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Our Approach – AccessForAll

The approach to digital inclusion supported by the Raising the Floor Consortium is known as “AccessForAll”. The AccessForAll approach is based on achieving accessibility and digital inclusion through dynamically matching each individual’s unique needs and preferences with the resources, services, interfaces, or environments available.

The AccessForAll approach recognizes that users are diverse; that the delineation between disabled and non-disabled is arbitrary, not absolute; that people with disabilities are one of the most heterogeneous groups and do not fit neatly into diagnostic categories; that those categories can yield misleading information; and that the diagnostic category may only be a small factor in his or her needs and preferences. As such, both disability and accessibility are seen as relative conditions or traits, and disability should be viewed as the result of a mismatch between the needs of the individual and the resource, service, or environment provided. That is, disability does not reside wholly in the abilities of the user, but in the interaction between the user and the technological environment. The purpose of AccessForAll is to enable systems that deliver user experiences and resource configurations that match the unique needs and preferences of each individual, whether or not disability is part of the context.

AccessForAll is built on the premise that digital systems and networked communities make it possible to provide a one-size-fits-one solution.

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) uses globally linked cloud infrastructure to deliver this individualized solution anywhere, anytime, on any device or platform. To deliver this functionality requires a set of broad conditions or functions. Among them:

  1. A means for supporting the individual in discovering accurate and current information about their individual needs and preferences in a given context, while fulfilling a given goal, and declaring this information in a common language that can be understood by technical systems and services;
  2. A way to securely and privately store this information and communicate the relevant information to the right services when needed;
  3. A variety of mechanisms for finding, transforming/adapting, augmenting or substituting user experiences and resources to match the individual needs and preferences anywhere, anytime, on any device or platform, and delivering these to the individual,
  4. A means for addressing gaps in available systems or resources; and
  5. A process for the user and their support team to provide feedback or review the success of the match, to both help to refine the matching process and refine their personal needs and preference profile or statement.

Professor Jutta Treviranus explained the principle as follows in “Making Yourself at Home – Portable Personal Access Preferences” (2002):

“Whether using a public workstation, or engaging in an on-line learning environment, computer systems should fit the individual preferences and requirements of the user, especially if the user requires an alternative access system. An international effort is underway to create a common specification for expressing personal preferences for all systems affecting the user interface and content retrieval. The ATRC of the University of Toronto has created the first models or implementations of this common specification.”

History of AccessForAll


AccessForAll has its origins in the Web4All project (1999-2004) implemented in Canada through a partnership between the Canadian Government and the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto (now the IDRC at OCAD University). The objective of Web4All was to make it possible for any user to instantly reconfigure any multi-user community access point (internet workstation) to match their personal requirements. This was achieved through a small needs and preference file that could be stored on a smart card (e.g., Bell calling card, library card, or bank card) or USB stick. The user was guided in specifying their personal needs and preferences through a needs and preference wizard. Web4All relied upon a small open source program and a set of solutions loaded onto each workstation.


The AccessForAll approach was next implemented in the education domain through a project called TILE (2002-2005; The Inclusive Learning Exchange, http://inclusivelearning.ca). TILE enabled learners to discover and declare their personal needs and preferences, the TILE server then delivered a learning resource or learning object that matched those needs and preferences. TILE leveraged the existence of federated learning object repositories with diverse learning resources that could address the spectrum of learner needs.

IMS Global Learning Consortium

The successful use of the AccessForAll approach is dependent on an interoperable, extensible common language for describing personal needs and preferences and an extensible common language for labeling resources to match those needs and preferences. To achieve this interoperability Jutta Treviranus brought the AccessForAll concept to the IMS Global Learning Consortium Accessibility working group with the support of WGBH SALT funding in 2002. The AccessForAll specification became an IMS recommendation in 2004.

The IMS Accessibility Working Group has since developed several versions of AccessForAll.

International Standards Organization (ISO) Standard

In 2004 Canada sponsored the adoption of AccessForAll as an ISO multi-part standard. ISO 24751 became a standard in 2008 (available via http://standards.iso.org/ittf/PubliclyAvailableStandards/index.html).

In 2009, the Raising the Floor Consortium formed to work on development of the GPII, which included cloud-based auto-personalization. It chose Access4All as the basis for the auto-personalization and in 2010 submitted a proposal to the European Commission to advance auto-personalization using Access4all under the project title Cloud4all. This project is working with the ISO Standards group to evolve ISO 24751 into a registry standard for AccessForAll terms, with a registry to be maintained by Raising The Floor International. There is an agreement between IMS and ISO to maintain the compatibility of the standard and specification.


The FLOE project (2010-current; http://floeproject.org) is one of the most mature implementations of AccessForAll in the learning domain, leveraging the diversity of Open Education Resources to match the individual needs and preferences of learners.

An implementation begun in 2014 will implement GPII which includes Access4all in Libraries.

And a new project has been proposed, to begin in late 2015, to implement GPII including Access4all in high schools, community colleges, American Job Centers, homes and companies (employers).


  1. Treviranus, J. Making Yourself at Home – Portable Personal Access Preferences. Proceedings of the 8th ICCHP 2002 International Conference, Springer Verlag, Linz, Austria, 2002. http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/3-540-45491-8_123.pdf#page-1
  2. Treviranus, J. & Roberts, V. (2006), Inclusive E-learning in International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environment. Editors: Joel Weiss, Jason Nolan, Peter Trifonas, Kluwar, Springer, Hamburg.
  3. Treviranus, J. & Roberts, V. (2007), Disability, Special Education and IT, in International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education. Editors: J.M. Voogt, G. Knezek. Springer, Hamburg.
  4. Treviranus, J. E-Learning that Adapts to the Learner. Proceedings of the E-Learn 2002-World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education. Montreal, 2002.
  5. Treviranus, J. Exploring the Requirements and Impact of Learner-Centric Education, Proceedings of the EDUCAUSE 2002 Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.
  6. Treviranus, J. Making Yourself At Home – Portable Personal Desktop Preferences. Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference, Technology and Persons with Disabilities, Los Angeles, 2002.
  7. Treviranus, J. Creating Inclusive Learning Environments. Proceedings of the Educause 2001 Conference, Indianapolis.
  8. Treviranus, J. Learning is not an Object Pan-Canadian E-Learning Symposium, Vancouver, January 2004
  9. Treviranus, J. Delivering Personalized Learning Content and Interfaces, OLA Superconference, Toronto, 2004
  10. Treviranus, J. Learning in an Inclusive Information Society, International Open Forum: Standards in E-Learning: Towards Enriching and Sharing Our Educational Heritage, Montreal, 2004.
  11. Treviranus, J. The Inclusive Learning Exchange, Edusource Learning Object Summit, Fredericton, N.B., March 2004.
  12. Treviranus, J, Reclaiming Your Personal and Collective Learning Space, IMS Learning Impact 2008.
  13. Treviranus, J. (2010). The Value of Imperfection: the Wabi-Sabi Principle in Aesthetics and Learning. In Open ED 2010 Proceedings. Barcelona: UOC, OU, BYU. [Accessed: 10/1/2011]. (http://hdl.handle.net/10609/4869)
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