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Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 15:51:20 -0600
Message-ID: <01d901c0c9e4$08e6e510$20117b81@paul>
To: "Anne Pemberton" <apembert@erols.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
So as not to be misunderstood, I want to state that I'm in favor of
providing features that assist those with cognitive disabilities. I'm in the
middle of redesigning WebAIM's site with that in mind.

I'm not complaining about the big picture, but I'm expressing some concerns
about the details that we've described so far. If a one-sentence "alt tag
for the cognitively impaired" is sufficient under some circumstances, then
there isn't much of a difference between that RDF attribute and the simple
meta-tag attribute of "description" which is generally used to satisfy
search engines. Maybe this overlap is not a bad thing, but there is
potential for confusion and/or misuse. Again, maybe the problems are worth
risking if the benefits warrant it.

One of the real questions that I have, though, is to what degree are we
achieving the goal of accessibility to the cognitively-impaired with this
feature? I suppose that we will reach a portion of this audience this way. I
don't deny that. And I guess that this text could either be read by the
individual personally, or it could be read to them by another person or by a
text reader of some sort. It doesn't help those who benefit from icons and
graphics, however. I suppose that this would be contained in a totally
separate guideline.

I can see a lot of side benefits to advocating content summaries. Indexing
Web pages could potentially be somewhat easier, although abuse of keywords
and other misuse of the attribute will always be a concern. The fact that
this attribute is invisible may be a deterrent to its use . . .

The concept that I referred to as "scary" in my last email was the idea of
having to make two or more completely different versions of the same content
in its fullness. The concept sounds expensive in terms of money and time.
This same trepidation spills over into the area of making graphical
representations for "everything" or even most things . . . Now, I have to
admit that I'm thinking in regulatory terms at the moment. I can't easily
envision making some of these ideas laws. Note: I purposely said that I
can't EASILY envision making them laws, because I am open to ideas of how
this might be accomplished, but I continue to have doubts at the moment. I
can, however, gladly and enthusiastically endorse them as good practices.

A brief page summary is definitely better than a total re-write of a paper,
but there has to be a distinction drawn between an academic-style abstract
and a summary intended for those with cognitive disabilities. I've read some
abstracts that still left me wondering what in the world the paper was about
because of the technical jargon or lack of clarity in the writing. We would
have to be specific in saying that this is a tag whose intended audience is
those with cognitive disabilities.

I don't want to be labeled as one who wants to exclude those with cognitive
disabilities. I just want to make sure that we carefully consider what we're

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anne Pemberton" <apembert@erols.com>
To: "Paul Bohman" <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>; <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 2:21 PM
Subject: Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

> 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
> 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
> 'em!
> 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
> 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
> 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!
> Anne
> 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
> >for people with cognitive disabilities is problematic, perhaps not
> >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
> >disabilities.
> >
> >Greg observed that most guidelines, except for those referencing
> >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
> >don't really ask people to create content for those with zero motor
> >either, but I don't want to get into that right now.
> >
> >Following that sort of logic (the logic of creating alternative content),
> >was discussed during the call, two possible options are to create a
> >"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).
> >of these options are scary to me. First of all, in a practical sense,
> >of these will create a strong backlash from developers, and they will
> >ignore the concept and perhaps even decide to ignore other things that
> >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
> >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
> >summary would fit seem to be of the scholarly variety, or something
> >I suppose that news web sites (e.g. msnbc.com, cnn.com, etc.) could
> >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
> >are many more circumstances in which this would not work. Or, maybe I
> >say that even though they may "work" they would seem out of place in one
> >or another.
> >
> >E-commerce sites which list search results from databases would perhaps
> >one instance where it would be difficult. The executive summary could say
> >"List of products meeting search criteria [X]", but what else could you
> >
> >Also, some words are embedded inside of Web applications that are not
> >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
> >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
> >some circumstances, like executive summaries, and try to apply them in
> >that over-reach their purpose and may even have questionable value for
> >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
> apembert@erols.com
> http://www.erols.com/stevepem
> http://www.geocities.com/apembert45
Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 17:50:38 UTC

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