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Cognitive issues (was Re: woodcutter)

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 13:16:10 +1000 (EST)
To: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.4.10.10004031301010.27046-100000@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
One point which is easily overlooked in these discussions, and which bears
reiterating, is the centrality of language in the expression and
communication of concepts. Whether it be a gestural, written or spoken
language; and whether, in the case of a written language, the signs be
pictographic or phonetic, ultimately, understanding of the language
requires mastery of certain conventions by which meaning is represented, a
grammar, and so forth. A linguist would be able to develop the details. If
a person is unable to learn a language at all, then there is much that
will be inherently inaccessible. This might perhaps be considered as a
limiting case. Beyond this, there are those who can use language, but who
encounter serious difficulties in so doing. This is where checkpoints 14.1
and 14.2 are valuable (leaving aside other checkpoints related to
navigation, etc., which are also notable in this context).

Non-textual representations of content can complement language and serve
to clarify and communicate concepts. To this extent they serve a
facilitating role. The fundamental question which needs to be addressed,
therefore, is what guidance can be given to the designers of electronic
documents to encourage appropriate use of non-textual forms of expression,
in ways that will benefit individuals with cognitive disabilities? So far
in these discussions, little has been offered by way of concrete advice in
this direction. What should be added to the techniques document under the
rubric of checkpoint 14.2?

It is time to move beyond the generalisations and to start considering, in
so far as this is possible, what should be included in broadly applicable
guidelines to give substance to the requirement expressed in checkpoint
14.2.

Please note: these comments are offered in my personal capacity and not in
pursuance of my role as working group co-chair.
Received on Sunday, 2 April 2000 23:16:36 GMT

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