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Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 16:21:17 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Paul Bohman" <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Paul, there are a few examples of an ideally marked-up summary in the
illustrations on: http://www.erols.com/stevepem/guidelines/G3/g3.html

If you are too specific on what you mean by a summary, you will run into
more difficulties in interpretation than if you merely ask for a summary.
Yes, a single sentence saying, Here are the results of your search, is a
simple summary. 

	Actually, I would be very proud to recommend the Guidelines to my
congresspersons only when then contain provisions for all disabled persons.
Excluding certain disabilities because some web designers will consider it
a laughing matter, isn't very realistic. Who first proposed curb cuts
across the nation? Were they laughed at? It happened anyway, and folks love

	Maybe it will help if you think of a summary as the alt tag for the text
content of a page/site.
It is there for those who need a simpler version of the text to read. It
will also be useful to those who are making a quick trip to the page to see
if the content is what they are looking for, and the summary oughta do the
trick for them (just like the curb cuts help mothers with strollers) ...

	The summary need not predict the complexity of the actual text content. As
someone pointed out, during this week's call, the summary of the French and
Indian War could be used on a page with college level discussion of George
Washington's involvement in that war and his use of his learning to defeat
the British a few years later. I'm doing that summary sans a history book
on it at hand ...

	The Battle of New Orleans example has a tiny summary of the text ...
"words to the song" ... probably should mark it as a summary ... next time
I work on the designs.

My shoulder is telling me to give it up and just keyboard for awhile ...
too much clicking and dragging! 



At 12:11 PM 4/20/01 -0600, Paul Bohman wrote:
>"Executive summary" of this email:
>Although I like exective summaries for many things under certain
>circumstances, the idea of creating alternative text versions of web content
>for people with cognitive disabilities is problematic, perhaps not do-able,
>and perhaps not useful to those with cognitive disabilities.
>Full content of this email:
>I was mostly a listener and not an active participant in yesterday's
>discussion, because I was mulling around some of the ideas in my head. I
>want to comment on the idea of alternative content for those with cognitive
>Greg observed that most guidelines, except for those referencing cognitive
>disabilities, ask a web designer to create content for people with a zero
>level of a particular ability. So we ask people to create alternative
>content for people with zero sight and with zero hearing. I suppose that we
>don't really ask people to create content for those with zero motor skills,
>either, but I don't want to get into that right now.
>Following that sort of logic (the logic of creating alternative content), as
>was discussed during the call, two possible options are to create a certain
>"required" lower level of writing (e.g. 2nd grade level) or ask people to
>create a separate alternative (e.g. write the document twice or more,
>depending on how many different audience types must be accommodated). Both
>of these options are scary to me. First of all, in a practical sense, either
>of these will create a strong backlash from developers, and they will likely
>ignore the concept and perhaps even decide to ignore other things that the
>WAI tells them to do as a result of our "irrational requirements". No one
>really wants to write two versions of a document. Few people have the skill
>to do so. Certainly very few have the patience and time to do so.
>The idea of an"executive summary" was also suggested. For many types of
>documents, I like the idea. However, most of the instances in which such a
>summary would fit seem to be of the scholarly variety, or something similar.
>I suppose that news web sites (e.g. msnbc.com, cnn.com, etc.) could provide
>summaries of their stories. That wouldn't be such a bad thing. There are
>other circumstances in which this would work too. The trouble is that there
>are many more circumstances in which this would not work. Or, maybe I should
>say that even though they may "work" they would seem out of place in one way
>or another.
>E-commerce sites which list search results from databases would perhaps be
>one instance where it would be difficult. The executive summary could say
>"List of products meeting search criteria [X]", but what else could you say?
>Also, some words are embedded inside of Web applications that are not really
>documents. Providing executive summaries is conceivable, but seems a bit
>awkward to me.
>Finally, I am also concerned that we haven't really made anything more
>accessible to people with cognitive disabilities by providing an executive
>summary. Should we require illustrated executive summaries? Multimedia
>executive summaries? Interactive exective summaries?
>We have to be careful not to get caught up in ideas that are good ones under
>some circumstances, like executive summaries, and try to apply them in ways
>that over-reach their purpose and may even have questionable value for those
>people for whom we are creating the guidelines: people with cognitive
>disabilities in this case.
>Paul Bohman
>Technology Coordinator
>WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind (www.webaim.org)
>Center for Persons with Disabilities (www.cpd.usu.edu)
>Utah State University (www.usu.edu)
Anne Pemberton

Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 16:15:12 UTC

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