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RE: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Cynthia Shelly <cyns@opendesign.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 16:19:22 -0700
Message-ID: <F0CBA28A8CE1D311B64300508BC216228CCE74@saruman.seattle.wuwinc.com>
To: "'Anne Pemberton'" <apembert@erols.com>, Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
AP: If it's not visible, to whom is it useful anyway?

CS: It can be used by assistive technologies designed for this group of
users, much like alt text is used by screen readers.  Alt text is not
normally visible either, but it is standardized metadata (of a sort) that
works with the assistive technology used by blind users -- the screen
reader.  

One possible assistive technology would be browser add-on that showed the
summary instead (or ahead) of the non-alternative content.  Hidden metadata
about a page can also be used by search engines and indexing services, so
that you could, for example, search for information about George Washington
written to a 3rd grade reading level.  Another browser add-on could
automatically filter all searches for appropriate reading level.  I'm sure
there are others too, but you get the idea.

I may be misquoting you here, Anne (please correct me if I am)...  

I remember one of your posts a few months back talking about the need, not
for all web sites to be accessible to the cognitively disabled, but for
there to be more content available, and for that content to be easier to
find.  Tagging the content that *is* appropriate for a particular user
group, combined with some fairly simple assistive technologies, could be
very helpful in finding the content you want.

-----Original Message-----
From: Anne Pemberton [mailto:apembert@erols.com]
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 4:00 PM
To: Paul Bohman; w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities


Paul,
   
   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
>saying.

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


Anne Pemberton
apembert@erols.com

http://www.erols.com/stevepem
http://www.geocities.com/apembert45
Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 19:20:11 GMT

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