who teach and support learning in higher education in the UK.

IMS (1)
Instructional Management System
IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit organisation comprised of educational, commercial and government members in the United States, launched in 1997 by Educom (now Educause). Develops and promotes open specifications for online learning such as locating and using learning content, tracking learner progress, reporting learner performance, exchanging student records. Also has a set of guidelines concerning accessibility.

IMS (2)
Information management systems

Inclusion/inclusive learning
Design of educational environments and experiences that takes account of the needs of all learners.

The ability of systems and data to work together seamlessly.

International Standards Organisation
Network of national standards institutes from 140 countries. ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 (http://jtc1sc36.0rg) develops international standards in e-learning, focusing on existing specifications.

Joint academic network
The UK’s education and research network, managed for JISC (q.v.) by UKERNA

A programming language used in web site development to do such things as:
automatically change a formatted date on a web page; cause a linked-to page to appear in a popup window; or cause text or a graphic image to change during a mouse rollover. Also used in communication tools such as chat rooms.

Joint Information Systems Committee
Supports further and higher education by providing strategic guidance, advice and opportunities to use Information and Communications Technology to support teaching, learning, research and administration.

Learning environments and pedagogy
A project of LTSN (q.v.).

UK national e-learning service that offers, through partners, internet access to over 680 online course and runs 1900 access centres across the UK.

Learning and Skills Council
The government agency responsible for funding and planning education and training for over 16-year-olds in England.

Lifelong learning
Term used to indicate that acquiring new knowledge is a continuous process which does not stop with the end of school or university.

Learning Technology Standards Committee
Committee of the IEEE (q.v.) that oversees e-learning standards.

Learning and Teaching Support Network
The LTSN Generic Centre promotes good practices in learning and teaching across all disciplines in UK higher education and provides a one-stop shop of learning and teaching resources and information for the HE community.

Managed learning environment.

National Disability Team
Contracted by HEFCE (q.v.) to undertake the servicing of a national team to improve provision for disabled students in higher education. Together with Action on Access (q.v.) they provide the inclusion in the higher education website at

National Learning Network
UK-wide initiative to provide robust network infrastructure, support and information, as well as learning materials to encourage further and higher education institutions to make best use of technology, ILT materials and resources.

Portable document format
A file format that has captured all the elements of a printed document as an electronic image that the user can view, navigate, print, or forward to someone else. PDF files are created using Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, or similar products. PDF files are not accessible in the same way as HTML files, though newer versions are becoming more accessible.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Independent public body overseeing standards of UK higher education qualifications and encouraging improvement in the management of the quality of higher education; section 3 of the QAA Code of Practice for the Assurance of Quality and Standards in Higher Education covers students with disabilities.

Royal National College for the Blind

Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model
Suite of technical standards that allow web-based learning systems to find, import, share, re-use and export learning content in a standardised way. Developed by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) (q.v.) under the auspices of the US Department of Defense

Section 508
A shorthand reference to section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act, which mandates that all technology acquired by the US Federal Government is accessible. A set of standards for software and web-based information and applications is overseen by the Federal Access Board

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act 2001
UK legislation aimed at ensuring disabled students get the same access to and quality of education as non-disabled students.

National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
Independent body working with FE and HE institutions to promote opportunities for disabled people.

Skills for Access
Joint initiative by the Learning Media Unit at the University of Sheffield and the Digital Media Access Group at the University of Dundee to develop a generic resource to the Higher Education community that will help develop understanding and production of multimedia resources that conform to best practice with regards to accessibility.

Scalable vector graphics
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is the description of an image as an application of XML (q.v.); the SVG format enables the viewing of an image on a computer display of any size and resolution, whether a tiny screen in a cell phone or a large display in a workstation; also allows text within images to be recognized as such, so that the text can be located by a search engine and easily translated into other languages

Technology for disabilities information service
JISC (q.v.) funded service aimed at enhancing access for those with learning
difficulties and/or disabilities, to learning and teaching.

Tertiary education
Tertiary education is a slightly confusing term, used in the UK mainly as a synonym for higher education. In other countries it is coterminous with all post-16 education.

UK e-university
A company established in 2000 by HEFCE with £62m funding, charged with delivering online and worldwide degrees and degree-level learning from UK universities.

A centre of expertise in digital information management, providing advice and services to the library, information, education and cultural heritage communities

Universal design
Also known as design for all

Virtual learning environment

Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium; W3C provides interoperable technologies aiming to ‘lead the web to its full potential’. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative provides accessibility guidelines for web content (WCAG), as well as for authoring tools (ATAG) and user agents (UAAG).

Extensible mark-up language
Provides a standard ‘meta-language’ for defining data structures; it is text-based, structured and transformable (via XSLT q.v.). All major computer platforms support XML, so it solves a lot of interoperability problems, including those with assistive technologies. XML separates content from presentation, meaning that a specific stylesheet for an individual user or a particular platform can separately operate on the ‘raw’ data provided in the XML document. XML does not guarantee accessibility however, unless developers follow guidelines such as the W3C XML accessibility guidelines as well and include accessibility elements in DTDs and schema.


All pages and content copyright © Sara Dunn 2003, unless otherwise stated.