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RE: Cognition (was Re: Suggested issues)

From: Chuck Hitchcock <chitchcock@cast.org>
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 23:10:58 -0400
To: "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBBBKAJEGLHENOJJCLGHKEIAEAAA.chitchcock@cast.org>
Jason wrote on 8/2/99:

>I agree with the sentiments that Chris has expressed.
>Research findings should be able to indicate what types
>of cognitive limitations exist, the kinds of communication
>strategies which have proved most effective in minimizing
>their impact, etc. At this stage we do not appear to have
>broad agreement even in connection with such basic points.

I too agree with this view and want to offer a few additional comments.

Gregg and I recently participated in a teleconference working group organized
by the World Institute on Disability (WID) pertaining to cognitive issues and
telecommunications.  There were many opinions but we had some difficulty
estimating populations for various groups and then agreeing on a theoretical
model for cognition.  WID had to complete this work for a contract with a
well-known university and brought together many experts with a wide range of
views and opinions.

In the end, the model selected by the person charged with writing the report
was used.  Since time was short, we basically decided to do what was
reasonably expedient.

Jason also wrote:

>The question which emerges is whether there are any further,
>or more specific requirements that should be introduced.

I suspect that we should attempt to include one or two additional categories
here.

One that immediately comes to mind has to do with the logical presentation of
information.  Many writers know how to develop an idea so that it will be
inclusive of a wide range of readers but we also know that for some, it is
important to gain a sense of the whole, to know where one is headed, before
chewing into the details.  This can be done with abstracts but we are looking
at ways to compress content into main and sub-headings prior to presenting the
whole.  XML and CSS seem like a good direction but we are working mostly
within the constraints of HTML for the moment.  Methods for emphasizing the
main points are also under consideration.  Of course all of this can get very
complicated depending on the author's purpose and style.

Another pertains to the ordering of the information and how it is presented on
the page.  In informal applied research in high schools, we have been
experimenting with how images and links are used within a talking browser that
also provides synchronized highlighting of text as it is read.

One other point has to do with the functionality that should be in the
browser.  It should be possible, for example, to help those who are easily
distracted and perhaps a bit disorganized by providing a tool which highlights
content for those who can see the page.  This method can focus attention on
selected areas of the text or media (this is tricky) and help some to stay
focused.  The browser should contain this capability although a small Power
Tool might do the trick.

An approach that we might consider is to put forward a brief list of similar
ideas then do some searching to establish that there is support for the ideas
and solutions.  In some cases, we will be able to find specific research
findings.  In other cases, we may have to rely on tested usability guidelines
when they are both available and commonly agreed to.  It may be a good idea to
indicate which items can be supported with applied and/or pure research.

Chuck
Received on Monday, 2 August 1999 23:09:58 GMT

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