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Re: A Fresh Look at Accommodating Cognitive Disabilities

From: Greg Gay <g.gay@utoronto.ca>
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 20:27:12 -0400
Message-ID: <390A2C5F.F9E02024@utoronto.ca>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

Hello Anne

Anne Pemberton wrote:

>  It seems you seem rely on TTS as a major accommodation for these users. In
> my many years teaching learning disabled high schoolers, I spent a lot of
> time emphasizing the use of "visual aids" in reading material, such as
> pictures, photos, maps, graphs, tables, as well as titles, subtitles, bold
> and italicized text, etc, teaching poor readers to comprehend paragraph
> style writing by using non-paragraph elements to get to the meat of the
> information.

I agree with you.  TTS is not the answer to accommodating all  learning or cognitive
disabililities. The focus of the point I am trying to make is that
alternative/multiple formats are  the single most effective way to accommodate those
with learning disabilities, and likely those with other more severe cognitive
disabilities. Auditory output from a TTS program  is one of those alternative formats.

Providing alternative formats is already a central thread throughout the guidelines,
though I think it should be given more emphasis, perhaps  its own  theme at the
beginning of the guidelines with the other general themes. One issue that should be
addressed is the emphasis the guidelines place on  accomodating adaptive technology
users, with little emphasis placed on accommodating those who would benefit more from
adaptive behaviour. Adaptive behaviours are accomodated by providing alternative
formats, so that if one format presents a barrier for a particular user (say print),
then an alternative format could be adapted  to circumvent that barrier (say images).
I can't think of anything that doesn't have an alternative format, though how far we
go in asking designers to include alternative formats remains to be seen.

>  Since TTS devices seem to divorce the visual elements from the
> text, and do a lousy job with tables that include boxed (non-linear)
> information,

Yes indeed. This is my primary reason for arguing that avoiding text in side by side
table cells should be given a higher priority. I suppose it could be argued that
adaptive technology developers should be responsible for making their products deal
with tables. TextHelp's "Read and Write" does reasonably well with tables, and it
reads ALT text if set in screen reader mode. It is the only one I know of that deals
with these issues. None of the freebees or cheap TTS programs currently available work

well with table or read alt text, the last time I checked.

> I don't see TTS as an appropriate accommodation for this
> population, or at least those parts of it with whom I've had experiences
> both professionally and personally.

TTS isn't for everyone with a cognitive impairment, though there are currently  few
other adaptive technologies used by those with learning disbiailites to access
information on the web. I know a number of people with learning disabilities that live

by TTS. The "... use of visual aids in reading material, such as pictures, photos,
maps, graphs, tables, as well as titles, subtitles, bold and italicized text, etc,"
all accomodate adaptive behaviour rather than adaptive technology. This leads back to
the design issue of including alternative formats.

I can't find who said it, but someone earlier ask if web designers were in effect
developing the adaptive technology themselves to accomodate those with cognitive
disabilities. I think that this may be the case, though attention to accommodations
for those with cognitive disabilities also make sites more usable for those without
a disability.

> At 09:05 PM 4/22/2000 -0400, Greg Gay wrote:
> >Hello Everyone
> >I’m just getting back to the gl list after being away for quite some
> >time. Wendy suggested at CSUN that I offer some input into the
> >discussion on guidelines for accessible design practices that
> >accommodate cognitive disabilities. It turns out I have some
> >experience on the topic <grin>.
> >
> >Over the past week I’ve had a chance to go through the last month or
> >so of discussion, and have managed to gathered a few thoughts. There
> >are many more than I care to post as a list message, so I’ll point to a
> >URL.
> >
> >http://snow.utoronto.ca/web-savvy/resources/wai_newgl.html
> >
> >The draft suggests a model for developing content authoring
> >guidelines to promote accessibility for those with cognitive
> >disabilities. The WCAG are interpreted in a cognitive model.
> >
> >Many of the ideas I talk about, and the basis for the model, are the
> >result of a web-based course I’ve spent the past several years
> >developing. The ultimate goal of the course is for participating
> >teachers to develop and pass on process-oriented learning skills to
> >their students. Though originally aimed at developing adaptive
> >behaviour in students with learning disabilities, the skills learned can
> >
> >be equally effective for other students.  The site is created to be
> >navigable in a variety of ways, and presents materials in multiple
> >formats, among many other accessibility features.
> >
> >http://snow.utoronto.ca/Learn2/introll.html
> >
> >Good to be back!
> >
> >Greg
> >
> >
> Anne L. Pemberton
> http://www.pen.k12.va.us/Pav/Academy1
> http://www.erols.com/stevepem/Homeschooling
> apembert@crosslink.net
> Enabling Support Foundation
> http://www.enabling.org
Received on Friday, 28 April 2000 20:32:07 UTC

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