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Re: Gaps: (1) Language Readability, (2) Privacy

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@access.digex.net>
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 08:59:26 -0500 (EST)
Message-Id: <199810251359.IAA06563@access5.digex.net>
To: nir.dagan@econ.upf.es
Cc: ehansen@ets.org, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
to follow up on what nir.dagan@econ.upf.es said:

> I do not think that the WAI guidelines should become a general
> guide to good authoring/writing/web-publishing.

> I can't see any relation to the suggestions below and
> accessibility.  Next tell people to spell check and grammar
> check their documents, and not use use rude words.

Here is what I understand to be the connection between well
written headers and titles and accessibility:

A generic disconnect between the page author designing for a GUI
of 800X600 pixels or more in screen size and a user accessing a
web page through text-to-speech, Braille, or a screen magnifier
is that the author acts on the implicit assumption that the user
senses each little item (header or link text or whatever) in the
context of a full screen of cues as to what is going on.  The
user of the stated three classes of alternative interface do not
have the benefit of all this context in their browsing scenario.

Keeping track of where you are and what your options are for
where to go next can be a problem for anyone on the web.  For
people operating under the above mismatch in context display it
often hangs by a thread.  The centrality of orientation and
navigation performance is a point that T.V. Raman raised early in
the WAI process and so far as I know nobody has disproven this

Headers are an opportunity to provide signposts that stabilize
navigation within the page just as link text is critical to
preserving orientation through the step of following a hyperlink.

While the clarity in natural language of these signposts is a
quality factor for orientation and navigation for all users, it
is a quality factor that the users of "small pipe" display modes
are more sensitive to, than are the general population.

The guidelines already invest heavily in the natural language
effectiveness of link text.  Loss of orientation associated with
following a hyperlink is more common than getting lost in the
interior of a page, so this got attention first.

But Eric is probably corect in suggesting that better headers
make for fewer lost users, especially among the users of the
above three classes of user interface.

This has gotten a bit long, I will address privacy in a separate


-- all quote below 
> Regards,
> Nir Dagan
> http://www.nirdagan.com
> > Re: Gaps in Page Authoring Document
> >  
> > I think that there are a couple of gaps in the page authoring document --  
> > one having to do with the readability of language and the other with  
> > privacy of personal information.
> >  
> > The gaps would not be so serious if the document were addressed only to Web  
> > designers and HTML coders who take the content and put it on the Web. The  
> > document is addressed to "page authors," i.e., "Those who are creating Web  
> > pages." (Appendix B. Definitions), and would logically include content  
> > providers, individuals who create the written and other content to put on  
> > the Web.
> >  
> > 1. Language Readability
> >  
> > The gap might be filled by something like: "Ensure readable language."  
> >  
> > I suppose that it should be a priority 2 or 1 guideline.
> >  
> > Tips for achieving this might include:
> >  
> > Follow these writing suggestions:  
> >  
> > _ Strive for clear and accurate headings and link descriptions. Scrutinize  
> > every heading, outline, and menu to see if the crucial words mean exactly  
> > what is intended, and if there is a more common word that would convey the  
> > same meaning.
> > _ State the topic of the sentence or paragraph at the beginning of the  
> > sentence or paragraph.
> > _ Limit each paragraph to one main idea.
> > _ Avoid difficult vocabulary and technical jargon.
> > _ Avoid specialized meanings of familiar vocabulary, unless explanations  
> > are provided.
> > _ Avoid the passive voice.  
> > _ Avoid complex sentence structure.
> > _ Make link phrases terse and meaningful when read out of context.  
> >  
> > Optimize pages for scanning. Because people tend to scan rather than read  
> > Web pages, the quality of headings is particularly important. Good headings  
> > will at least get people to a section that has the information they need.  
> > From there they can go to a dictionary or even print out a section and ask  
> > for help.
> >  
> > Rationale: Lack of readability of language presents a major challenge,  
> > especially for individuals who are deaf or have learning disabilities. One  
> > can readily understand that language complexity might reduce the  
> > accessibility of language for an individual with a learning disability, but  
> > what about individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing? It is obvious that  
> > people with hearing losses find it difficult or impossible to sense audio  
> > input. Yet the average deaf high school graduate has a considerably lower  
> > reading level than a typical hearing counterpart. Many deaf and hard of  
> > hearing individuals do not attain full mastery of English and function much  
> > as do second-language learners of English the language.
> >   
> > Specific problems include difficult vocabulary and sentence construction,   
> > misleading headings, missing information, hidden information, poor  
> > organization, etc. Some of these shortcomings can be overcome by a user  
> > with excellent language or inferencing skills, but especially when an  
> > individual has a hearing loss, a learning disability, or uses English as a  
> > second language, these shortcomings can entirely prevent Web information  
> > from being usable. Note this guideline refers to the nature of language  
> > used -- the cognitive accessibility of the content in contrast to its  
> > sensory accessibility.
> >  
> > Ensuring readable language can benefit nondisabled users as well. Former  
> > Sun Microsystems researcher Jakob Nielsen found that by rewriting content  
> > according to certain guidelines, the measured usability of the content by  
> > readers doubled. (www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/writing.html)
> >  
> > 2. Privacy of Personal Information
> >  
> > "Inform the user how personal information will be used."
> >  
> > One Web user declined to fill out information about his disability on a  
> > scholarship search form because he was concerned that the information would  
> > be given to institutions to which he was applying to graduate school. This  
> > concern impeded his full use of the service.
> >  
> > I can provide further suggestions on this issue if desired. I consider it  
> > less critical than the language readability issue.
> >  
> > =============================
> > Eric G. Hansen
> > Development Scientist
> > Educational Testing Service
> > ETS 12-R
> > Rosedale Road
> > Princeton, NJ 08541
> > (W) 609-734-5615
> > (Fax) 609-734-1090
> > Internet: ehansen@ets.org  
Received on Sunday, 25 October 1998 08:59:37 UTC

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