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Reading level and metadata

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 09:03:55 -0400
Message-Id: <199906221258.IAA89711@relay.interim.iamworld.net>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

Brian Kelly briefed the WAI meetings in Toronto about some work in the area
of metadata.  UKOLN and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (but not
Trace) have a joint project which is just starting up, to foster the
find-ability of content-appropriate material on the Internet/Web.  A rough
translation of the area that they are working on (as far as I know) is
"What would you say about this page in a subject catalog of the Web?"  And
then they are developing a toolkit to help people who want to implement
such subject-oriented gateways.  Brian, in effect, asked the question "What
can we put in the metadata that will aid accessibility?"

Meanwhile, back on the Interest Group list, we have been having a vigorous
discussion relating to non-readers, learning disabilities, and cognitive
disabilities, and what would make the Web more accessible to them or usable
by them.

One of the things that I took away from this line of discussion (on IG and
on ER-IG before) is that pages usable by non-readers are scarce.  Finding
them is a serious burden.  There are a few such pages out there, but the
hassle of finding them means that they might as well not be there.  If
there were some indication of the reading ability demands of web pages that
made it into indices used in resource discovery, the job of finding pages
usable with low or no reading capability would be radically eased.

Note that this does not assume setting a single reading level that all web
pages should not exceed.  The reading level demands of pages will continue
to vary.  But people can better utilize resource discovery aids to find
material that will be appropriate to them, if there is a general
understanding of how reading levels are graded and if metadata about web
pages contain this kind of information.

Drawing a line in the sand to divide what is OK from what is not OK may not
be the most appropriate response to all needs.  Perhaps publishing
reading-level information in page metadata is a way we can offer relief to
the non-reader without banning reading from the Web.

Al
Received on Tuesday, 22 June 1999 08:58:19 GMT

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