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RE: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 21:21:36 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Cynthia Shelly <cyns@opendesign.com>, Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

	Alt tags are very usable to visual users if they so choose ... Alt tags
let you know what is loading so you can decide to wait or move on ...

	Shelley, I wear two hats, and sometimes I talk through one instead of the
other. On the one hand, on my "day job" I am a computer teacher for K-2nd
graders, and am looking for ways to recreate a curriculum online with
support from stand-alone software. The other hat, is as an advoate for the
cognitively, learning, reading (and associated and related) disabilities to
use the web to meet some of their needs. When I talk about wanting more
content that is usable by kids with beginner reading skills, I am talking
as a teacher ... when I talk about wanting sites that provide summaries and
include illustrations and multi-media in their content, I am talking as an
advocate for the groups mentioned. There are some things that benefit both

	Shelley, I don't think there should be features of web pages that are
usable in only one style of presentation, unless they are utterly useless
in other presentation modes. (not sure of an example, maybe midi music) 

	If meeting the needs of the full spectrum of disabled users means
redundency which then flummoxes other users, there needs to be some sort of
traffic signal available, perhaps in browsers, to let the user choose the
desired content. Until then, we need to provide all the content even at the
risk of distracting redundency. Or, rule out ALL redundencies as outside
the guidelines ... 



At 04:19 PM 4/20/01 -0700, Cynthia Shelly wrote:
>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
>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
>   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
>>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.
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>abstracts that still left me wondering what in the world the paper was
>>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 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
>folks with cognitive disabilities as well as those with reading or learning
>disabilities with or without cognitive disabilities ... 
>				Anne
>Anne Pemberton
Anne Pemberton

Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 21:15:00 UTC

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