W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org > March 1999

RE: How can we better accommodate learning disabilities?

From: Marja-Riitta Koivunen <marja@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 02 Mar 1999 13:20:10 -0500
Message-Id: <4.1.19990302130139.00b216e0@>
To: "David Clark" <dmclark@cast.org>, "'Leonard R. Kasday'" <kasday@acm.org>, "'Silas S. Brown'" <ssb22@cam.ac.uk>
Cc: <w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org>
Presenting information in multiple formats is surely important. Another
important issue is the overall usability of the site. How to get the "big
picture" of the site, how to navigate within the site, how to find the
information that you are interested in, how to tailor the site to show the
information and site structure in a format that is most helpful to you etc.
Some of this might depend on the group of users the site is intended to but
many issues are quite general.

Today many sites make it difficult for the users to know where they are,
where they can go to and how they got there. With at least some kind of
learning disabilities I would think that the difficulties are even greater.


At 09:59 AM 3/2/99 -0500, David Clark wrote:
>Here, here Len!
>I have been cringing at this discussion equating LD with low intelligence.
>In fact, as Len points out, LD is defined as disparities between overall
>intelligence and performance in specific areas.
>The solution? The key is redundancy. Just as a site should not be all
>graphics, it shouldn't be all text either. By presenting information in
>multiple formats (text, images, sound, etc) ensures access to the widest
>group of people. It is not about "dumbing down" the material.
>David Clark
>CAST, Inc.
>-----Original Message-----
>From:	w3c-wai-er-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-er-ig-request@w3.org] On
>Behalf Of Leonard R. Kasday
>Sent:	Tuesday, March 02, 1999 8:59 AM
>To:	Silas S. Brown
>Cc:	w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org
>Subject:	Re: How can we better accommodate learning disabilities?
>I'm not an expert in learning disabilities by any means. Also, from what
>I've seen, "learning disabilities" is a complex and somewhat controversial
>subject.  Definitions here in the US may differ from those in the UK.  But
>here's my opinion.
>First of all, at least by definitions common in the US, people with
>learning disabilities can have average or above average intelligence
>overall, but with difficulties in rather specific areas.  In fact, by
>definition, a learning disability exists only when a specific ability is
>below what is expected on the basis of overall intelligence.  So in general
>it should be possible to construct web pages that accommodate people with
>learning disabilities.  In fact, many well designed pages should be
>accessible as is.
>Also, there's the case of people who may have difficulties with written
>English because their native language is sign language (e.g. ASL).  One
>person I knew for example, a college grad, was very bright, and you'd never
>suspect just speaking with her (she read lips) that she had any
>difficulties--but she was often frustrated that her reading level was well
>below college grad level (at least that's how she felt about it).  This is
>another case where these folks are just as smart as anyone else and
>perfectly able to understand anything that might be on a web page, provided
>the right accommodations are made.
>If there are folks on the list with more info in this area, please fill us
>At 09:50 PM 3/1/99 +0000, Silas S. Brown wrote:
>>I have seen some 80 people with severe learning disabilities (my father
>>is an instructor at Bridport social education centre) and I'm sorry to
>>say that they are probably incapable of understanding most information
>>no matter what form it's put in (although of course it's possible that
>>the ones I've seen were more severe cases than others are).  We can't
>>make the whole web accessible to them any more than we can make it
>>accessible to a very young child.  This is of course not to say that
>>there can't be specialist web pages for them, and of course there are
>>probably *some* pages out there that could be made more accessible to
>>them.  (Anyone think they can hack out a graphical client for
>>http://infinity.digital-web.net/~lionman/checkers.html ?  I fancy they
>>might be weak players though.)
>>One problem is that computers are very complicated things, and perhaps
>>people with learning difficulties can't form the concept of just how
>>complicated they are.  This means that they had better not go wrong.  If
>>they do (and print up a funny message), confusion will happen.  In the
>>world of the Web there are zillions of things to go wrong.  "The server
>>may be down or it is not responding", "The access gateway failed to
>>retrieve the page", etc etc - I suppose you could have a graphic of the
>>computer "falling asleep" or something but that would be a nightmare
>>for the poor technician who has to wake it up.
>>-- Silas S Brown, St John's College Cambridge UK
>>"Do not reveal the confidential talk of another" - Proverbs 25:9
>Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
>Universal Design Engineer, Institute on Disabilities/UAP, and
>Adjunct Professor, Electrical Engineering
>Temple University
>Ritter Hall Annex, Room 423, Philadelphia, PA 19122
>(215} 204-2247 (voice)
>(800) 750-7428 (TTY)
Received on Tuesday, 2 March 1999 13:19:17 UTC

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