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

Re: alternative content for cognitive disabilities

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 07:56:20 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Matt May" <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Let me make a point clear. I'm not sure how the 2nd grade level got chosen,
perhaps because that is the level I work with on my day job, but it isn't
an appropriate level to set for the web. I could argue for third grade, but
fourth grade reading level would include the most advanced of the retarded
folks who are cognitively strong enough to learn to read. At least in this
country, and the last I had access to such information, the highest reading
level that can be attained by a retarded person is about fifth grade level. 

No matter how much we quibble about the summary, the most important need,
for illustrations, is still unwritten in the checkpoints. Place for
illustrations is provided for in the example pages, but the checkpoints
don't yet say they have to be there. 


At 04:02 PM 4/20/01 -0700, Matt May wrote:
>> 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.
Anne Pemberton

Received on Saturday, 21 April 2001 07:49:25 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 16 January 2018 15:33:36 UTC