W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > April to June 2001

Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 16:02:49 -0700
Message-ID: <04d801c0c9ee$157a2620$6601a8c0@sttln1.wa.home.com>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
> 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). Both
> 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 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
> to do so. Certainly very few have the patience and time to do so.

Another area in which technology may help us is through the use of
summarization engines. (Though admittedly this is a long-term solution.)
Many engines created for summarizing documents have been made multilingual,
and it might be possible to use that kind of technology to process data into
an understandable format given some measure of cognitive capability. I'd go
so far as to say that without such a technology, none of the content already
out there without an existing summary is going to be any more accessible to
the cognitively disabled than it is now, due to the feasibility of
retrofitting all that content manually.

I didn't have the chance to say this in the con call because I was too busy
typing, but like others, I have serious reservations about taking the tack
of modifying original content through human intervention. We are doing well
to tell people they should write simple and concise content. We open a
Pandora's Box to tell them they should write differently or to a lower
level, say the same thing many different ways, or try to deconstruct their
own writing. The content itself is critically important in its own right,
and reducing its own efficacy creates more serious problems for the web as a
whole than it solves for the cognitively disabled.

I am completely in agreement with Paul when he says:

> 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.

Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 19:07:15 UTC

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