Accessibility Standards

Pearson Assessments is committed to implementing international accessibility guidelines, specifications, and best practices in order to make continuous improvements in the accessibility of our products and services. Several members of the Pearson Assessments business actively participate in standards groups that develop and maintain internationally recognized accessibility guidelines and specifications.

Digital Accessible Information SYstem

The DAISY  (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) Consortium develops technical standards and best practices for digital publishing and reading platforms to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities in both specialist and mainstream formats, including EPUB 3, the leading mainstream ebook standard. A member of the Accessibility for Assessments team serves on the DAISY – DIAGRAM Standards Group.

IMS Global Learning Services Consortium

IMS (Instructional Management System) Global Learning Consortium was established in 1995 as a “project of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative of EDUCAUSE.” IMS is “concerned with establishing interoperability for learning systems and learning content and the enterprise integration of these capabilities.” Question & Test Interoperability (QTI) is tightly coupled with the Access for All (AfA) Specification, which allows systems to record and transfer users’ support needs and preferences when using computers, or when taking computer-based assessments. Test candidate needs and preferences are transferred using a Personal Needs and Preferences profile (PNP). Paul Grudnitski, Pearson's Vice President of Architecture and Innovation serves as a Co-Chair for the QTI 3 Specification.

International Organization for Standardization

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) works together with its partner organizations, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)   and the  International Telecommunication Union (ITU) , to create technical standards and guidelines that include a diverse range of accessibility consideration for everything from ergonomics, information technology, assistive products, public information symbols and the built environment. It is important to note that the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0 was approved as an ISO/IEC International Standard in 2012:  ISO/IEC 40500:2012 .  It was reviewed and confirmed again in 2019.  

W3C Mathematical Markup Language (MathML)

MathML is a "markup language for describing mathematical notation and capturing both its structure and content. MathML can be used to encode both mathematical notation and mathematical content."

W3C Publishing Working Group

The W3C Publishing Working Group works to “provide the necessary technologies on the Open Web Platform to make the combination of traditional publishing and the Web complete in terms of accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, and reliable cross referencing.” A member of the Accessibility Team for Assessments is a part of this working group.

W3C Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 2

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) "is a language based on XML for describing two-dimensional vector and mixed vector/raster graphics."

W3C Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML)

The W3C SSML Recommendation is "designed to provide a rich, XML-based markup language for assisting with the generation of synthetic speech in Web and other applications. The essential role of SSML is to provide authors of synthesizable content a standard way to control aspects of speech such as pronunciation, volume, pitch, rate, etc. across different synthesis-capable platforms." The W3C Pronunciation Task Force maintains a wiki page on SSML efforts and research.

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) “develops standards and support materials to help people understand and implement accessibility.” WAI is a part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) , which is an international community of member organizations that work with full-time W3C staff and the public to develop web standards. Pearson continually works toward conformance with the following WAI guidelines and has representatives working on several WAI efforts:

Accessibility Education and Outreach Working Group

The Accessibility Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) develops educational resources and awareness and training materials about accessibility. Brent Bakken, the Director of Strategy and Education for the Accessibility Team for Assessments, serves as Co-Chair of the EOWG.

Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and Task Forces

  1. The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) develops and maintains a comprehensive list of publications , including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) . WCAG covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content and Web applications accessible. Three members of the Accessibility Team for Assessments are a part of AGWG efforts.
  2. The Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Task Force is developing "a framework and repository of test rules, to promote a unified interpretation" of WCAG, including "the development of custom test rules." The Accessibility for Assessments Team has one member on the ACT Task Force.
  3. The Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force (COGA) is "a joint Task Force of the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group   and the  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) ." COGA works to update existing W3C materials related to cognitive accessibility issues and it produces "techniques, understanding, and guidance documents," about the access needs of people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
  4. The Silver Task Force is working on the next generation of accessibility guidelines that will eventually replace WCAG. The new accessibility guidelines "will address the process of making content and functionality accessible to people with disabilities, including the roles of content authoring, user agent support, and authoring tool support." Two members of the Accessibility Team for Assessments serve on the Silver Task Force.

Technical Specifications

  1. The Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) specification can improve the accessibility and interoperability of web content by properly conveying "user interface behaviors and structural information to assistive technologies" through semantic markup. ARIA is especially helpful "with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies."
  2. The Pronunciation Task Force is working to "provide normative specifications and best practice guidance so that text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis can provide proper pronunciation of HTML content." A member of the Accessibility Team for Assessments is a part of this task force.