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Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 18:59:42 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Paul Bohman" <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
   Response inline ...

At 03:51 PM 4/20/01 -0600, Paul Bohman wrote:
>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.

That's good to know and puts another light on your words....

>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.

The problem with putting it in metadata is that it needs to be part of the
basic presentation of the page content. The basic visual presentation and
the basic speech reader presentation. 

>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.

Yes, this is another side of the "problem" ... the need for an
iconic/graphic version of text is not a cognitive disability need, but a
learning/reading disability need, and probably a need for some who've
suffered brain injuries of various kinds. These are distinct groups of
disabled folks, but there needs sometimes cross over. 

>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 . . .
If it's not visible, to whom is it useful anyway?

>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.

Hopefully, as we develop illustrations for the guidelines themselves, we
will learn something about how a web developer may go about the same task. 

>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'm sure that will come up. Perhaps that where putting an absolute "reading
level" will be appropriate ... all summaries must be no higher than sixth
grade reading level with xx readability level. We could justify fourth
grade, fifth grade, or sixth grade, if we combine expectation for
cognitively impaired and severely reading impaired users to have speech
equipment to bridge the gap ... 

>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

We are saying that all people, even those who are uneducated or uneducable
are accommodated on the web. 

In a sense, Metadata is one way to go. The Title is already in the header
information. Add the Summary, and the Topical Illustration, then the
keywords, and you can display some significant information in a search
engine. But until metadata reaches that realm, and can be set to always
display in a popular browser (IE/NN), let's keep all the componants on the
page or at least on the site if the pages are sequential. 

	But remember I paint in broad strokes. There are many variations among
folks with cognitive disabilities as well as those with reading or learning
disabilities with or without cognitive disabilities ... 


Anne Pemberton

Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 18:53:09 UTC

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